ACTIVISTS PROTEST ARREST FOR FEEDING HOMELESS - Mitch Perry

04/19/04

Yesterday Tampa Police arrested 3 activists, accusing them of violating a city policy by feeding the homeless at a downtown park.

That Policy was the subject of a protest and a public feeding this morning in front of the Hillsborough County Courthouse in downtown Tampa

About 35 people - approximately half of them members of the group Food Not Bombs , held signs aloft and demonstrated against the City's Police that they must have a permit to feed the homeless in Tampa. (protestors chant)

Yesterday at Herman Massey Park on Franklin Street, the site of the feedings and arrests in the past couple of months, Tampa Police arrested Christopher Ernest and USF Students Jimmy Dunson Amberly Nicole Banks....Banks joined protestors this morning after being released on $500 bail after spending 9 hours in jail until her grandmother bailed her out(roll tape #1 o.q. " I was more observing")

Observers say there appeared to be 10-12 Police officers poised to begin arrested people when the Activists arrived at Massey Park .....29 year old Monte Hurd from Clearwater

was filming the attempted feeding yesterday....He said that in addition to regular Tampa Police, members of the City's Quad Squad, The unit of the force that deals solely on on street-level drug dealing, were also on the scene. (roll tape#2 o.q."homeless people")

For several months, Tampa Police have warned Food Not bombs that their public feedings in city parks are illegal. In order to feed the homeless, any group must apply for a $100 permit thru the Parks & Recreation Department, AND buy insurance.

40 year old Christopher Ernesto, a member of St. Pete for Peace, was also arrested

He says the Rule of Law is important, but says some laws -like the Ordinance against public feeding without a permit - don't make sense (roll tape#3o.q."no other agenda behind it")

The 3rd person arrested yesterday - 19 year old USF student Jimmy Dunson, was also arrested....His bail was set at twice the level of Ernesto and Banks - at a Thousand dollars - and was still being held as of this afternoon.

Today's Protest was already scheduled as a show of support for 3 activists arrested last month for feeding the homeless at Massey Park, including Dunson, along with USF student Lily Lewis and Mark Parrish.

Shortly after Mayor Pam Iorio was elected last year, she announced a beefing up of Code Enforcement in certain sections of town as a top priority...As part of that , she is now requiring that groups using parks adhere to City Guidelines.

So now Tampa is enduring the same crises that many other cities have gone through in the last decade and a half , as the homeless problem has exploded in most American cities.

Jay Shaft from the Mid Pinellas Homeless Outreach group appeared this morning distributing free Burritos. He says Tampa is now dealing with a national problem (roll tape#4 o.q."hungry person food") And Shaft said he wasn't concerned about being arrested (roll tape#5 o.q."change of pace")

Tampa Resident Kelly LaPardo came to the demonstration with her 3 year old daughter, and is NOT affiliated with Food Not Bombs or any other group...She said she appreciated the dilemma that Mayor Iorio must contend with in being Mayor and dealing with a variety of constituenties, but says it's uncalled for to prevent a basic necessity

(roll tape#5 o.q."our Task Force")

OUTRO: The city requires groups to pay application and rental fees and acquire insurance to use a city park, with special events limited to three times a year. Rule violators are supposed to be warned once, then arrests will follow...We hope to have more coverage of this continuing story regarding the Feeding of the Homeless in tampa, later this week on the WMNF Evening News..

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