More Orlando Food Not Bombs activists arrested for sharing food in Lake Eola Park
Yesterday, four more Food Not Bombs activists were arrested in Orlando for sharing food in a public park. Last night WMNF spoke with Ben Markeson, the media liaison with Orlando Food Not Bombs, who was one of three people arrested last week.
We hope to speak with Ben Markeson by phone during tomorrowâs Last Call at 5:30 p.m.
"The Orlando police made 4 more arrests under the city's 'large group' feeding ordinance. They had a police officer out there with a video camera and he videotaped our food sharing. They waited until the 26th person got food and then they sent in bike cops who arrested 4 members, 4 participants in our group."
What was the response? Were there onlookers or media there that were paying attention to what the police were doing and what was their response?
"We had local media there covering our food sharing because our food sharing has become big news in the Orlando area because of the controversy over the city's 'large group' feeding ordinance. And the fact that we are continuing to share food at Lake Eola Park without permits."
Why do you continue to feed people if you risk arrest?
"We simply feel that food....that there are a lot of people in our community, poor and hungry people, who need the food that we provide. We're there to meet a community need that isn't being met by other institutions or other groups."
Give our listeners a little bit of background about why they are arresting people for feeding hungry people in the parks of Orlando. What's the legal background here?
"In 2006 the city of Orlando passed what is called the 'large group' feedings ordinance and what that ordinance does is it requires that a group that wants to have a food sharing in a public park in downtown Orlando that is going to attract more than 25 people must first obtain a permit from the city Parks Bureau. The problem is that they only allow 2 permits per park per 12 month period per group. In other words, Orlando's Food Not Bombs could only share food at Lake Eola Park, which is where we've been sharing food twice a week for the last five years. We, under this ordinance, we are only legally allowed to share food twice in a 12 month period. Unfortunately people need to eat every day."
Who are the people with Orlando Food Not Bombs who've been arrested and if you can talk about what the next steps might be?
"Over the last 5 years we've had a total of 17 arrests but the most recent arrests have occurred in the last 6 days. There were 3 people who were arrested at our food sharing last Wednesday. I was one. Keith McHenry, who's the co-founder of the international Food Not Bombs movement was another and then Jessica L. Cross. And then today we had 4 more members arrested. Noelle Bivens, Bloch Monroe, Dylan Howler and Steven Willis. We're going to continue to serve food in Lake Eola Park because there are still people in our community who need that food. A lot of poor and working people are having a hard time getting by these days because unemployment in Florida, as I'm sure you're aware, is still at 10 percent. Even people who are employed because Florida is a low wage state. A lot of people work full time but they don't have enough money to buy all the food they need. At the end of the month they start to run out of money and that's when they try to find other ways to survive and get the food they need. That's why we're out there trying to meet a community need."
Have you planned your next feeding and when will that be?
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"Our next food sharing will be this Wednesday, June 8th at Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando and that'll be around 5:30 I would expect that the police will attempt to make more arrests. Will make more arrests."