Six more Orlando Food Not Bombs arrests

06/17/11 Kate Bradshaw
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On Wednesday Orlando police arrested six more people in Lake Eola Park for sharing food with the hungry. That brings the total number of people arrested in conjunction with the Orlando Food Not Bombs events to twenty-one. This comes a week after there was talk of compromise between Food Not Bombs and the city. Keith McHenry is co-founder of Food Not Bombs. He said the city doesn’t look like it’s going to budge.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, when the group conducted its regular food-sharing in the park. A city ordinance bars groups from feeding the hungry more than twice a year at any one city park. Officials reportedly created that law because business owners operating near Lake Eola said there were increases in crime associated with the twice-weekly food-sharings. The group attempted to get permission from the city ahead of Wednesday’s events, but six people wound up in jail.

Food Not Bombs lawyer Shayan Elahi gave a press conference in Orlando yesterday in the wake of the arrests. He said the city deleted an exception to the ordinance that allows people to gather in parks under the First Amendment. The group says it deserves protection under the Constitution because it holds these events in part to call on the government to fund domestic social programs instead of foreign wars. Elahi said members of the group went to the city parks department to get such an exemption, but found the permits had been tweaked a little.

City spokesperson Cassandra Lafser did not agree to a taped interview, but she said the language was changed for purposes of clarity. Still, Food Not Bombs cofounder Keith McHenry said the group may pursue legal action in addition to a case that’s already in the courts.

McHenry said the group is planning demonstrations both cities on July first and the first of August.

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