Tarpon Springs Food Not Bombs has mellow protest in solidarity with its Orlando comrades

07/05/11 Kate Bradshaw
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The battle over the right to share food with the hungry may be raging in Orlando, but a solidarity demonstration in Tarpon Springs suggests that perhaps not all touristy Florida towns are ready to bring down the gauntlet on the practice. A demonstration on the steps of city hall Friday was heavy on passion, but light on the drama.

The city of Orlando has gotten a lot of attention lately – the kind the tourism hub probably doesn’t want so much. In addition to all the press, organizations like international hacker group Anonymous have targeted the city. Food Not Bombs members from other cities have also come to the Orlando chapter’s aid. Nicholas Emery is with the Tarpon Springs chapter. He said he was arrested for sharing food with the homeless in Downtown Orlando’s Eola Park, and that even police didn’t seem to enthusiastic about enforcing the law that more or less bans public feeding in Downtown parks.

On Friday, nearly twenty Food Not Bombs demonstrators stood on the steps of city hall in Tarpon Springs with signs that said things like “Homelessness is not a crime.” They were predominantly young, white college students. Only one person who wasn’t part of the group showed up for a free meal. That’s a real contrast to places like Downtown St. Petersburg’s food sharings, which tend to attract a crowd.

He said the sharings in Tarpon, of which Friday’s was the seventh, are pretty mellow.

Emery said the events may be relatively calm for another reason.

Friday’s rally may have attracted a uniform crowd in terms of age and ethnic background, but they didn’t all belong to the same political party. Student and Tarpon Springs resident William Kilgore was wearing a shirt that sported the Libertarian Party of Florida logo.

He said a common misconception about true libertarians is that they’re not compassionate.

Laurel Jaeger said she was attracted to the cause initially due to the organization’s connection to the animal rights movement.

The group marched from city hall to the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center, carrying signs and chanting. Some passersby appeared bewildered by the demonstrators. But Emery said the sight is something the town should get used to, given that they’ll take place the first of every month until Orlando’s ban on unregistered public feedings is lifted.

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