Did you know that in some Orlando, FL parks it’s illegal to feed large groups? It is. And that means that some people who want to feed large groups of homeless people find themselves at odds with the law. So much so, that some of those people were arrested on Wednesday for intentionally breaking it.
Jessica Cross, 24, Benjamin Markeson, 49, and Jonathan “Keith” McHenry, 54, were all arrested on Wednesday night and charged with violating the ordinance restricting group feedings in public parks, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
The trio is part of a controversial group called Food Not Bombs, which unashamedly trumpets a social justice agenda.
“Food Not Bombs shares free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry in over 1,000 cities around the world to protest war, poverty and the destruction of the environment,” the group’s site says. “With over a billion people going hungry each day how can we spend another dollar on war?”
Outside the courthouse, McHenry wasn’t afraid to state the group’s mission:
A picture on their website, which seems to be a variation on the socialist fist, sums it up:
The Orlando Sentinel sites arrest papers that say the trio was arrested for feeding 40 people in Lake Eola Park.
“They intentionally violated the statute,” Lt. Barbara Jones, an Orlando police spokeswoman, told the Sentinel.
But Douglas Coleman, speaking for Orlando Food Not Bombs, said the arrests were ridiculous.
“They basically carted them off to jail for feeding hungry people,” Coleman, who was not present, told the Sentinel. “For them to regulate a time and place for free speech and to share food, that is unacceptable.”
Despite the arrests, the Sentinel reports police waited until all the homeless were fed before making the arrests.
And the story does have an added curious dimension considering what is in the arrest reports:
Arrest documents state that Orlando Food Not Bombs received permits and fed more than 25 homeless people at Lake Eola Park on May 18 and 23. Coleman said the group rejected the permits.
On May 25, Orlando Food Not Bombs illegally fed a large group of homeless people, the police report states. The group on its website called for members to show up that day and defy the city ordinance, according to the report.
Officers said they found a press release on Markeson when they arrested him stating that group members planned to defy the ordinance Wednesday.
The trio could face penalties of up to 60 days in jail, a $500 fine, or both.