Orlando Volunteers Feed Homeless, Get Arrested

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on June 06, 2011 9:47 AM

Feed homeless, get arrested.

At least if you're passing out meals in an Orlando park for the third time this year.

Which is exactly what happened to three members of Orlando's Food Not Bombs, a non-profit organization that feeds the homeless and tries to bring attention to the issues of poverty and social inequality.

Jessica Cross, Ben Markeson and Jonathan McHenry were arrested on Wednesday for feeding about 40 homeless people in Orlando's Lake Eola Park. After speaking to the judge Thursday morning, the Orlando Sentinel reports that the trio was banned from the park for the next year.

While this whole "feed homeless, get arrested" story seems odd, the fact is that Orlando has taken it upon itself to regulate group feedings in public parks.

According to the paper, groups that feed more than 25 people at once can only do so twice a year at the same park if it is located within a 2-mile radius of City Hall.

Residents are apparently not fond of homeless people in their neighborhoods on a more consistent basis.

This is not the first time Orlando's Food Not Bombs has dealt with this ordinance.

In April, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the city, finding that the feeding ordinance does not infringe upon the group's First Amendment rights.

Though parks are public forums, the government is entitled to regulate their use with reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.

Because those who feed the homeless still have access to the parks, and the city has a strong interest in managing parks, the court found this ordinance to be reasonable.

So, if you ever find yourself in a "feed homeless, get arrested" situation, remember this case. While it might be mean and silly, it's probably legal.

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