The mayor of Fort Lauderdale thinks a 90-year World War II veteran feeding homeless people in his city is an example of an "inappropriate nuisance" and public safety hazard "negatively impacting our community," according to a Nov. 5 email sent from the mayor's work account.
The message was sent in response to activist Lisette Arocha's email to John Seiler’s official account in protest of a new ordinance that restricts the feeding of the city's homeless population. The city has made international headlines this week after police detained and cited 90-year old World War II veteran Arnold Abbot, along with two reverends, for feeding the homeless.
Undeterred, Abbot returned to the streets to feed the homeless again on Wednesday night, and was cited again. Despite mounting citations and the threat of jail time and fines, Abbot vowed to continue feeding the homeless. Issuing a jail sentence to the 90-year old would be at the discretion of the judge.
The ordinance in question requires homeless feeding sites to be more than 500 feet away from each other and 500 feet from residential properties.
Higher up in the email shown above, Seiler defended the law by saying that feeding the homeless is not necessarily illegal, it is just heavily regulated.
Activist Arocha was not satisfied with the response. She sent this message back to the mayor:
More food handouts have been planned for later this week, and activists are gearing up for a long battle to overturn the ordinance, which went into effect on October 31. Activist Jillian Pim of the group Food Not Bombs has started a hunger strike, vowing not to eat until the law is reversed. "I call on the people of Fort Lauderdale and the world to demand that the mayor and the city of Fort Lauderdale… retract their support of the sharing ban, as well as other homeless hate laws they've passed this year," she said.
According to a report released last month by homeless activist group National Coalition for the Homeless, 21 cities have passed similar food sharing bans since January 2013. Similar legislation was introduced in at least 10 other cities during that time.
Neither the Ft. Lauderdale PD nor the Ft. Lauderdale mayor's office responded to a request for comment for this story.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.