Drop That Plate Right Now: Cops Arrest 90-Year-Old Advocate and Clergy For Scary Crime of Feeding the Hungry

Common Dreams

Abby Zimet, staff writer

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Bound by faith and virtue to resist newly passed “homeless hate laws” in Fort Lauderdale, a 90-year-old homeless advocate and two ministers were arrested by a phalanx of burly cops for resolutely continuing to share food with homeless people in public, part of a “week of resistance” to a growing body of laws there and in at least 20 other cities that criminalize poor people by restricting their panhandling, camping, storing belongings, going to the bathroom and other activities deemed “life sustaining” to the homeless – that is, essentially, for existing. The ordinance against food-sharing, which went into effect Friday, sparked a call for a week-long series of actions and protests by churches and advocacy groups; among them, Food Not Bombs vowed to mark the law’s passage on its first day, Halloween, by holding their usual weekly food share and greeting the city “with our middle fingers fully extended.”

Longtime homeless advocate Arnold Abbott, head of the non-profit Love Thy Neighbor, was likewise continuing to feed a line of hungry people on a sidewalk Sunday with a crew of helpers when he was arrested, along with pastors Dwayne Blackand and Mark Sims. Abbott, who has been feeding the hungry and homeless for over 20 years, successfully sued the city in 1999 to continue doing so. He and the others face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. “These are the poorest of the poor, they have nothing – how do you turn them away?” he said after his arrest. “It’s man’s inhumanity to man is all it is.” The angry hungry crowd, evidently in agreement, shouted “Shame!” and “The world is watching” as police hauled him away. Today, several more activists were arrested when they tried to talk with city officials. Abbott, meanwhile, says he plans to bring food to the beach Wednesday evening, as usual, to feed those who need it.