This Report from @freedom_faction
Since 2008 economic crisis, homelessness in the United States has been on the rise, particularly in cities and urban areas. Though most local and city governments are well-aware of the issue, many have decided to criminalize the #homeless instead of working to alleviate their hardships or resolve the underlying problems which contribute to the phenomenon. Not only that, but many have also sought to criminalize those activists and good samaritans who offer food and services to the homeless when over-burdened homeless shelters and food pantries cannot.
This past Saturday, activists in Tampa, Florida experienced firsthand the unpleasant consequences of lending a much-needed hand to the local homeless community when they were arrested for offering free food in a public park. Members of Food Not Bombs, a group that shares free vegan and vegetarian meals in protest of war & poverty, had gathered in Lykes Gaslight Park to offer the homeless hot coffee and bagels as winter temperatures began to take a turn for the worse. There was no violence, illicit substances, or bad behavior of any kind at the gathering was considered illegal by Tampa authorities. Though it is not explicitly illegal to feed the hungry in public in Tampa, one must have a special and costly permit from the city government in order to do just that. The permit allows groups or individuals to feed the homeless twice a week, but in addition to the cost of the permit itself – the city also demands one take out a specific insurance policy, which can be prohibitively expensive for many would-be activists.
Those with Food Not Bombs were well-aware that their actions were technically illegal as they had been warned earlier in the week to cease food-sharing activities. However, they held their Saturday event as planned, which ultimately led to the arrest of a total of seven activists. Police arrived at the scene and gave the activists three minutes to cease feeding those in need. They moved in, arresting those who continued to serve the food despite orders to cease and desist. You can hear one officer say "You are under arrest for sharing food."