Outrageous: Three People Arrested for Feeding the Homeless

This headline could be a question in the "Real or Onion?" quiz. It is also heartbreaking and maddening.

Three arrested, accused of illegally feeding homeless

Members of Orlando Food Not Bombs were arrested Wednesday when police said they violated a city ordinance by feeding the homeless in Lake Eola Park....

The group lost a court battle in April, clearing the way for the city to enforce the ordinance. It requires groups to obtain a permit and limits each group to two permits per year for each park within a 2-mile radius of City Hall.

Arrest papers state that Cross, Markeson and McHenry helped feed 40 people Wednesday night. The ordinance applies to feedings of more than 25 people.

They were arrested for providing much-needed food to too manypeople, too often.

Did your head just explode, like mine did? As Orlando Food Not Bombs spokesperson Douglas Coleman told the Orlando Sentinel, "They basically carted them off to jail for feeding hungry people. For them to regulate a time and place for free speech and to share food, that is unacceptable."

The group "has been feeding the homeless breakfast on Mondays for several years and dinner on Wednesdays for five years." Local police did not enforce the ordinance while the group fought the absurd law in court. Now that the city has prevailed, the three Food Not Bombs staffers who were arrested -- Jessica Cross, Benjamin Markeson, and Jonathan "Keith" McHenry -- face 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.

You'd think a city would welcome help in feeding its homeless population, what with states across the country facing massive budget cuts and compromised safety-net services. But in Orlando, sense does not prevail.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at June 3, 2011, 5:31am

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