The National Lawyers Guild calls on the City of Orlando, Florida to repeal its 2006 ordinance limiting groups feeding more than 25 people in parks to two permitted events a year. The Guild also urges Fort Lauderdale and other Florida municipalities to refrain from adopting similar ordinances.
The volunteer-run organization, Food Not Bombs (FNB) serves free meals to the homeless across the country and has been providing free food in Orlando’s public parks for years. In June, more than 20 members were arrested for serving meals to the needy in that city. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer called FNB members “food terrorists,” accusing them of having “different purposes” than helping the homeless.
“By applying the label ‘terrorist’ to people trying to feed the hungry, Mayor Dyer distorts what Food Not Bombs is doing in an attempt to demonize its members. Invoking the term ‘terrorist’ affords the government wide latitude to spy on activists, to improperly subpoena them, and to threaten increased penalties for their humanitarian endeavors. Such mislabeling imperils all of our First Amendment rights,” says NLG Executive Director Heidi Boghosian.
Food Not Bombs, founded 30 years ago, has long been targeted by the government. In February 2011, police in Fort Lauderdale twice raided a home shared by local FNB activists. The Guild has successfully defended other FNB chapters. Last year officials in Middletown, Connecticut attempted to shut down a local chapter because the group lacked a license. After FNB, represented by Guild attorneys, sued, the Connecticut Attorney General (now US Senator) Richard Blumenthal changed the state's law to accommodate food sharing.
Founded in 1937, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.