by Amy Goodman
Jun 28, 2011
Denis Moynihan contributed
research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international
TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North
She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently
released in paperback and now
a New York Times best-seller.
Think of “food terrorism” and what do you see?
Diabolical plots to taint items on grocery-store shelves?
If you are Buddy Dyer, the mayor of
Orlando, Fla., you might be thinking of a group feeding the homeless and
hungry in one of your city parks. That is what Dyer is widely quoted as
calling the activists with the Orlando chapter of Food Not - “food
In the past few weeks, no less than 21 people
have been arrested in Orlando, the home of
Disney World, for handing out
free food in a park.
Food Not Bombs is an international,
grass-roots organization that fights hunger. As the name implies, it is against war.
website home page reads:
“Food Not Bombs shares free vegan and
vegetarian meals with the hungry in over 1,000 cities around the world
to protest war, poverty and the destruction of the environment. With
over a billion people going hungry each day how can we spend another
dollar on war?”
The Orlando chapter sets up a meal distribution
table every Monday morning and Wednesday evening in the city’s Lake Eola
Lately, the Orlando police have been arresting those who serve food there,
like Benjamin Markeson.
He was perplexed, telling me:
“We think that it’s terrorism to arrest
people for trying to share food with poor and hungry people in the
community to meet a community need. And all we do is we come to the park
and we share food with poor and hungry people. I don’t know how that
qualifies as terrorism.”
Attorney Shayan Elahi doesn’t know,
He is representing Orlando Food Not Bombs in
court. He has filed for an injunction against the city in the 9th
Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, which is presided over by Chief Judge
Belvin Perry Jr., who is in the news as the no-nonsense judge in the
Casey Anthony murder trial, happening now in Orlando.
While the judge’s courtroom receives blanket
coverage on cable networks, Elahi hopes Perry will have time to personally
rule on his filing.
At issue is a city law, the “Large Group Feeding” ordinance, that requires
groups to obtain a permit to serve food, even for free, to groups of 25 or
more. Such permits are granted to any group only twice per year.
Orlando Food Not Bombs has already used
both of its allowed permits this year.
The Florida Civil Rights Association has called on Mayor Dyer to apologize
for his designation of the Food Not Bombs group as terrorists.
The crime should not be feeding more than 25 people, but that more than 25
people need food.
Attorney Elahi links the crackdown to the planned gentrification of downtown
“The mayor started the development board for
downtown Orlando, and his whole goal was basically to push everybody
who... didn’t fit their idea of who should be in downtown.
And we’re trying to point out to the mayor
that times have changed, that now everybody is hurting, and a lot more
people who come to Food Not Bombs food sharing are working poor.”
The core message of Food Not Bombs is
embodied in a resolution passed just last week by the U.S. Conference of
Mayors calling on Washington to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as soon
as strategically possible and redirect funding to meet vital human needs
here at home.
Central Florida has been hit very hard by the recession and is among the top
locations for foreclosures and bankruptcies.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization
warning that global food prices are expected to remain high for the rest of
the year and beyond. Earlier this year, food prices hit levels seen during
the 2007-08 food crisis that sparked unrest in poor nations worldwide. Mass
protests and a general strike in Greece against planned austerity measures
are shutting down Athens.
One of the most
famous songs at Disney World, not far from
Lake Eola Park, is called “It’s a Small World.”
“There’s so much that we share/ that it’s
time we’re aware/ it’s a small world after all.”
Let’s turn fantasy into reality.
Sharing food should not be a crime.