A new city ordinance will be tested after police in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., arrested three men — a World War II veteran and two Christian pastors — for the crime of publicly feeding another person. They face 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
“One of the police officers said, ‘Drop that plate right now!’ as if I were carrying a weapon,” homeless advocate Arnold Abbott, 90, told WPLG Local 10 News.
The group was arrested Sunday on the basis of an ordinance, which went into effect Friday, requiring organizations that offer food to the destitute to jump through a series of hoops or face criminal charges.
Arrested along with Abbott were Dwayne Black, pastor of The Sanctuary Church in Fort Lauderdale, and Mark Sims of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, according to Fox News, which reported:
The regulations enacted in Fort Lauderdale state that no two indoor feeding sites can be within 500 feet of one another or on the same block; outdoor feeding programs require a permit or permission of the property owner and must provide portable toilets; and outdoor stations cannot be within 500 feet of residential properties.
Abbott, whose charity has battled city officials for years in court and on the streets of the southern Florida city, said the toilet requirement was too much for his group.
“I have tried to abide by their regulations, but we just are not able to provide a port-a-potty,” Abbott told Fox News in a telephone interview. “I believe that is the job of the municipality, anyway.”
Abbott established his non-profit organization, Love Thy Neighbor, Inc., in memory of his wife, Maureen, after her death 23 years ago.
“I am my brother’s keeper, and what they are doing is just heartless,” he said.
Watch the news footage below, via WPLG.