6 MEMBERS OF ORLANDO FOOD NOT BOMBS ARRESTED
Posted June 27, 2007
Six members of Orlando Food Not Bombs (OFNB) were arrested today (Wed., June 27) in downtown Orlando outside a campaign fund-raiser for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. The six OFNB members, Jonathan Giralt, Ryan Hutchinson, Bryan Jones, Brett Mason, Eric Montanez and Will Vertlieb, were arrested under a City of Orlando noise ordinance when they refused to quit drumming as part of the protest, citing their free speech rights. Dyer was holding his fund-raiser in a restaurant located on the bottom floor of The Sanctuary, a downtown condominium complex, located about two blocks from Lake Eola Park where OFNB shares. Through its protest, OFNB was engaging in political speech to counter Dyer's political speech at a location (the restaurant and its adjoining premises, including a public sidewalk and right-of-way) that had been turned into a forum for political speech. The police confiscated some of the drums that had been used as "evidence" and had OPD's Crime Scene Unit take pictures of the protest site and the remaining protestors from OFNB.
Two of OFNB's lawyers met with the adult arrestees at the jail this evening. Bond for five of those arrested was 0.00 each; however, they elected to stay in jail until their first court appearance sometime tomorrow to see if they could be released on their own recognizance. As of this writing, Hutchinson, Jones, Mason and Vertlieb had already been released on their own recognizance, with their arraignments set for July 30. Montanez, because of his previous arrest, may have to post bond after his initial court appearance this afternoon (Thurs., June 28). Giralt, a juvenile, was released to his parents' recognizance.
About 40 people participated in Wednesday's protest. It was held to denounce Dyer's policies towards homelessness in Orlando and his support of the City's "large group feedings" ordinance (enacted in July 2006) which, essentially, bans giving away food inside more than three dozen parks in downtown Orlando. Orlando Food Not Bombs has found ways to circumvent the food sharing ban to the extreme displeasure of the Mayor and Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan (the chief proponent of the ordinance) and continues to share inside Lake Eola Park every Wednesday. The ordinance was enacted owing to gentrification and development pressures in Orlando's Thornton Park and Lake Eola Heights neighborhoods.
This was the second Dyer fundraiser at which OFNB has staged a noisy, spirited protest and there is the possibility that today's arrests were politically motivatedrevenge for the first anti-Dyer protest. That action, held on May 16 outside a business only a few hundred yards from where OFNB shares, received considerable media coverage. Hutchinson and Montanez are two of the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit filed in October of 2006 against the City over the anti-homeless food sharing ordinance. That lawsuit is expected to come to trial in June of 2008. Montanez, on April 4, became the first person arrested under the anti-homeless food sharing ordinance. His trial on that charge will start on Sept. 10. OFNB member Matt Houston was trespassed from Lake Eola Park on May 9 when park rangers called police to break up the group's sharing, although his trespass warning was later rescinded.
OFNB's lawyers are reviewing whether the Orlando police properly applied the ordinance which they used to make the arrests.
Further updates will be released later.
To contact Orlando Food Not Bombs: firstname.lastname@example.org
To donate to Orlando Food Not Bombs:
make the check payable to Carrot and Fist Collective, Inc.
P.O. Box 540957
Orlando, FL 32854-0957