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Food Not Bombs members arrested for serving food without a permit

Members of the charitable group Food Not Bombs have been arrested in Orlando, Florida for serving food without a permit, DemocracyNow reported. A city law states that a permit must be obtained to serve food to 25 or more people in a park, and limits groups to two permits per year.

Keith McHenry, who helped found the group 30 years ago, was arrested Wednesday and is still imprisoned. McHenry’s view is that food is a right, not a privilege, so he and the group refused to abide by the law.

Food Not Bombs attorney Shayan Elahi said that he was filing an injunction against the City of Orlando because violations of municipal ordinances can be punished with a notice of appearance — arrest is not mandatory. Elahi also said that there is a First Amendment issue at stake. The Orlando Mayor has previously labeled Food Not Bombs as “food terrorists.”

Group member Benjamin Markeson, who was also arrested and freed earlier this month, told Democracy Now that he didn’t see the connection.

“Well, I don’t know what the Mayor’s logic is,” he said. “All I can say is that 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.”

Elahi pointed to gentrification and the city’s desire for an “improved” downtown as a reason for the ordinance and targeting of Food Not Bombs.

“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,” he said. “And this mayor just doesn’t seem to understand that.”

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