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Happytown

Sure, you love Jesus when you're shopping. But what about the gays and the homeless people?

Photo: , License: N/A, Created: 2005:06:25 15:38:36


Just ask the homeless! We’re now well into the fifth year of the City of Orlando vs. Food Not Bombs saga, and it isn’t getting any less interesting.

Happytown™ learned last week that Food Not Bombs – an activist group that feeds the homeless twice a week at Lake Eola Park – will be granted a re-hearing of its lawsuit against the city in federal appeals court in Atlanta, scheduled for the week of Feb. 14.

In the summer of 2006, the Orlando City Council passed an ordinance that banned groups from giving food to 25 or more people in a city park within two miles of City Hall – in other words, “public feeding.” Members of Food Not Bombs, believing they were targeted by the ordinance, appealed the decision in federal court. Two years later, federal Judge Gregory Presnell overturned the ordinance, ruling that sharing food can be considered expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment. In December of last year, the Atlanta federal appeals court came to the opposite conclusion and ruled in favor of 
the city.

Food Not Bombs’ lawyer, Jacqueline Dowd, quickly filed for a re-hearing, and was notified a couple weeks ago that it would be granted. According to Dowd, a federal appeals court gets about 27,000 requests for re-hearings annually; only 75 are granted. “If I had known what a long shot it was, I probably wouldn’t have tried it!” 
she said.

Because the appeals court is essentially starting over with the case, Presnell’s ruling is currently 
the supreme judgment – so feedings are happening routinely at Lake Eola, as they have since 2005.

Dowd says that she’s “feeling pretty good” about their prospects for a victory in February, but if Food Not Bombs loses, it could throw a Hail Mary and appeal to “The Supreme.” Court, that is. “There are other cities all across the country waiting to see what happens,” Dowd says. “It could possibly set some precedents.”

To Dowd, whom we spoke to the day before mass turkey consumption, it’s a no-brainer that sharing food is a form of expression: “It’s the day before Thanksgiving – try and tell me that food doesn’t have symbolism.”

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