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COLUMN

Happytown

The one where Republicans try to pin the tail on Charlie Crist's donkey, the city bluntly reaffirms that it is indeed an cruel (fat!) mistress and the county is a joke that isn't funny anymore.

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Even if the unthinkable second coming were to happen, Crist wouldn't stand a chance.

"There's no way that Charlie Crist would clear out a primary," Randolph says, reminding us that party-switchers don't often appeal to bases. "Hell, if Charlie Crist were our candidate, I'd run against him in a primary."

Please?

As Bloggytown readers already know, the City of Orlando's public feeding ordinance, kept in cryogenic stasis for more than two years while federal courts evaluated its constitutionality, has officially thawed out. Three prominent members of the group Food Not Bombs were arrested on June 1 at Lake Eola Park for "knowingly sponsor[ing] or conduct[ing] the distribution or service of food at a Large Group Feeding … without obtaining a Large Group Feeding Permit."

The arrests occurred late into a routine sharing of dinner with the homeless, something Food Not Bombs has participated in at Lake Eola since 2005. The politically charged group, which considers food a fundamental human right, refuses to apply for a feeding permit as a matter of principle. Among those arrested was one of the founders of the worldwide Food Not Bombs movement, Keith McHenry, visiting from New Mexico ostensibly to provide some political support to what has become the nation's most high-profile conflict over feeding the homeless in public parks.

McHenry chose to stay behind bars after his arrest, but his two cohorts, Ben Markeson, 49, and Jessica Cross, 24, were bailed out of the Orange County Jail in the wee hours of the morning. Later that day, they chose that setting for a press conference in which Markeson fell into his usual (though sensible) rant against the city: "We're out there, week after week … trying to meet an unmet community need, and yet we have a local government trying to criminalize poverty and trying to stop people from helping people who need help."

Both Markeson and Cross allege that they were targeted by police, saying that there were seven other activists present who were not arrested, although those activists were doing the lion's share of the soup ladling. "I'm led to believe the police have been watching us," Cross said. "They just kind of wanted to get their hands on the members that they see most frequently."

Police spokeswoman Sgt. Barbara Jones asserted in an email to Happytown that police saw "no other violations," and regarding surveillance, that she could "only advise that we have supporting evidence to provide the city prosecutor with a strong case for violation."

As this issue went to press, Happytown learned that four more Food Not Bombs members were arrested at a June 6 breakfast feeding at Lake Eola Park.

Interestingly, when Food Not Bombs first intentionally defied the ordinance on May 18, the city essentially forced a permit upon the group. The same thing happened the following Monday, and at the two feedings after that, the city did nothing. Cross guesses the city finally acted on June 1 because no members of the media were present, as they had been the four feedings prior. See how important we are?

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