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Orlando's ban on feeding the homeless goes to court

City, Food Not Bombs to spar over feeding ordinance in federal court

Food Not Bombs' attorney Jacqueline Dowd was not available for comment by press time, but in light of the court's first decision and a brief submitted to the court last year, she will have to convince the court that the feeding ordinance places more than just "incidental" limitations on the group's First Amendment rights, that Food Not Bombs' sharings are a form of political expression evident to an outside observer, and that the homeless are disproportionately affected by the ordinance.

Despite the city's contention that the ordinance "applies equally to everyone, wealthy mansion-dwellers and homeless alike," local activist Ben Markeson, who participates in the weekly sharings, disagrees, arguing that the true aim of the ordinance is to expel the homeless from downtown. "I seriously doubt that the city would swoop down to arrest the preschool teacher for handing out sandwiches to more than 25 kids," he says.

In the concluding remarks of the brief, Dowd echoes Markeson's charge: 
"[T]he city seeks to exclude people it views as unsafe, unsanitary and displeasing based on generalized, unsubstantiated prejudices and fears rather than on any legitimate government interest."

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