May 25, 2019
In 2014, Ft. Lauderdale police arrested 90-year-old Arnold Abbott and two ministers. Their crime? Feeding the homeless.
I am not making this up.
Ft. Lauderdale enacted an ordinance requiring a permit to share food in a public park. Abbott and the ministers were part of an organization called “Food Not Bombs,” which offered free meals to the public, many of whom were homeless. After they were arrested, Abbott and the ministers challenged the constitutionality of the ordinance, arguing that the First Amendment encompasses conduct — such as the act of giving away food — just as much as mere speech. (Which is why, for instance, that burning the flag is protected speech).
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently agreed, holding that “a reasonable observer would interpret its food sharing events as conveying some sort of message.”
Indeed, noted the court, “History may have been quite different had the Boston Tea Party been viewed as mere dislike for a certain brew and not a political protest against the taxation of the American colonies without representation.”