FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Fort Lauderdale police charged three men -- including two pastors and a 90-year-old man -- for feeding the homeless in public on Sunday, the first such cases made by the city after the a new ordinance effectively banning public food sharings took effect Friday.
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The first to be charged was homeless advocate Arnold Abbott, 90, who has been feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale for more than 20 years. Also cited were two Christian ministers -- Dwayne Black, pastor of The Sanctuary Church in Fort Lauderdale, and Mark Sims of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs.
All three men face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
"One of the police officers said, 'Drop that plate right now,' as if I were carrying a weapon," said Abbott, who runs a nonprofit group called Love Thy Neighbor, Inc. "It's man's inhumanity to man is all it is."
In 1999, the city tried to stop Abbott from feeding the homeless on Fort Lauderdale Beach, prompting a lawsuit from Abbott, which he won. Now he said he will fight the municipal ordinance charge and be forced to take the city back to court.
"I'm going to have to go to court again and sue the city of Fort Lauderdale -- a beautiful city," said Abbott. "These are the poorest of the poor, they have nothing, they don't have a roof over their heads. How do you turn them away?"
Abbott said he won't turn them away and is planning to bring food to the beach this Wednesday evening with the expectation that he may be hit with another charge.
"I don't do things to purposefully aggravate the situation," said Abbott. "I'm trying to work with the city. Any human has the right to help his fellow man."