WLRN by Daniel Rivero
August 22, 2018
A controversial city of Fort Lauderdale ordinance banning the sharing of food with homeless residents in a city park was dealt a blow by a federal appeals court Wednesday. The decision declared food sharing as protected by the First Amendment, and sent the case back to a lower court to decide whether the city violated the right to free speech.
The lower court had previously sided with the city.
At issue was a 2014 city ordinance that banned food sharing in public parks unless the park was located at least 500 feet from residences. It also mandated that those providing food provide portable toilets and hand washing stations.
For years the non-profit group Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs had organized a weekly event where it fed homeless residents at Stranahan Park in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Shortly after the ordinance was passed, a 90-year-old man was arrested for handing food to homeless residents, which garnered national attention.
Facing a nationwide backlash, the city agreed to temporarily stop enforcing the ordinance. Food Not Bombs sued the city a few weeks later, alleging that sharing food is protected by the First Amendment.