A 90-year-old war veteran says he will continue breaking the law by feeding homeless in public places in the city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was arrested earlier for defying a city ordinance that restricts such charity to protect local businesses.
Arnold Abbot has been feeding homeless people in the streets of Fort Lauderdale for some 23 years, and says he will not stop, despite the city council making it a citable offence, carrying a punishment of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
“I am not afraid at all. I was a combat infantryman for 2 1/2 years. I’ve spent 50 years fighting for civil rights for the minorities in this country. I don’t have the slightest fear of being arrested,” he told RT. “The only thing I am concerned about is that there would be nobody to feed the homeless outdoors, which is what I do – and what I intend to do as long as there is breath in my body.”
Abbot and two fellow anti-poverty activists, church ministers Dwayne Black and Mark Sims, were arrested over the weekend, after the controversial no-feeding law came into force last week.
They were not taken into custody, however, and the case is yet to be heard by a judge, but on Wednesday they repeated the same “offense” of feeding homeless publicly. This time the act of civil disobedience was not interrupted by law enforcement, possibly because the conflict drew nationwide attention.
Abbot is one of many activists resisting what appears as a spreading trend in US cities to crackdown on homeless people. He says continuing his work is a matter of being true to his faith.
“I believe that I am my brother’s keeper. The name of our organization is ‘Love Thy Neighbor,’ and that’s what we do. We try to spread love, to help our fellow men,” he told RT.
“We have 10,000 homeless in Broward County, which is the county of which Fort Lauderdale is the principal city. Most of them are in Fort Lauderdale, and we want to take care of all of our people. We are all God’s children.”
But Mayor Jack Seiler says he has to take care of Fort Lauderdale business owners and residents. A major tourist destination, the city’s economy depends on being attractive, and the city authorities say having homeless people visible on the streets doesn’t help that.
“The parks have just been overrun and were inaccessible to locals and businesses,” Seiler told RT.
Video of Jeff Weinberger speaking about city policies discriminating against the homeless with South Florida Food Not Bombs