My short bio: Hello everyone, I'm a volunteer with the group Tampa Food Not Bombs. I was recently arrested alongside six others for sharing food with houseless people in a public park, something we have done 1 to 2 times every week for the past 5 years without much incident from TPD.

I'm a Wobbly (IWW member) and am also active in solidarity work with a migrant farmworker-led human rights organization (the Coalition of Immokalee Workers).

My Proof: http://imgur.com/a/HbDTc

Edit: www.cltampa.com/news-views/local-news/article/20848403/tampa-activists-arrested-for-feeding-the-homeless

Update 1: Wow, thanks everyone for all of your questions! I'll continue answering as many as I can get to, though I may not get to everyone's.

Update 2: Here is a link to info about how to call the Tampa Police Department and City of Tampa (http://imgur.com/a/Kee4K).

Update 3: Had to remove the crowdrise per admins. Sorry y'all, very new here to reddit.

Update 4: I have to head out to our meeting tonight. I'm going to take a break from responding to comments until tomorrow after the sharing at 8am. If you'd like me to answer more questions, I'll be back at 10:30am!

Update 5: Currently back to finish answering questions, and to provide y'all with a quick update on this morning's events!

Final Update: Thank you everyone! We had a sharing today and the police backed down and didn't arrest anyone. The fight isn't over, and we'll continue sharing and seeking to overturn the ordinance's applicability to our situation. I'm sorry I wasn't able to get to all of your questions. Please private message me if you have anything burning left over and I'll get to them when I can. Much love, and feel free to follow our facebook page for more details and updates! (https://www.facebook.com/TampaFoodNotBombs/)

Comments: 4743 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

jgstate14259 karma

Can't you just say it's a private picnic and you are friends with all the homeless?

RogButter4174 karma

We definitely said that, but at the end of the day the officers are enforcing the law in the way that they (and their bosses) interpret it.

bliess3872 karma

I'm now wondering if there's a way to force them to interpret it as a picnic?

If you had a picnic for someone's birthday and every attendee was wearing party hats would it force them to interpret it as a picnic?

There have to be a certain amount of party hats, or maybe 1 Piñata which makes it a birthday party/picnic and not something else.

RogButter3763 karma

I like this. We might try it out.

tarunteam267 karma

Can we send you food or the police department notices about how we don't like what they're doing.

RogButter431 karma

Absolutely. Here is the info for contacting TPD and the City of Tampa. http://imgur.com/a/Kee4K

danknissan62 karma

Definitely OP as /u/tarunteam said please open donations! I'd love to send money so you can keep doing this.

Btw are you a fan of Tampa radio? What is your favorite station?

RogButter101 karma

Absolutely. We have a crowdrise here (https://www.crowdrise.com/tampa-food-not-bombs-jail-support/fundraiser/dezeraylyn), linked in the above bio per the most recent update. Anything after our legal fee costs will go to feeding the houseless and any other expenses with defending their rights.

I love Tampa radio. 88.5 Community Radio all the way. I got to admit that I also love 96.5 Radio Maxima (Spanish Language) and 89.7 (late night jazz).

CrisisOfConsonant259 karma

That's a stupid abuse of a technically.

It must be a certain ratio of pinatas and/or cake to party hats. You can't have 10,000 party hats and just 1 pinata, not everybody would get candy.

RogButter350 karma

The whole Food Not Bombs crew loves how specific y'all are getting into the technicalities of this party idea. Please keep going.

innocii71 karma

Can't you relocate to your own "private" (not necessarily your home) property?

notagangsta174 karma

I think his point is that the law should be overturned and they don't want to find ways to comply, but to get it removed.

RogButter118 karma

Exactly. We go to where the houseless are, and that's downtown.

Tombombadillo132589 karma

What did the arresting officers think of the law?

RogButter5721 karma

They definitely disagreed with it, and didn't want to be doing it. My arresting officer, to his credit, made every effort he could to tell me how much he didn't want to be doing it. It's definitely the mayor who is pursuing this.

BTSavage1599 karma

The news article mentioned that the permit fee to feed people legally is expensive due to the insurance requirement. Do you know what the permit fee is? Would you be interested in raising money to legally feed the homeless or is your organization interested in pointing out the seeming absurdity of the regulation/permit requirement instead?

RogButter2512 karma

Great question. It is a little bit up in the air what amount of money it would require, because these laws are clearly meant for food vendors and nonprofits, of which we are neither (http://www.tampagov.net/sites/default/files/special-events-coordination/files/tempfoodsvc2011.pdf). The insurance liability would need coverage of $1 million, and as I understand the fees we would need to pay for every sharing is $91 (that quickly adds up to ~$9500/year on top of the insurance costs). It is something we wouldn't even consider, when we operate on a shoestring budget as is with proper food safety handling (several of us have licensing through the State of Florida from our restaurant work days).

Additionally, we object to the need to obtain permits to share food when (a) such a basic human act as sharing a meal shouldn't need to be mediated through either a market or a government entity, and (b) the city has done little to nothing to address the roots of houselessness in the area, and has instead pushed development projects that will further displace and dispossess people.

IGiveFreeCompliments483 karma

Excellent, honest answer. From this point forward, how do you expect to address points (a) and (b)?

Follow up question since you may not have gotten to this yet: a bit lower down you mentioned that you'll continue giving food in subsequent days, even with the risk of further arrests. How does your organization intend to continue its work and attract recruitment if your volunteers are imprisoned?

RogButter559 karma

To address (a), I think we will do that simply by revealing the city's hypocrisy. Eventually, they will back down, like they did in 2004 when they tried this exact same ordinance (and arrested five people, one of whom was arrested this past Saturday as well).

To address (b), that is a harder question, but one that I think can we can handle by initiatives like "housing first", where the city helps give houseless people houses as a first step toward long-term stability. People often frame the issue of houselessness as one that is caused by drug addiction, poverty, and joblessness, and while that's partially true, it very much works the other way too. It is much harder to maintain a job without access to a warm bed and a hot shower and a kitchen. We aim to implement these things through a combination of advocacy, direct action (such as these sharings), and public pressure through protests.

Some of us are going to risk arrest tomorrow, but not all. In my own case I don't intend to risk arrest and will instead stay behind to work on background work, such as coordinating their jail support. We don't intend to let our comrades rot in jail (our legal fund is working on that, which is here: crowdrise.com/tampa-food-not-bombs-jail-support/fundraiser/dezeraylyn). The amount of support we're receiving is exponentially growing and we're getting lots of calls from people who say they want to come out and support in whatever way possible, so I don't think we need to worry too much about recruitment. :)

spunkypuddle1121 karma

Do you plan to continue feeding the homeless at this location? And what will you do if the cops show up again? Did they suggest that repeating your "crime" would result in a harsher sentence?

RogButter2340 karma

Absolutely. We'll be there tomorrow morning at 8am, and yes, several of us will likely be facing jail time for the violation of the trespass. We'll continue sharing until and after the city backs down.

Porridgeandpeas458 karma

Do you think it would be an idea to crowdfund for the insurance money and/or legal fees? People would get fed for the next year, you'd be fine legally and you'd not be facing time.

RogButter451 karma

We have a crowdfund right here, if it's okay with the admins I'll post it here: https://www.crowdrise.com/tampa-food-not-bombs-jail-support/fundraiser/dezeraylyn

Cliffwoood651 karma

What exactly were you charged with?

RogButter953 karma

Trespassing after warning, per violation of city ordinance 16-43(c), which reads “No person shall conduct any activity or utilize any department managed land in a manner which will result in commercial activity, as defined in this chapter, or provide for the distribution or sampling of any materials, merchandise, food, and/or beverages to the general public, without prior written approval from the department.”

snugs117350 karma

Did the police keep things professional on their part or were they rough with your group after you were arrested?

RogButter1050 karma

Very professional. I have plenty of complaints about the police and won't hesitate to voice them, but they were professional and about as reluctant as one could be short of refusing orders to arrest us. I blame Mayor Buckhorn first and foremost.

Guy_We_All_Know278 karma

what would you say is the best thing that someone could do to help the homeless population around us? i would love to help more but have a hard time finding what i can do to help.

RogButter465 karma

That's a great question. I am a Wobbly (member of a solidarity based union) and I believe the best thing we can do in the long term is to rebuild the labor movement with an internationalist framework that addresses the root of poverty, which is economic exploitation. That will eliminate the roots of houselessness and will also involve the participation and leadership of houseless people. Definitely contact the IWW (iww.org) if you want to learn more.

In the immediate sense, sharing food, clothing, and the like is very important. We at Food Not Bombs do what we do both as immediate aid and also to build a social movement to challenge poverty. A big part of this is building relationships with the houseless themselves, as a way to build and create solidarity and mutual aid between ordinary people. Eventually we hope to fight for a county-wide housing first policy that will help our friends get off the streets, and advocating for something similar might be the way to do that. Whatever you can do, from washing dishes to cooking food to helping people with their problems in finding work or housing, makes an enormous difference.

Guy_We_All_Know52 karma

follow up question: i know there are a lot of places that have rules against commercial food chains and stores that makes it illegal for them to give the surplus they have of food at the end of the day to homeless shelters. it bothers me that they are forced to throw it out in the dumpster instead. is there anything we can do together to push a change in law intros, and promote food chains and stores to work with shelters to provide food?

RogButter70 karma

I'm not entirely sure about all aspects of the legality, but from what I understand there are Good Samaritan Laws that protect businesses from liability for donating food. That's how sympathetic businesses are able to provide us food for free without liability. I'd definitely like to hear from anyone who knows differently.

GrimWeepa149 karma

Hey man! I saw the article in the paper and safe to say I was outraged. I understand the safety precautions, but if you were to ask a homless person if they would take the chance of eating a bagel and drinking a coffee from a stranger they will take that chance. I read you intended to go back to gaslight park tomorrow (Tuesday at 8am) is this true? I'd love to come. I live on Bay shore.

Edit* Grammar

RogButter109 karma

Great to hear from you. I definitely will be there. See you tomorrow!

GrimWeepa39 karma

Yes I will see you tomorrow! What can I bring?

RogButter70 karma

Just your presence is fine. :) A cameraphone to take video would be helpful. Any food or serving supplies (plasticware, napkins) you would like to bring is well appreciated, but remember not to share any food in the park unless you are planning to risk arrest.

Zman132234 karma

What if I were to do it? I'm 17, could I be charged as an adult?

RogButter49 karma

Good question, and unfortunately I am not a lawyer. Contact [email protected] and we will give you an answer per our legal team's advice.

smithee200177 karma

A man who reached for a last-minute bagel was also arrested.

That poor guy, he just wanted a bagel. :(

RogButter74 karma

Yeah, he was a sweetheart too. One of the more frustrating things that happened honestly.

fmunkey110 karma

Did you expect this to become a national story? It was on the front page all day yesterday, was on Democracy Now today and I'm sure countless other places. Does the conversations started because of your arrest make it worth it?

Any other unexpected consequences or benefits?

RogButter148 karma

Absolutely not. I had some idea we would get some coverage from friends and maybe it would be visible on social media for a bit. The fact that it's blown up like this wouldn't have occurred to us as plausible, and in fact one of the core organizers said that she gotten up the morning of the sharing before this (where she was temporarily detained and told to cease sharing food) and everything felt so normal. It's amazing how quickly things shifted.

pipsdontsqueak98 karma

Thanks for helping the homeless, I just want to better understand your legal argument.

Do you think that the municipal government may have enacted the law to ensure food safety/health code standards were enforced when providing food in public areas (due to food trucks, hot dog carts, and the like)?

Can you explain your claim that your organization is neither a non-profit nor a food vendor if you are both organizing to provide food to homeless individuals and raising money to do so?

RogButter85 karma

Absolutely, I'd be happy to unpack it further.

I do think that. I think that the law makes sense to institute when applied to those organizations. However the law has not been applied to us for about 13 years, and it's a bit strange that the city decided now would be the time to enforce it (especially when tourist attractions like the Alabama v Clemson game are around - it has us questioning their motives).

A food vendor refers to a for-profit institution that is able to sell food to the public, whereas a nonprofit (I'm here referring specially to 501(c)3s, which I'm most familiar with) is a specifically designated legal entity. We're legally neither, and as I understand it constitute an "unincorporated association" (though we would call ourselves a grassroots organization). So the forms and documents don't really deal with the mission, purpose, and behavior of our organization and also don't seem to apply to our juridical status. We also don't really raise money for the purposes of sharing food, although we have raised money for our legal fund per upcoming/anticipated court fees and legal costs.

ChargeTheCharger98 karma

Solidarity from a fellow Food Not Bombs member! Are you subbed to /r/foodnotbombs ?

The chapter I'm in serves twice a month. How has your chapter managed to do twice a week?

RogButter70 karma

I'm not! Just joined this site.

It took a lot of sustainability. We started it because Tuesday mornings are mainly coffee and bagels, not as much prep is needed. We also grew as a network to have 4-5 bottomliners instead of just 1-2. The dedication and consistency of the individuals involved is frankly astounding.

UnsubstantiatedClaim89 karma

What is your favorite food to hand out?

RogButter273 karma

Definitely coffee. People looooove getting a hot cup in the AM. All of us in Florida kind of freak out when the temperature drops in the morning and it definitely lifts the spirits.

RSN_Kabutops54 karma

Any reason why your organization didn't move to an area where you could give out the food after being told to stop?

RogButter144 karma

The police said that we could move to the sidewalk and share food (though after our arrest, several members did this, and were chased off by officers). However, the point of us sharing food in Lykes Gaslight Park in Downtown Tampa is twofold.

First, the city actively shuns the houseless, pushing them to the side as much as it can. We tend to think their reasons for applying the ordinance now was because of the Alabama v Clemson football game, meaning they would want to get houseless people out of sight and out of mind of potential tourists. We refuse to let the city continue to sweep this under the rug, and will continue sharing where many of the houseless have made a home (in this case, that is Lykes).

The second is that an unjust law like this is worth challenging. In this case, all it meant was continuing to do what we always did. The city has decided that it can tells us when and how we share a meal with our friends. A permit that is required for us to share can also be taken away, and when the city is able to tell us when and where to share, our consistency as an organization that is responsive to the changing needs of the houseless is compromised. So we've chosen to simply keep doing the right thing, and help uncover the moral crisis that has been ongoing long before this began: a society of classes, where food and shelter is never a guarantee for the poor, but trillions are diverted to war and foreign ventures.

RogButter20 karma

Update: dozens of people, likely about 50, showed up to the park. Police encircled us and looked very intent on arresting anyone sharing food. However, after about 15 minutes of no action, and conferring with each other, they told an organizer that we outnumbered them and would be back Saturday with more officers. It was a truly outrageous and unprecedented (in my experience) happening; I fully expected arrests to happen today. If I had to venture a guess as to why, I think it is because of the outpouring of public support from people like you. We will continue sharing until and after the police stop trying to arbitrarily enforce the ordinance on us. Thank you so so much to everyone who has watched us, supported us, asked questions, and wanted to hear our organization's story.

Commander13CnC37 karma

Why on earth would they arrest you?

RogButter40 karma

They arrested me under City of Tampa ordinance 16-43(c), a city ordinance that is applied selectively. It concerns the distribution of food, beverages, and materials; however it is much more readily applicable to food vendors and nonprofits. It's our belief that they arrested us because the city wants to maintain its image during the Alabama vs Clemson game, and keep houseless people off of the streets.

bluethingthatisred5 karma

Under what charges were you arrested? How long were you in jail?

RogButter7 karma

Trespassing after warning per City of Tampa ordinance 16-43(c); thankfully we were not held in jail and were instead detained for a little over an hour in a TPD parking garage before being released. We expect jail time for our FNB friends risking arrest tomorrow morning.

diosmuerteborracho3 karma

What were y'all serving that day? Did they confiscate your food/cooking supplies?

RogButter6 karma

It was vegan food prepared by the community and provided for in part by local/sympathetic businesses with extra food. We had mushroom/seitan stew, pasta salad, pasta, fruit salad, pastries. (Although many FNB groups do dumpster their food, we do not)

Thankfully they did not take any of it away and there were people after the arrest who took care of our supplies.

theflamingskull1 karma

Why were you trespassing after you were warned to stay away?

RogButter50 karma

Because the houseless and hungry need food and these parks are ours to use. We did nothing wrong by staying there to share food.

chairhats1 karma

1) Do you realize you're a hero? 2) What are your thoughts about the US as these sort of activities are illegal yet we read about corruption in the news everyday?

RogButter8 karma

To 1), I appreciate the sentiment but I honestly wasn't even trying to do anything super courageous or noble. I saw my friends getting hauled off and knew I couldn't just sit by while it happened. I think this is a lot of people's story throughout history, and I'm honored to be carrying the torch in some small way.

As to 2), if I understand your question correctly, I think that is a result of the divide between rich and poor. The poor and working class have different laws applied to them than the rich do, or the same laws get applied to the former and not the latter. Houselessness has been criminalized since the birth of capitalism in newly industrialized England with anti-vagrancy laws, and I think this is the natural result of a class system where private property is upheld over the imperative to feed and house everyone.