Federal Court Restricts Food Not Bombs' Right to Call for Reduction in Military Spending as the Government Cuts Vital Social Services

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2011

CONTACT:
Food Not Bombs cofounder Keith McHenry
575-770-3377
menu@foodnotbombs.net

FEDERAL COURT RESTRICTS FOOD NOT BOMBS RIGHT TO CALL FOR REDUCTION IN MILITARY SPENDING AS THE GOVERNMENT CUTS VITAL SOCIAL SERVICES

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta Rules City Of Orlando can restrict Food Not Bombs Free Speech to twice a year per public park.

Volunteers to defy order and urge global resistance by sharing food and literature in public spaces.

In an outrages decision during the debate on federal spending priorities the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the City of Orlando can restrict Food Not Bombs from seeking to build public support for the funding of social services using savings from reductions in the military. The need to have as much impact as possible on the issue of redirecting military spending towards healthcare, education, food and other social services has never been greater. To restrict Food Not Bombs to expressing their message to two days a year per city park not only deprives the cities hungry of desperately needed food and reduces the ability of the all volunteer group to communicate with the community. The Citizens United court ruling allows military contractors unlimited “free speech” while this ruling restricts the publics attempt to counter the devastating message of Citizen United to twice a year in each location.  Food Not Bombs is an all volunteer project that shares free vegan meals and literature at regular times in  high  visibility public location to inspire community discussion about ending poverty and hunger. The impact of experiencing volunteers sharing food with the hungry under the banner Food Not Bombs with literature about changing our national priorities is very powerful. Restricting this powerful expressive message to twice a year and force the hungry and public to search for the meal and message is a violation of our basic right to free expression.   Nearly half the federal budget is spent on the military while 17 percent of American’s go hungry each month and teachers are being laid off.  The United States is spending over $700 billion this year which is nearly half of the world’s total military budget. Military contractors and their supporters are free to spend as much as they want to influence the public and Congress to increase their profits while Food Not Bombs is being restricted to sharing its message.  The Obama administration and Congress just agreed to cut vital social programs, increase military spending at a time when millions of people are facing hunger, homelessness and extreme poverty. Food Not Bombs is likely to defy this ruling and urge the public to join them in increasing the groups visibility and distribution of food and information.

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Court upholds Orlando’s homeless feeding rules

By GREG BLUESTEIN – Associated Press

ATLANTA — A federal appeals court on Tuesday tried to strike a balance in a debate over a Florida ordinance that restricts feeding the homeless at city parks, saying giving food to the needy in public spaces was protected by the First Amendment but efforts to regulate the gathering by Orlando lawmakers were reasonable.
The decision by the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeal comes after lengthy litigation over the 2006 Orlando ordinance, which required groups to get a permit to feed 25 or more people in parks in a downtown district. The rules also restrict the groups to two permits per year for each park.
Orlando Food Not Bombs, a group of political activists who believe food is a fundamental human right, claimed in a lawsuit that the restrictions violate freedom of speech and religion. The city countered that the restrictions were needed to protect parks and disburse large gatherings, as routine mass feedings would strain city resources and cause safety problems.

A federal judge originally blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance, but a three-judge appeals panel partially reversed the ruling on a 2-1 vote. In a rare move, the full 11th Circuit decided to review the case and both sides offered oral arguments in February.
The court’s 10-0 decision – one judge abstained – said that the mass feedings were “expressive and entitled to some protection under the First Amendment.” But the decision said the city didn’t violate free speech rights because there was no outright ban on the feedings or restrictions targeting political rallies or other expressive activities.
“The city has a substantial interest in managing park property and spreading the burden of large group feedings throughout a greater area,” the ruling said, “and those interests are plainly served by the ordinance.”

http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/200816788op2.pdf

Read more: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2011/04/12/1536545/court-upholds-orlandos-homeless.html#ixzz1JMlEPylm

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