Orlando should concede Food Not Bombs battle

By Nicholas Milstrey, COLUMNIST
On July 7, 2011

Keith McHenry, co-founder of the charity organization Food Not Bombs, was arrested last week with two other accomplices for what has been described as "food terrorism" by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Their crime? Feeding the homeless in Lake Eola Park.

Food Not Bombs has fed many homeless and poor people around the nation, but the organization had already surpassed Orlando's legal limit of two mass-feedings - feeding more than 25 people at a time - for 2011, according to The Palm Beach Post. Even so, the threat of being arrested for trespassing has not deterred members of the group from performing their acts of charity.

It is clear that the past few years in Florida have been economically tough for many. Hunger and desperation in Florida is high; therefore, legislation concerning mass-feedings must be changed.

What is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right. Dyer, winner of a popular election in 2008, is there to represent the interests of the electorate - answering to the city's municipal concerns of boosting tourism. It is unfortunate that the city would not respect the concerns of the disenfranchised needy by taking food out of their mouths. Orlando should take advantage of this opportunity to lead the way in reforming mass-feeding laws, an act that would bring new meaning to visiting the "Happiest Place on Earth."

The mayor might have been concerned with causing a scene at first, but his resistance has attracted the attention of the large computer-hacking group Anonymous, according to the New York Times. A group claiming to represent Anonymous has attacked and taken down the Orlando police union website as well as the website of Dyer's reelection campaign, according to the Orlando Sentinal. The websites are now operational, however. Hackers from Anonymous have previously taken credit for attacking MasterCard and Visa after freezing WikiLeaks assets, according to the New York Times.

If Dyer wants to save his credibility, he needs to bring this situation to a conclusion. Orlando authorities must take the high ground for those in need as well as for Orlando. Orlando can come out ahead by leasing vacant land for construction of a homeless shelter or closed pavilion so the feedings will not appear as publicly. It is obvious there are already volunteers that would help the Orlando community.

If the Mayor does nothing, he will become the villain. The more sympathetic media attention condones Anonymous' "trolling," or harassing, of Orlando, the more Anonymous will feel vindicated in fighting for the downtrodden. Orlando must not escalate the situation further. Otherwise, Anonymous' rampage against the city of Orlando will be popular to some, even though it is not right.

Nicholas Milstrey is a graduate student studying economics.

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