I am hungry.
Today begins my eighth day on hunger strike in resistance to a series of ordinances passed in Ft. Lauderdale which are tantamount to the criminalization of humanity and the activities of houseless living. I am joined by six others in my hunger strike.
In Tampa, Tuesday mornings are beautiful. So are Sunday early afternoons. Squinting against the sun breaking through the leaves of Gaslight Park’s trees, Food not Bombs members, along with friends we share food with, rush to the side of the vehicles carrying food, carrying tables and napkins and smiling people sharing greetings and hugs. We venture into the center of the park, arms full, and everyone labors to set up the tables, spread the cloth, lay out the clothing and the books. Breaking bread, we spend the next hour chatting with our friends as we all eat, laugh and check in on how all of us are doing. I value these beautiful experiences.
Ten years ago, the scene I just described was, in Tampa, an arrestable crime.
Today, and indeed since October 31st, in Ft. Lauderdale it is.
On October 31st, Ft. Lauderdale passed an ordinance—the latest in a series of what are being termed ‘homeless hate laws’—criminalizing the act of outdoor food sharing. An act that many of those arrested and cited for have been doing for years—some for decades—in the same streets where it is now considered a criminal act. With the city more rigorously working to criminalize those providing humanitarian services to its city’s most in need, than it is working to solve the rampant issues of poverty, food insecurity, homelessness of veterans, vets suffering with physical and mental illness, the mentally ill, the physically disabled and the socio-economically disadvantaged in its own community—the enraged and uprising masses demand to know why.
Profits over People
The city prefers that its hungry, its sick, its poor stay out of the sight of its open wallet tourists. As though their privilege makes them more human than those who starve before them. Mayor Seiler and those who voted in favor of these hate laws made no provisions or contingencies for the houseless masses whom they are increasingly making life impossible for. Mayor Seiler and those who voted in favor of these hate laws, since the enacting of the share ban ordinance, have paved the way for the arrests and/or citations of over a dozen people waging a brave resistance in the face of their cruelty.
One might presume an incredible shame the city might be feeling over their complete failure to address, in any meaningful way, the immense struggle and turmoil of so many of those in their community—however, with plans for city development and tourist dollars being the city’s top and only priority, they continue to take action to exacerbate this struggle and turmoil.
But not without a fight.
South Florida Food not Bombs member Jillian Pim ventured a hunger strike on the day the food share ban ordinance was enacted—an ordinance that seeks to regulate the act of feeding someone who is hungry. When, six days short of a month and now on a walker, she began experiencing a sharp decline in her health, she ended her strike and passed it into the hands of those who would take on the starvation that the city of Ft. Lauderdale would like to impose on its most in need.
The mentally ill of Ft. Lauderdale, including veterans of the wars this country has imposed upon them, cannot advocate for themselves inasmuch as to know, commit to memory, and travel to a series of different locations at different times on different days where food sharing is hidden from public view to suit the wealthy politicians who value dollar over life. They need mental health services … and empathy.
The physically disabled of Ft. Lauderdale, including the veterans of the wars this country has imposed upon them, will have a difficult time traveling to hidden food share locations to suit the wealthy politicians who value dollar over life. They need medical health services … and empathy.
The socio-economically disadvantaged of Ft. Lauderdale, emotionally, physically and mentally compromised from the struggle of life on the streets, will have difficulty maintaining the schedule of, travel to and movement of their belongings that is against the law to let off their backs, to the hidden food share locations to suit the wealthy politicians who value dollar over life. They need social services … and empathy.
And thus we fight. We protest. We resist. We defy. We strike with our own hunger to combat the imposed hunger of others. Our message is this: Our love outweighs your apathy. And outweighs it greatly.
I, and the six other strikers, Thursday Addams, Bettejo Passalaqua, Chris Mince, Samantha Portis, Feral Peterson and Root Robin, may be hungry, but in terms of compassion … the city of Ft. Lauderdale is starving.