FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A 90-year-old man and two South Florida ministers have been accused of breaking a new ordinance that severely restricts public feeding of the homeless in Fort Lauderdale.
Police arrested homeless advocate Arnold Abbot and ministers Dwayne Black and Mark Sims on Sunday as they handed out food to homeless people in a Fort Lauderdale park. The city ordinance took effect Friday.
"One of the police officers said, 'Drop that plate right now,' as if I were carrying a weapon," Abbott told South Florida television station WPLG. "It's man's inhumanity to man is all it is."
All three face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Abbott runs a nonprofit group called Love Thy Neighbor, Inc. He said he sued the city in 1999 after they tried to stop him from feeding the homeless on Fort Lauderdale Beach. He won that case and now says he'll fight the new ordinance.
"I'm going to have to go back to court again and sue the city of Fort Lauderdale - a beautiful city," Abbott said. "These are the poorest of the poor. They have nothing. They don't have a roof over their heads. How do you turn them away?"
He planned to feed the homeless Wednesday evening on Fort Lauderdale Beach.
"I don't do things to purposefully aggravate the situation," he said. "I'm trying to work with the city. Any human has the right to help his fellow man."
Black pastors The Sanctuary Church in Fort Lauderdale. Sims is pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs.
CBS station WFOR-TV reports that the city has been searching for a solution to its homeless problem for several years. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler told WFOR in 2012 that the city has been trying to clean up Stranahan Park, which has become a haven for dozens of homeless men and women during the day. The park is adjacent to the county's main library.
"Families don't feel safe, people going to the library don't feel safe, people wanting to use public resources don't feel safe," Seiler told the station. "It's gone too far."
The city believes the sight of the homeless is affecting tourism, nearby businesses and tarnishing the city's image, the station reported.