Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Where I've been ...

Most of last month was taken up with the federal court trial on Orlando's controversial rules on feeding the homeless.

Preparing witnesses, compiling evidence, writing what I hope was a persuasive opening statement ... all that, and more, kept me from much of anything else for the past few weeks.

Read the Orlando Sentinel's preview story here. Even though it was written before the trial began, it's the best summary of the issues.

That said, I hafta dispute the Sentinel's coverage of the trial. We subpoenaed the mayor to testify, and the Sentinel reported that decision may have hurt our case.

I guess the reporter didn't understand,* because the mayor gave us an important piece of evidence. One of our arguments is that sharing food in the park with hungry and homeless people is expressive conduct** protected by the First Amendment. The food-sharings demonstrate our community's problem with hunger and poverty and homelessness -– and our failure to provide a solution –- in a way that mere words cannot.

The mayor took the witness stand and said: "I don't view Food Not Bombs as providing a service to the homeless. I view them as pursing their own political purposes."

It seemed to me that helped us prove that Orlando Food Not Bombs was communicating a political message to the community. The mayor got the political message loud and clear.

I think we put on a good case and I'm optimistic about our chances.
* Or maybe I should blame it on the Sentinel's new approach to covering the news. Apparently someone there now thinks readers aren't interested in trials. To read more about what's going on at the Sentinel, check out the TellZell blog.

** The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that wearing a black armband or burning a flag is expressive conduct. The armband case is Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District and the flag-burning case is Texas v. Johnson.


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