Posts tagged ‘Food Not Bombs’

When is a public place not a public place?

When it is in Orlando apparently.

On Tuesday Ambush Predator shreded, in her usual inimitable manner, a Comment is Free article about a charity called Food Not Bombs who have discovered that laws, no matter how crap, still apply to them.

Obviously the sight of a such an obviously lefty organisation finding themselves in hot water with the State – a construct it appears most of them appear to support – over a matter of obeying silly laws which they and their fellow travellers are all to happy to foist onto the rest of us is obviously a matter of general hilarity. What I do not find so funny however is the underlying law.

In 2006 the City of Orlando amended Chapter 18A of its City Code to add the following section:

Except for activities of a governmental agency within the scope of its governmental authority, or unless specifically permitted to do so by a permit or approval issued pursuant to this Chapter or by City Council:

(a) It is unlawful to knowingly sponsor, conduct, or participate in the distribution or service of food at a large group feeding at a park or park facility owned or controlled by the City of Orlando within the boundary of the Greater Downtown Park District without a Large Group Feeding Permit issued by the City Director of Families, Parks and Recreation or his/her designee.

(b) It is unlawful to fail to produce and display the Large Group Feeding Permit during or after a large group feeding, while still on site, to a law enforcement officer upon demand. It is an affirmative defense to this violation if the offender can later produce, to the City Prosecutor or the Court, a Large Group Feeding Permit issued to him/her, or the group, which was valid at the time of the event.

(c) The Director of Families, Parks and Recreation or his/her designee shall issue a Large Group Feeding Permit upon application and payment of the application fee as established by the City. Not more than two (2) Large Group Feeding Permits shall be issued to the same person, group, or organization for large group feedings for the same park in the GDPD in a twelve (12) consecutive month period.

(d) Any applicant shall have the right to appeal the denial of a Large Group Feeding Permit pursuant to appeal procedure in Section 18A.15 with written notice to the Director of Families, Parks and Recreation and with a copy to the City Clerk.

To me a park is a public space, generally maintained by the local authority which is paid for by local taxation, and is available for all to use without fear or favour. Heck, even Wikipedia agrees. Given this I consider any government body restricting what can and can’t happen in such a free space to be overstepping its authority.

Free space is free space, no matter whether the person using it be the lowliest beggar or the Queen of England. It is for the use of all persons and none. Thus imposing restrictions on an activity in a public space simply because you have issues with the people who might turn up violates the basic operating principle of free access.

The only time the government should consider interfering is if the organised activity actively interferes with the enjoyment of others using the park to the extent that the park is unusable. And yes, before anyone says it, the organisers of any event should (of course) be responsible for policing the area that they were operating in so as to ensure that it is left in a usable condition for the next person(s). If they don’t then the authority would be justified in going after them for the clean-up costs.

Until then they should just stay out of the way.