Activists with the group Food Not Bombs caught national attention after Tampa Police arrested seven Saturday as they shared food with members of the city's homeless community Saturday.
City law requires a permit to do so in public parks, but the group argues that seeking city approval is overburdensome and shouldn't be a requirement, given the pressing need. Activists also note that the ordinance has been on the books for years, but the city only seems to enforce it when a major event is coming to town.
On Tuesday morning, three days after the arrests, they were at it again in the same spot, Lykes Gaslight Park, which is directly across the street from police headquarters.
Though police were present on the perimeter of the event, they were outnumbered by the group and its supporters, homeless residents who came for breakfasts and members of the media. At one point, video of the event shows, supporters clasped arms and formed a circle around the table at which volunteers were serving food.
Dezeray Lyn, a member of the group who was arrested Saturday, said the supporters and media there might have caused police to rethink arresting them for the second time in a week.
“I think they expected...after our arrests that we would drop it and that we wouldn't come back...So I think that they weren't prepared,” Lyn said. “There were maybe a dozen different cameras on us from different media outlets.”
On Saturday, the seven who were arrested were released on their own recognizance and asked to appear in court Jan. 31. TPD confirmed Tuesday that they've filed charges directly with the State Attorney's Office, though a spokeswoman for the latter said Tuesday afternoon the office had yet to view them.
Food Not Bombs plans to continue their work regardless, twice a week, as they have for years—including this coming Saturday.
And while they would welcome supporters to advocate on their behalf at the city level, Lyn said, they want to focus on the work at hand: getting food to those who need it. She added that she hopes city officials will stop spending resources on punishing those who need help and instead join in helping.
“We are asking the city to reconsider spending critical, necessary funds and time and resources on criminalizing and prosecuting people that are doing acts of community service, serving our brothers and sisters and serving our community. We're asking them again to use those resources to address houselessness [as well as its root causes and consequences],” she said.