It's a scenario that has played out across the state: volunteers offering food, free of charge, to homeless people in public parks, only to be targeted by officials who appear that they'd rather not have the less fortunate gathered in highly visible spaces.
In Tampa, which has an ordinance on the books banning such food-sharing events without a special use permit, a member of the group Food Not Bombs was asked to stop offering food at Lykes Gaslight Park, WMNF Community Radio's Sean Kinane reported Tuesday.
Mark Beloch, a homeless Tampa man, said he was going for a cup of coffee Tuesday morning when he witnessed Tampa police attempting to make a young woman shut down the stand where she was giving away vegan breakfast items and coffee to homeless people.
“She's been coming to the park, feeding. You know, nice organic food, vegan food, coffee, bagels, cereal," he said. "This is for people who are less fortunate.”
Although the volunteer, identified as Dezeray Lyn, was asked to stop, Beloch told Kinane, Food Not Bombs is likely to go forward with a plan to feed homeless in the park on Saturday morning.
A city official told Kinane it was the permitting, and not the act of sharing food with the homeless, that was the issue.
It's certainly not the first time Tampa has gone after such volunteers. In 2004, three activists with Food Not Bombs were arrested for doing the same thing, and in 2011 members of a church were warned against continuing to do so.
The latter group suspected that it had something to do with the 2012 Republican National Convention taking place the following year, and city officials' desire to "clean up" downtown.
It so happens that there's a major national sporting event happening this week, though it's unclear whether there's a connection between between the event and officials' actions this week.