Tampa police say they arrested seven people from a group that was serving food to the homeless without a permit.
Police spokesman Steve Hegarty says some 30 to 40 people with signs that read “Food not Bombs” gathered in Gaslight Park Saturday afternoon to distribute food. He says officers explained that city ordinances prohibit food distribution without proper permitting, AP reported.
“Tampa Police supports efforts to feed the homeless,” the agency noted, as reported by Patch.com. “TPD homeless liaisons work closely with the homeless and with area agencies and groups that provide resources to the homeless.”
The officers offered alternatives to distribute food in another location but they continued setting up tables. Hegarty says they were told they’d be arrested if they continued distributing food. Seven people refused to stop and were arrested.
They were given notices to appear in court on misdemeanor charges.
Hegarty says officers told the group last week they’d need a permit but they chose to violate a city ordinance.
“The officers attempted to give them other alternatives to distribute food somewhere other than a city park, since they did not acquire a permit,” the said in a later email. “Despite these attempts at conversation the group continued to set up tables. Police gave multiple verbal warnings over a three-minute time span explaining that they were being trespassed and that they would be arrested if they did not stop distributing food.”
Jimmy Dunson, who was serving food when arrests were made, recalled how police approached his group.
“We’re doing an act of kindness and mutual aid, and that should not be criminalized,” said Dunson, Tampabay.com reported. “There shouldn’t be this giant bureaucracy that keeps people from being kind to each other.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.