Wednesday, September 26, 2007




In a surprise development, late this afternoon, after getting a few media calls--WFTV-Channel 9, WDBO-AM (580), Orlando Weekly, the City of Orlando backed down. From now on, everyone, not just those who care to pay for the privilege, will be able to use the tables and chairs at the Lake Eola Park picnic area. The "No Trespassing" signs have even been taken down.

The City, naturally, tried to get us to believe that this whole situation had been a "mistake" or a "misunderstanding." They even went so far as to blame a park ranger for deciding to padlock the fence gates. How pathetic. We know better, of course. The changes, including the padlocks, to the picnic area that initiated this latest skirmish between the City and Orlando Food Not Bombs and homeless activists have two possible sources. One is the Mayor's Office; the other is the Downtown Development Board. Take your pick. Both are determined to leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding measures they believe will make the homeless feel unwelcome downtown. To them human beings and human needs and rights are unimportant compared to helping developers, gentrifiers and businesspeople make more money.

This time, however, the City did something to the homeless that also greatly deprived and inconvenienced the citizens who live in the Eola Heights and Thornton Park neighborhoods. That may have begun to erode support for future inhumane and unnecessary measures that further criminalize homelessness.

Note: Articles from Channel 9 are below the pictures.


City Of Orlando Unlocks Gate At Park After Facing Questions

POSTED: 3:40 pm EDT September 26, 2007
UPDATED: 5:22 pm EDT September 26, 2007

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The city of Orlando made changes after Eyewitness News started asking questions about a controversial decision to lock up picnic tables and chairs at Lake Eola Park.

The city says the new fence around a public picnic area has nothing to do with the homeless feeding that goes on there every Wednesday, but some people don't buy it and only Wednesday afternoon did the city agreed to unlock the gates that were keeping everyone out.

The new black metal fence came with a bold message, telling people they are not allowed inside on the blue picnic tables and chairs at Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando. There were even padlocks on the gates to make sure.

"I don't understand why," Jennifer Tussel told Eyewitness News.

She came to Lake Eola Park to spend some time outdoors with her baby, Violet.

"We should be able to sit there. I don't see why not. We work hard every day," Tussel said.

The city said a farmer's market that operates there on Sundays got a permit to serve beer and wine, but an area had to be gated off for people to drink. The park manager told Eyewitness News the gates were to remain locked on the other days to prevent vandalism.

"Taxpayers obviously pay for these, why shouldn't they be available to everybody?" Eyewitness News reporter Eric Rasmussen asked Lake Eola Park Manager Leo Falcon.

"They are available, if they want to rent it, they can rent it," he said, laughing.

But after asking that question, city officials said the locks would come off and the "no trespassing" signs would come down. They insist the fence had nothing to do with an on-going battle to stop homeless feeding at the park, but homeless advocates say everyone suffers.

"The people who live in this neighborhood and other parts of Orlando pay taxes to build and maintain this park and all of a sudden they're being deprived of the use of one of the amenities of this park and we think that's wrong," said Ben Markeson, an advocate for the homeless.

The city told Eyewitness News the decision to permanently lock up the area was a mistake and the gates should remain open.

Copyright 2007 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

City Fences Off Picnic Area That Group Uses To Feed Homeless

POSTED: 11:24 am EDT September 26, 2007

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A controversial group that feeds the homeless claims the city of Orlando fenced off a picnic area at Lake Eola to keep them from helping the hungry.

A "no trespassing" sign was posted on the black metal fence that now surrounds the picnic tables in the park.

The group [Orlando] Food Not Bombs believes the fence was put up to keep them and the homeless out.

The city has not yet commented on why the fence was put up.


source: Orlando Weekly blog


Either the people who run City Hall are effectively, deficiently retarded, or they're trying really, really hard to reclaim this city's rightful place on the National Coalition for the Homeless' annual list of meanest cities. Between the repeat crackdowns on people whose sole crime is feeding people who otherwise would go without food, to banning panhandlers from begging at night, and this, you get the sense that Dyer and Co. are doing their level best to eradicate the city's homeless population from their downtown white yuppie paradise, which is going to shit anyway with the rest of the goddamned overpriced condo market.

If you're too lazy to follow that link, don't worry. Here's the gist: Orlando Food Not Bombs, as bombastic and petulant and annoyingly hippie as they are, has been feeding homeless people in Lake Eola Park for the last couple years, despite the city's best efforts to force them out (including an arrest, which I wrote about here). Some genius under Dyer's employ - though the city hasn't returned my calls to tell me who, exactly - came up with a brilliant solution to the FNB "problem": Fence off Lake Eola Park, and require a permit to use the picnic tables.

Get a permit. To use a public park. The city's premier, spotlight park. In the middle of the day.

You read that right. We'll be putting up pictures here soon.

It didn't take long for this "plan" to dissemble. In fact, it took about one media report, which aired on Channel 9, for the city to, um, reassess or something. I fielded a phone call a few minutes back from FNB dude Ben Markeson, who informed me that the city has opened the gates and claims it was all some big misunderstanding or something and they really didn't want to keep the homeless out, except that, of course, they do.

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling slightly embarrassed to live here. More details forthcoming.

Posted by: Jeffrey Billman on 9/26/2007 3:17:28 PM

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