7 People Arrested While Feeding the Homeless: 'Compassion Is Not a Crime'
Police said they need a permit to do so.
Seven people have been arrested in Florida for serving food to the homeless after police said they didn’t have a permit to do so.
Members of "Tampa Food Not Bombs," an organization dedicated to providing meals for the homeless, were warned by police while they were serving food in Gaslight Park Saturday.
In a video captured of the scene, police can be heard warning the group that they had three minutes to pack up and leave because they were trespassing.
When they didn't budge, cops arrested them.
“We kind of expected it to happen. They had given us warning. But our stance is we are not packing up until every belly is full so we did what we came there to do,” Cliff Connolly, a member of the group, told InsideEdition.com.
Police arrested Jimmy Dunson, 32; Bert Donaldson, 38; Dezeray Rubinchik, 38; Jason Grimes, 26; William Payton, 46; Roger Butterfield, 26; and Christopher Mince, 30, but they were released the same day, according to reports.
Connolly said the group has been distributing food for years on Tuesdays and Saturdays and only had a problem once in 2004 when five members were arrested, but police had since backed down after protests.
According to the city ordinance 16-43(c), people are prohibited from the distribution of food to the general public without a permit or written permission from the Parks and Recreation department.
Police also said that they warned the group days in advance while passing out coffee and bagels that they would be arrested if they returned, but the members did anyway.
"We warned them. You set up table, chairs and everything, that's against ordinance," Steve Hegarty, a police spokesman, said in an interview with TampaBay.com. "We told them exactly what would happen. And that's exactly what happened."
However, Connolly said in order to be approved for the permit, the group would need $1 million worth of insurance, which they do not have the money to pay.
“Our stance is that compassion is not a crime. This isn’t an act of charity — it’s an act of solidarity. The people in the park are our friends and if they are hungry we are going to share our food with them,” Connolly said.
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