Only a day after Anonymous hacked several Fort Lauderdale government websites, a Broward County judge has temporarily lifted the city’s controversial ban on feeding the homeless. The ban makes it exceedingly difficult for charitable groups to distribute food to those in need. Violations incur up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
The ban drew national attention when 90-year-old Arnold Abbott, founder of the charity, Love Thy Neighbor, was cited for disobediently violating the ban in early November. A priest and pastor were also ticketed. Protests and hunger strikes supported the “violators.”
The backlash culminated early this week when Anonymous, the well-known hacker and activist collective, purportedly released a video demanding a lift on the ban, as well as a repeal of others. According to the link shared and cited by NBC-Miami, the video stated:
Our demands are to lift the ordinance C-14-38, which makes panhandling illegal at busy intersections for not only homeless but also charities; C14-41, which makes it illegal for anyone to sleep in public in the downtown area; and C14-42, which prohibits citizens from being able to hand out food unless certain requirements are met.
The new code that caused the recent controversy, as NBC described it, requires
…groups handing out food to homeless to be at least 500 feet away from residential properties. They limit feeding sites for homeless to one in any given city block, and prevent feeding sites from being within 500 feet of each other.
Anonymous gave the city and mayor, Jack [John] Seiler, 24 hours to lift the ban before commencing “Operation Lift the Bans.” Sure enough, for several hours on Monday, Ftlauderdale.gov and FLPD.gov were down. Seiler’s personal website was also dark.
Authorities claim they took down the Ft. Lauderdale website as a precaution once the attacks began, but even if this is true, it appears Anonymous accomplished its goal. On Tuesday, only a day after the #OpLiftTheBans was launched, Judge Thomas Lynch ruled that no arrests would be made or citations issued for the next 30 days.
Though Lynch did not cite the Anonymous attacks as justification for his order, there is no other apparent reason why he would choose to lift on the ban at this time. However, it is currently unclear what will happen at the end of the 30-day moratorium.
Bans on feeding the homeless (and effectively on homeless people in general) are increasingly prevalent across the United States and have attracted impassioned dissent. Anonymous has made it clear it is committed to confronting the governments and politicians who implement them.
An Anonymous source familiar with #OpLifttheBans says that
Fort Lauderdale was just the beginning. If these cities won’t let the homeless eat, we won’t let them sleep.
Judging the group’s results in Fort Lauderdale, more bans may be invalidated.
I am my brother’s keeper, and what they are doing is just heartless.