After arresting a 90-year-old veteran for handing out food to the homeless earlier this month, Ft. Lauderdale arrested Ray Cox, a homeless man, at a city commission meeting this week after he spoke out against the city’s crackdown on homeless people.
As Mayor Jack Seiler gaveled in the meeting on Tuesday, Cox, sitting in the audience, stood up and protested the recent crackdown on homeless people in Ft. Lauderdale. Cox was not given an opportunity to air his grievances, but instead was escorted out by police at Seiler’s behest. “As a homeless protester, sir, just step outside rather than trying to make a scene,” the mayor instructed. Watch video of the incident here.
Cox, who had a warrant out because he had failed to appear in court after being cited for urinating in public — a quality-of-life ordinance that overwhelmingly targets homeless individuals — was then arrested. He was also charged with disorderly conduct for interrupting the council meeting.
Soon after ejecting Cox, the council approved a measure declaring it to be National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in Ft. Lauderdale. Among its goals for the week, according to the proclamation, is to “encourage support for homeless assistance.”
Even if Cox had followed normal procedure and tried to testify, rather than interrupting the council, he would not have been permitted to speak because the measure at hand was a proclamation, which unlike an ordinance, does not permit public input.
Over the past year, Ft. Lauderdale has rapidly garnered a reputation for the way it treats its 2,810 homeless families and individuals. First, legislators made it illegal for homeless people to have possessions in public. Then they made it illegal for homeless people to sleep in public places. Then they cracked down on people who volunteered to feed the homeless. Then they arrested 90-year-old Arnold Abbott for handing out food.
Unperturbed by criticism over these tactics, the city has budgeted $25,000 to buy one-way bus tickets for homeless people who’d rather live elsewhere. Though implemented under the guise of helping homeless people reunite with friends or family around the country, critics of these programs see them instead as attempts to shirk the responsibility of caring for homeless residents. It’s a move that has also cropped in Hawaii, California, and Louisiana.