90-year-old Florida man cited for feeding homeless -- again

Arnold Abbott cited for 2nd time


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A 90-year-old Florida man was cited for a second time for illegally feeding the homeless.

Arnold Abbott and his team of chefs set up shop Wednesday night on Fort Lauderdale Beach and dished out free food to the homeless. Uniformed police were also there recording the event.

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"They didn't have the gumption to move in on us. They were afraid, afraid of public opinion," said Abbott.

But Abbott was ultimately confronted by cops in the middle of an interview with Local 6 sister station WPLG-TV.  Abbott was escorted away in front of a large crowd of his supporters. Instead of whisking the 90-year old to jail, police decided to just fingerprint Abbott and issue him a citation on the spot.

"It's our right to feed people, it's our First Amendment right and I believe in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, and we should be allowed to feed our fellow man," Abbott said.

After news broke of the first incident, Abbot said he's received support from across the world.

"We've heard from every continent," said Abbott. "The last I heard was from Kenya and Moscow.  I've heard from South America, any number of people from Canada, three newspapers from the United Kingdom."

Abbott was the first to be charged with a new ordinance that makes it a crime punishable by up to 60 days in jail to feed the homeless in public.

"I am both enthused and humbled," Abbot said. "The good news is that there is pressure being put on the city of Fort Lauderdale to do something about a law that is not only unfair, it's repressive."

Mayor Jack Seiler, who supports the ordinance, said he's gotten massive feedback as well.  He said the law is meant to help the homeless, not to keep them from eating.

"Mr. Abbott has decided that he doesn't think these individuals should have to have any interaction with government, that they should be fed in the parks. We disagree," Seiler said.

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Abbott said there aren't adequate government services or food to deal with the homeless.

"What the city is doing by cutting out feeding is very simple -- they are forcing homeless people to go Dumpster-diving all over again," Abbott said. "They will steal. That's what the mayor is forcing the homeless to do."

And while Abbott said he wants to compromise with the city, he expects to be charged again.

"I love the city. I live here, it's a beautiful place and I'd like to keep it beautiful, but you cannot sweep the homeless under a rug," he said. "There is no rug large enough for that."

"It's a pubic safety issue. It's a public health issue," said Seiler. "The experts have all said that if you're going to feed them to get them from breakfast to lunch to dinner, all you're doing is enabling that cycle of homelessness. They don't interact with anyone, they don't receive the aid that they need."

Abbott was asked if he would return to the beach.

"You bet your life," Abbott replied. "I'll fight for the beach as long as there's birth in my body."

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