The Common Good

After Court Loss, City of Orlando Seeks to Develop Park Where Groups Feed Homeless

I have written many times from and about what I call the sacred circle at Lake Eola Park. This is the circle of ancient oak trees, surrounded by a circular brick sidewalk, where First Vagabond Church of God, Orlando Food Not Bombs, and others share food with Orlando's poor and homeless. It is also the place where the Orlando Sunday Farmers Market is located. It is also a place where countless church and school groups come to meet or have lunch in the park. It is also where the city is now talking with a developer to swap the property for some houses they own. The developer want to replace the park space with a 200-foot tall office building. (View Story from WFTV)

The circle where we share food is surrounded by a 3-foot high decorative metal fence and filled with tables and chairs. It is home to numerous squirrels. It is a place where business people, mothers with children, and homeless saints all co-exist.

It is also the place referred to by United States District Court Judge Gregory Presnell as,"a meaningful location which, from time immemorial, has been the traditional public forum for free speech."

The City Attorney said in the newspaper after the court struck down the city's ordinance that criminalized feeding the poor in the park that they were going to meet with the homeless advocates. They have not to date and have rebuffed overtures to talk. Could it be because they have decided they have no need to, since they are planning to sacrifice the sacred circle to the development gods who buy and sell city government? (Learn more at http://saveeolapark.com.)

Since they lost three separate court actions to Orlando Food Not Bombs over the cause of feeding the poor and homeless in the park, is it possible that they have decided to punish the park itself?

In October, more than 200 people showed up at nearby Howard Middle School, where the developer was giving a presentation on the proposed project, to protest the proposed development and the destruction of park land.

The city testified in federal court that Lake Eola Park was the emblematic icon of the city. It is even shown in the city seal, which is on every street sign, every police car, and even in the mayor's paintings. The city in their rejected argument to the court said that since Lake Eola Park was so important that they could not allow the churches and the activists to feed the poor there. How is it now that it's very heart can be ripped out and bartered and bulldozed?

I can just hear them now

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