Seven members of the community group "Tampa Food Not Bombs" were arrested on Saturday afternoon as they were feeding homeless people at Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa. The feeding event was being held about a block from a free concert connected to the College Football National Championship.
"Police were surrounding us telling us we had three minutes to pack up and leave they told us we were trespassing," said group member Dezeray Lyn.
Group members said they have been hosting the feeding for years. They said officers were enforcing the rule, because the group didn't have a permit.
The Tampa Police Department says that the group did not receive approval from the City of Tampa to set up tables and distribute food in the park.
Tampa Police said in a media release that "Tampa Police met with members of the group in the week prior explaining the need for a permit, and efforts were made to find a solution so they would be able to provide food to homeless. The group chose to violate a city ordinance rather than adhere to either law or use options that would have allowed them to serve the people. We will continue to work with this group, and other groups, who wish to provide food and resources to the homeless."
"The city is choosing to dust off this old ordinance and enforce it now is to protect the tourist from the suffering in Tampa," said Lyn.
The seven members were told not to return to the park for one year, but they plan to hold another feeding for the homeless population on Tuesday.
"I have faith the city will drop the charges and continue to allow us to share with our homeless friends," said group member Jimmy Dunson.