The ABC is reporting that a man has been arrested in Orlando, Florida, for feeding “30 unidentified persons food from a large pot utilising a ladle” (according to the arrest warrant).
The Orlando law, which is supported by local business owners who say the homeless drive away customers, has been challenged in court by civil rights groups. It allows charities to feed more than 25 people at a time within 3.2 kilometres of the Orlando City Hall only if they have a special permit. They are able to receive two permits a year.
Police mounted a surveillance operation to catch him and even took a sample of the food to use as evidence against him in court.
The sort of prejudice against homeless people that seems to have lead to this law getting passed is pretty typical, there was an interesting story in New Scientist recently talking about the neural side of prejudice, and a surprising way of breaking the freezing out of such people in the mind:
Psychologist Susan Fiske from Princeton University and colleagues got students to view photos of individuals from a range of social groups, while using functional MRI to monitor activity in their medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), a brain region known to light up in response to socially significant stimuli. The researchers were shocked to discover that photos of people belonging to “extreme” out-groups, such as drug addicts, stimulated no activity in this region at all, suggesting that the viewers considered them to be less than human. “It is just what you see with homeless people or beggars in the street,” says Fiske, “people treat them like piles of garbage.” In new experiments, however, she was able to reverse this response. After replicating the earlier results, the researchers asked simple, personal questions about the people in the pictures, such as, “What kind of vegetable do you think this beggar would like?” Just one such question was enough to significantly raise activity in the mPFC. “The question has the effect of making the person back into a person,” says Fiske, “and the prejudiced response is much weaker.”
You will need to be a subscriber to New Scientist to be able to read the whole thing online.