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Monday, March 04, 2024

Protesters rally against meal limit outside speech

About 30 protesters stood outside the Hippodrome Theatre on Tuesday to voice their displeasure for the city’s treatment of homeless people as Mayor Craig Lowe gave his State of the City address.

The protest was organized by the Coalition to End the Meal Limit NOW!, a group focused on repealing the 130-meal limit placed on St. Francis House, a Gainesville soup kitchen.

Protesters chanted slogans such as “When did compassion go out of fashion?” and “There is no excuse for homeless abuse.”

Some walked silently.

One clanged cowbells.

Volunteers gave away homemade cornbread and vegan chili to the homeless.

“While [the mayor] is giving his State of the City, we want to make sure this aspect of the state of the city is projected,” said Joe Cenker, a member of the coalition.

Gainesville Police Department sent officers to the Hippodrome, but Lt. Tim Hayes said the protest was calm.

“As long as everyone’s peacefully protesting, we’re not getting involved,” he said.

Two citizens who supported the decision to enforce the meal limit were outnumbered as they stood among the opposition.

“I’m all for feeding people,” said Jai Levengood, a Gainesville resident who lives near downtown. “I just think one neighborhood is being overly burdened.”

Steve Lyons, a resident of St. Francis House, said he’s seen children, pregnant women and elderly people turned away for food.

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He himself has been turned away twice.

Lyons said he was glad to see that the protesters cared but wasn’t sure if the protest itself would change anything.

“I hope it does,” he said.

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