The city of Fort Lauderdale’s latest attempt to regulate outdoor homeless feedings made international news when police nabbed "Chef Arnold" -- a 90-year-old caught in the act of such a public feeding.
"One of the police officers said, 'Drop that plate right now,' as if I were carrying a weapon," Arnold Abbott said, recalling his early November arrest for the Associated Press.
Multiple news reports -- and Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report -- recounted the tale of Abbott’s arrest, which reignited a long-running debate about how the city should handle the homeless population downtown and at the beach.
On Nov. 5, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler issued a statement in which he said he wanted to "set the record straight" about the city’s services for homeless. He said that the media had misrepresented the facts.
"Contrary to reports," Seiler wrote, "the City of Fort Lauderdale is not banning groups from feeding the homeless."
Seiler said outdoor feeding is legal, but added that a new city law regulates the activity.
Then Seiler addressed the situation regarding Abbott:
"At two recent outdoor food distributions, citations were rightly issued for non-compliance with the process enacted to ensure public health and safety. Contrary to what was reported in the media, no one was taken into custody. ..."
As the public-relations crisis escalated, Seiler gave multiple interviews to the media.
On CNN Nov. 11, Seiler said Abbott "was not arrested and taken into custody."
At PolitiFact Florida we agree with Seiler’s goal of setting the record straight. Was Abbott taken into custody? Turn to PolitiFact Florida to read more.