FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Mayor Jack Seiler is telling anyone who will listen that the city doesn’t deserve the bad rap it’s getting for how it treats the homeless.

Seiler’s making his case while the national media focuses on Arnold Abbott, the 90-year-old widower who faces potential jail time after being cited twice by police for running afoul of the city’s new law that regulates outdoor homeless feedings.

“This is not Jack Seiler vs. Arnold Abbott,” Seiler said. “He’s a good guy.”

Seiler’s concerned about “distortions of the truth” – false reports that Abbott had been arrested and that the city has banned feeding the homeless. But he’s seeing changes in opinions since he and the city began spreading the word about things the city has done for the homeless.

“I’ve been bombarded with apologies, retractions and corrections,” Seiler said Monday. “Last Friday, I never knew what an evil person I was. And over the weekend, I never knew what a nice person I was.”

Acts of civil disobedience continued Monday when homeless advocates set up a feeding station in front of City Hall without a permit.

Police arrived 10 minutes later, as advocates passed out slices of warm cheese pizza and as many as two dozen homeless ate and drank an electrolyte-enriched beverage while standing on the sidewalk.

Police cited only one individual, Aaron Jackson of Kansas, but allowed the feeding to continue as volunteers distributed pizzas.

“The food will not go to waste,” Officer J. Wilson told Jackson.

Jackson, whose group Planting Peace bought a home across from the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church last year and painted it the rainbow colors of the gay pride flag, came to show solidarity with local groups feeding the homeless. He pledged to return Tuesday to set up another feeding station.

“I understand the problem here well, and we are here to help push back that wall,” said Jackson, who has lived in the area in the past. “It should never be a crime to feed the homeless,” he said.

Violators of the new law face fines of up to $500 and/or up to 60 days in jail.

“I think that what they are doing is great,” said William Beardsley, 56, who has been homeless for six years, mostly in Fort Lauderdale. “You get pretty hungry out there, and it’s terrible what the city is doing running us out of town.”

Sean Cononie of the Homeless Voice helped organize Monday’s event and said he’s getting a group together to picket Seiler’s home Wednesday.

Seiler, in his sixth year as mayor, has served as a Democratic state legislator. Last year, he considered running for governor.

Homeless advocates have accused Seiler of hypocrisy for policies they say are at odds with his Roman Catholic faith.

In a January ceremony with Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Seiler consecrated Fort Lauderdale “to the love and protection of almighty God,” seeking God’s forgiveness “for any of our decisions that have gone against His Commandments.”

He stands behind the new feeding policy as part of a larger effort that also supports a homeless assistance center in the city, that houses chronically homeless individuals, that buys one-way bus tickets to reunite the homeless with far-away families and that supports indoor feeding programs.

“Nobody has gone after the homeless. We have merely set up reasonable rules for feeding the homeless,” Seiler said. “We simply decided as a commission we wanted to come up with a comprehensive fix.”

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