Candidates at the Mall

By: Amy Morris
By: Amy Morris

Local political activist Kevin Wood was back in the Panama City Mall Wednesday collecting signatures to put himself on the ballot for the upcoming county clerk race, this after a near four year legal battle with the state and mall officials who he says tried to keep him out by arresting him for trespassing.

"I was trying to get my name on the ballot through the petition process which we have a constitutional right to do in Florida and I was talking privately with mall patrons and they were signing my petitions," says Kevin Wood.

What the ruling means is that candidates, church groups and others can accost you in the mall and ask you questions or give you flyers, but some mall patrons say there should be some restrictions.

"That's a little crazy you know, that’s too many people trying to you know asking about questions. Too many candidates you know maybe one or two that’s alright," says mall shopper Jerome Williams.

Others call the win a victory for free speech.

"If they ask me politely and ask me if I had a few seconds to spare or a few minutes to spare, I didn't think it would be annoying at all," says mall shopper Sam Miller.

But mall officials say they may have some recourse of their own.

“Our experiences in other states around the country do give us the ability to limit these kinds of situations to particular hours of the day and a particular area in the shopping center," says Mike Johnson, regional mall manager.

Johnson says the mall’s legal team is looking into what options they do have.

Wood was originally convicted on misdemeanor trespassing charges stemming from the mall incident. The case was later overturned and Wednesday that ruling was upheld by the First Circuit Court of Appeals.


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