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Protest slams Florida judge for limiting press freedom

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July 22, 2015
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Activists protest to defend their rights at the Duval County Courthouse.
Activists protest to defend their rights at the Duval County Courthouse. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Jacksonville, FL – On the morning of July 20, protesters began filming on sidewalks and public property outside the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville. Despite the orders of Chief Fourth Circuit Court Judge Mark Mahon, signs criticizing him were proudly displayed. The group marched to the front of the courthouse, shouting “Photography is not a crime,” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, that Judge Mahon has got to go.”

The 20 protesters attended in support of the group Photography Is Not A Crime (PINAC) which has faced many problems in the past from Judge Mahon, Judge B. Shore, State Attorney Angela Corey and others.

All of this began when PINAC was prohibited from filming during a trial inside the courthouse, which directly violates a ruling by the Supreme Court in 1979, granting that “electronic media shall be permitted access to the courtrooms of the State of Florida to cover and report judicial proceedings.” Activists decided to protest this unjust prohibition.

Michale Hoffman began protesting back in May on the courthouse steps with a sign that read, “Judge Mahon + Judge B Shore violates the First Amendment.” Mahon did not like this, and claimed that “Shouting out on the Courthouse grounds that the Court and judges are ‘corrupt’ during business hours while people are entering the Courthouse is entirely inappropriate and disruptive and is analogous to falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” This statement was in the order issued on July 1, 2015, forbidding recording anywhere outside the courthouse, with claims that it would be a “security threat to the Courthouse and a threat to the integrity of the judicial system.” This order is a direct violation of First Amendment rights.

Several other Jacksonville news sites, including News 4 Jax, Actions News and First Coast News reported stories about the PINAC lawsuit. Judge Mahon has responded with a lot of backtracking. Activists vowed to continue protesting to protect their rights.