PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLA.— The actual bacchanalia is still to come, but the underside of spring break in this party mecca has produced heated council meetings, attempts at a crackdown and court proceedings on whether Fox News is to blame for the town’s purportedly racist crackdown. Laws limiting alcohol consumption and scooter rentals have divided businesses and residents of this rural county which, for the past 20 years, has been transformed by hundreds of thousands of young visitors who spend tens of millions of dollars in a raucous six weeks. Beach businesses and patrons upset with laws meant to crack down on the rite of spring have been suing the city, accusing local lawmakers of illegal and prejudiced actions, which they blame on Fox News coverage. A federal judge with the Northern District of Florida has agreed to let a jury decide whether they are right. “Plaintiffs’ characterization of the Fox News coverage as focusing disproportionately on African-Americans at Spring Break is probably a stretch, but it is by no means ‘objectively false,’” Judge Mark E. Walker wrote in a four-page order this month denying the city’s request that Fox News’ spring break coverage be withheld as evidence of racial animus. “Particularly where issues of race and gender are involved, the same video footage may be interpreted quite differently by different people. For this Court to decide that the Fox News coverage did not, as a factual matter, focus disproportionately on African-Americans would be an inappropriate usurpation of the role of the jury.” After last year’s eventful spring break, which included a gang rape on the beach and a house party shooting that left seven people injured, city and county officials enacted laws aimed at bringing the partying under control. The city legislation passed last summer includes: no drinking on the beach or in commercial parking lots during March, increased fines for open-container offenses, no alcohol sales after 2 a.m. during March, minimum age of 21 to enter bars after midnight, no parking on rights of way after dark, no after-hours parking in business parking lots and a prohibition on balcony climbing. An ordinance limiting scooter rentals was passed in the fall. Bay County requires that patrons be at least 21, with the sole exception being those in possession of a military ID, to enter bars after midnight. But Panama City Beach does not, though some of the affected businesses in the county were recently annexed into Panama City Beach itself. While most of the beach falls within city limits, some of it extends into Bay County, which crafted laws similar to those created by Panama City Beach. Three businesses popular with spring breakers and locals alike teamed up in October to sue Panama City Beach. Clearwater-based lawyer Luke Lirot is representing those businesses, along with several patrons who claim they were victimized by racist actions on behalf of the city.
Wow.. Whatever happened to that pesky First Amendment “freedom of the press” thing??!? SO WHAT if there was a spin in some of the reporting by Fox News? What about the extreme liberal New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, CNN, NPR, PBS, and the worst..MSNBC?!? Just imagine if it were one of those news organizations, which have very clear agendas, that was under attack? The other liberal news organizations would be circling that wagon BIG time! This is insanity!! Personally, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. During Spring Break college kids go to Florida.. I know I did one year while in college. That’s been going on for decades. Nothing new. It’s just gotten a little crazier over time. And THAT is why Sean Hannity, and other Fox News personalities take their cameras down to talk to the kids and show what’s going on. How on EARTH is that remotely controversial, and how did we get to a point where a news organization, which is simply doing it’s job reporting the news, is being put on trial for how it reports?!?! Again, for those who didn’t take American Civics in school.. We have this thing called the First Amendment…and “freedom of the press” is part of that. So, get over it!