Street Preachers creating disruptions for Downtown Fort Myers businesses

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – They claim they’re doing the work of God, but business owners in downtown Fort Myers say street preachers are driving away business.

Now residents and business owners alike want something done about it but telling them to hit the road isn’t so easy or lawful.

Normally the streets of downtown Fort Myers would be relatively quiet on a Thursday afternoon in August as seasonal residents are still away for the summer.  But businesses and people who live in the city say things have changed and street preachers are using bullhorns just feet from people dining on sidewalks.

Jason Parish works downtown and said the scene is disconcerting and frustrating.

One man who wouldn’t reveal his name had a bullhorn strapped to his waist and held a microphone as he read from the scripture.   Parish said he saw confrontations on the streets.

“They’re telling people going to bars that drinking is bad.  They single out people on the streets and talk about homosexuality.  It’s really just in your face and it’s too much,” Parish said.

Terry Tincher has lived downtown for years and agreed that the matter is getting worse.  He can hear the preachers from inside his home just above First Street.

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“Do you know how annoying that is when you’re in your living room,” Tincher said.

He pointed out that the preaching is going on daily and called it an issue that definitely has to be addressed.

Bill Babamov owns the First Street Restaurant and said the loud preaching is driving people away from his outdoor dining.

He said it is causing him to lose customers as people often can’t carry on a conversation because of the shouting by the street preachers.

“If it’s full here in about half an hour it becomes empty and then sometimes he goes down the street and drives the people away there,” Babamov stated.

When we approached the street preacher asking him if he felt he was being disruptive while people were dining he did not answer the question.

He said he didn’t want to respond to any of the concerns and continued reading scripture into the bullhorn.

Laura Hurd works downtown and said she loved what the man was doing.

“I think the younger generation following Jesus is a great thing,” Hurd responded.

Hurd however felt a compromise could be reached by simply asking the man to not use the bullhorn or perhaps relocating to an area that wasn’t so populated.   It wasn’t anything the street preacher seemed interested in after he was asked to respond to why his Christianity was annoying so many people.

It seems there is little the police can do about the matter either.

FMPD Captain Shawn Yates pointed out the matter dealt with freedom of speech.

The city tried to outlaw bullhorns but courts ruled they couldn’t as long as a person is standing still.

Once they start moving they’re in violation.

“If they’re not mobile that is the area where we’re looking at or having a challenge with right now,” Cpt. Yates said.

“Why tempt me ye hypocrites!” the man shouted into the bullhorn leaving people forced to deal with the matter for now.

Tags: downtown fort myersLee Countystreet preacher

 

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