Most of the people visiting the Festival of Lights were there to celebrate the Christmas season. But not the man with the sign.
As WBBH News reports, families in Cape Coral, Florida came to the annual Festival of Lights on Saturday to visit Santa and enjoy the music and attractions. According to the Island Reporter, about 20,000 residents come to the event every year.
However, parents and kids in line to see Santa were upset when one man posted himself nearby. Holding a sign, the man proceeded to intermittently scream at the children, saying Santa isn’t real and their parents were lying to them.
Some children were reduced to tears by the “Grinch,” though at least one mom said that her young son was too distracted by the festivities to pay attention to the man. Cindy Mendes told WBBH:
“I think unfortunately you’re going to have people who just want to spoil it for everyone.”
She added, “I think it’s a shame our children are faced with so many difficult things in this world that the magic of this time of year it’s taken away from them and they’re innocent.”
The man reportedly spent hours holding the sign and yelling at the kids. What’s more, authorities say they were powerless to make him stop.
The Cape Coral Police Department explained to WBBH that they couldn’t remove the man because his Santa protest fell under protected freedom of speech. Had the man used a megaphone or incited a riot, they might have been able to act. But legally, he is allowed to scream at young children that Santa doesn’t exist.
While the man’s actions might have been Constitutionally protected, locals feel that he was still out of line. As one dad told WBBH, the man picked the wrong place and time for his anti-Santa demonstration:
“I mean it’s for the kids, you kind of should leave those adult opinions out of this kind of an atmosphere.”