Attorneys for a Jacksonville man who was told to take down a Black Lives Matter flag in his front yard are filing a federal suit, alleging discrimination and suppression of the First Amendment right of free speech.
Antoine Mickle alleges that days after putting up a Black Lives Matter flag outside of his house, he received a letter from the River Point Community Association saying that it needed to be taken down, or he could be fined or removed from his home.
“I felt that was important that everyone understood how I felt about what's going on in this world today,” Mickle said. “And when everybody else was expressing themselves, I felt it was right for me to be able to express myself and say that my life mattered as well.”
Mickle said he’s seen other political flags being flown outside of other resident’s homes, such as flags supporting President Donald Trump and Blue Lives Matter flags.
He said apart from the letter he received, he hasn’t received any other type of interaction or discussion from River Point leadership.
Ben Crump, a national Civil Rights attorney, is now representing Mickle. Crump is a high-profile legal representative, as he worked for the families of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, two Black men who
sparked large protests across the country this year.
“When people try to say that Black Lives Matter, they don't get the same constitutional guarantees that makes America the great beacon of hope and justice,” Crump said. “So in many ways, what Mr. Mickle has done in Jacksonville, Florida is a microcosm of what is happening all over America.”
Meanwhile, River Point’s Board of Directors said they were just reiterating rules that have been in place for a long time.
“The fact that it was a Black Lives Matter flag made no difference,” the board said in an email to WJCT News. “It was the fact that a non-specific time period flag was flying off of his house, not on a flagpole. A letter would have been sent had he flown a Blue Lives Matter flag off of his house. Although it is unlawful, according to the Florida state statute, had the homeowner flown this flag from a flagpole below the American flag, the Association would have taken no action.”
According to the HOA’s guidelines sent to WJCT News, it states that flags flying off of a house must be “seasonal in nature, i.e political signs, awareness signs, for sale and for rent signs, garage sale signs, etc. These signs must be removed after such event or time period ending.”
The statement also read that the HOA was “just simply doing our job.”
“Unfortunately, this is a politically charged time and the timing was ill-advised,” the statement read.
Miami-based attorney Matthew Dietz, who is working with Crump’s team as co-counsel, said although HOA’s have their own laws, they cannot go above fundamental laws of the United States.
“We can stand up and say what is right,” Dietz said. “And that's what Mr. Mickle is doing. And when we go into court, they're going to say that ‘our condominium rules say that we can do this,’ but we're going to say ‘our United States law says you cannot.’”
There are no dates for next steps on the case yet, according to Dietz.
Sky Lebron can be reached at email@example.com, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.