A Black resident in a Jacksonville neighborhood in Florida has filed a federal lawsuit against his local homeowners’ association after he was told to remove a Black Lives Matter flag he hung from his house.
But Antoine Mickle claims his neighbors also displayed paraphernalia with politically-charged themes including some in support of President Donald Trump as well as Blue Lives Matter flags, the Florida Times-Union reported.
In a press conference on November 24, Mickle, who has been a resident in the Kernan and Atlantic boulevards neighborhood for almost 19 years, detailed how the association as well his neighbors, have subjected him to harassment during his stay.
“I felt lonely and just all by myself that I couldn’t do anything against this powerful force, an HOA that has attempted to take my home away from me before,” Mickle said. “I have been threatened by the HOA. I have been threatened by particular neighbors who stand in front of my yard and gawk until I would leave. I’ve had harassment for the last 20 years or so from things like I don’t have red mulch in my yard when others [also] don’t have it.”
Responding to the allegations, the River Point Community Association board released a statement claiming that “unfortunately, the homeowner took offense to a letter sent to him that would have been sent to any other homeowners not following Association guidelines that have been in place for some time.”
The association claimed the disagreement did not stem from the Black Lives Matter flag in question, but rather had to with Mickle mounting it on his house instead of on a flagpole below the American flag, the Florida Times-Union reported.
In the letter to Mickle to take down the flag, the board said his flying of the Black Lives Matter flag was in contravention of a “nuisance clause” which prohibited “noxious or offensive activities.” They also claimed flags and other signs that are displayed on properties should be “seasonal in nature”, adding that “flags flying underneath the American flag on a flagpole are subject to enforcement under the state statutes, and not subject to enforcement by the Association.”
Meanwhile, Mickle’s lawsuit reportedly provided several photos of residents hanging flags – including a Blue Lives Matter flag, a Thin Blue Line flag and a host of other Trump flags – the same way he hung his, which is on his house instead of a flagpole.
In their statement, the board announced they weren’t going to pursue the case any further, claiming they were just doing their job.
“Unfortunately, this is a politically charged time and the timing was ill-advised. We were obviously not thinking about that and just simply doing our job as we would have with any other type or flag or sign outside of the guideline,” the statement said.
A representative from the HOPE Fair Housing Center in Miami, Keenya Robertson, however, told the Florida Times-Union Mickle’s lawsuit was justified as his case was a “modern-day version of discrimination and tactics that are meant to harass and intimidate someone who lives in their community.”
Lawyers for the plaintiff also told the news outlet they want the association to amend its policies and partake in training.
“Homeowners associations have a lot of power,” attorney David Cronin said. “They have a lot of power in Jacksonville. They can, as we saw in the housing crisis, take your home away from you.”
Another attorney, Matt Dietz, added: “These folks need to understand and know that this is wrong and by doing this you’re not only harming Mr. Mickle, you’re harming everybody’s right to live in an integrated community.”