A Florida man has filed a federal lawsuit after a Jacksonville homeowners association ordered him to take down the Black Lives Matter flag from in front of his home, while other residents displayed flags with political messages.
The River Point Community Association board sent Antoine Mickle, a Black man who has lived in the community for 19 years, a letter ordering him to remove the flag.
The letter said the issue was not what was on the flag, but that the flag was hanging from the house instead of from a flagpole.
But documents from the federal suit show other residents displayed flags hanging from their homes rather than flagpoles. The political messages displayed on the flags include the pro-law enforcement Thin Blue Line imagery and Donald Trump flags. College-themed sports flags and LGBTQ rights flags also were hanging from homes in October 2020.
At a press conference Tuesday, Nov. 24, Mickle said he’d faced harassment from the HOA before.
“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,” he 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.”
Mickle said he received the letter on Oct. 20, a few days after putting up the flag. The letter said flags hanging from a house must be “seasonal in nature” and that his flag violated a “nuisance clause” that bans “noxious or offensive activities.”
The letter also threatened further action against Mickle if he did not remove the flag within 24 hours.
The HOA responded to the controversy in a statement, saying, “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 suit claims the HOA’s attempt to stop Mickle from visibly expressing support for Black Lives Matter constitutes racial harassment.
Mickle’s attorneys said they want the HOA to implement new policies and receive training.
“Homeowners associations have a lot of power,” Jacksonville 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.”