An 80-year-old naturalized citizen from Holland is on a mission to defend her First Amendment rights to free speech after a Florida city’s business association removed a pro-Trump sidewalk brick that she paid for in 2018.
The New Smyrna Beach Flagler Avenue Business Association claims that “complaints” on social media suddenly forced them to remove the brick Afien Casey paid $95 to have installed.
The association admitted there were no guidelines in place to prohibit a politically themed brick, but they acted to remove the brick and return it to Casey without notice.
The brick reads: “Trump 2020, Drain Swamp, Brandon & Oma.”
Casey, whose nickname is Oma, said she purchased the brick from the business association last year so that her great-grandson Brandon would be able to view it and be reminded of her as well as their mutual support for President Trump. Casey was a 2016 Trump campaign volunteer. She said that Brandon is a big Trump supporter as well and that the two of them attended a Trump rally together in 2017 after the inauguration.
“We went together and we had a really good time,” Casey said, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “It was an awesome day for him and for me and for our whole family.”
Several local media outlets have reported on Casey’s efforts to have the brick reinstalled into the sidewalk. She does not want her money back.
“I came here because this was a country of the free and the brave,” Casey told WFTV. “It doesn’t seem like we are free anymore and if we don’t speak up against this bullying, so to speak, we’re not brave anymore either.”
“I bought the brick a year ago,” she explained. “Of course, I’m older and I’m not going to be here forever, so when he (Brandon) is really growing up and gets in his 20s he can always go back to Flagler Avenue and say this is what OMA and I did.”
In another interview, she talked about the rights we have as citizens to self-expression and the business association’s overreach. “They said, ‘well we had to remove it because somebody had complained about the brick, and that it was offensive to them,’” Casey told WKMG. “Our First Amendment right gives us the right of speech and written word but it does not give other people the right to just take away from you.”
“[I] never [thought] when I bought this brick that it could turn to something like the infringement of the First Amendment, because that now seems to be what it’s all about. I don’t want my grandson to feel that his rights are being infringed on, as well, because that’s not the right thing for a child to grow up with,” Casey said to a WOFL reporter.
The News Journal reported on some of the controversial reactions online to the brick after a year without any issues or complaints being raised:
One day last month, someone took a photo and posted it on Facebook. It got shared around and batted about.
“Who wants to see political ads in the sidewalk of our beautiful beach town? NOBODY,” one commenter wrote.
Someone suggested leaving “dog poop” or spray paint on it.
Another: “Tensions run high in this political climate. People come to our little town to GET AWAY from the hate and division in our country today.”
The business association, in a statement to News 6 said: “This program’s intention, like similar programs in other downtown districts, was created to mark milestones and remember loved ones.” At their next meeting, the Flagler Avenue Business Association’s Volunteer Board of Directors will “discuss guidelines for brick messages which will be in concert with community stakeholders and the City of New Smyrna Beach.”
A spokesman for the city of New Smyrna Beach has indicated that the matter is also being reviewed by the city attorney’s office.
Watch a report by WKMG on the story below:
Video by WKMG News 6
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