“I came here because this was a country, of the free and the brave. 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.”
Afien Casey, screen image via WOFL-TV.
An elderly immigrant woman in Florida is fighting for her First Amendment rights after the town of New Smyrna Beach Flagler Avenue Business Association removed her pro-Trump brick from a sidewalk display following “complaints” on social media. The woman says she paid $95 a year ago to have the commemorative brick installed, buying it through the association. The brick, which reads, “Trump 2020 Drain Swamp Brandon & Oma” was set in front of a jewelry store her daughter works at and was recently removed without notice.
Eighty-year-old Afien Casey, nicknamed Oma, a naturalized citizen from Holland, says she bought the brick so her great-grandson Brandon, 14, can look upon it after she is gone. Both are avid Trump supporters–they attended a rally together and Casey volunteered for Trump’s 2016 campaign. Casey wants the brick put back.
— WFTV Channel 9 (@WFTV) September 9, 2019
Video report from WFTV-TV:
Casey said she doesn’t want her money back, she wants her brick to be placed in its original spot.
“I bought the brick a year ago,” Casey said. “Of course, I’m older and I’m not going to be here forever, so when he is really growing up and gets in his 20’s he can always go back to Flagler Avenue and say this is what OMA and I did.”
…”How many times do I walk by something that I don’t like am I gonna complain about it? No, I just look the other way and say, ‘Well I ‘m not gonna walk there again,’” Casey said. “They are just stirring the pot.”
On the Flagler Avenue Business Association website, where the bricks can be bought, there are no guidelines, only cost and sample bricks.
“I came here because this was a country, of the free and the brave,” Casey said. “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.”
Link to the The Flagler Avenue Business Association website as of publication shows there are no guidelines for bricks.
WKMG-TV reported the association sent out a statement on the matter:
“The Flagler Avenue Mark a Memory Walk of Fame Brick Program has been around for over 30 years. 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, along with already established guidelines from other downtown districts with similar programs. These updated guidelines will reinforce the program’s original intent. Once the guidelines have been established, implementation will be expected to occur immediately.”
I can’t believe it! Nobody called me to say that there was any problem, I didn’t know,” Casey said.
Casey said she came up with the message on the brick with her 14-year-old great-grandson a year ago and had no idea her message was a problem.
“They said. Well we had to remove it because somebody had complained about the brick, and that it was offensive to them,” Casey said.
The New Smyrna Beach resident said her daughter, who works at a business in front of where the brick was removed, notified her about the removal.
“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,” Casey said.
Casey told WOFL-TV she is also fighting for her grandson’s rights:
Casey volunteered for President Trump’s campaign in 2016 and also attended a rally with her great-grandson.
To commemorate the memories they shared, Casey purchased this brick from the Flagler Avenue Business Association to be placed among hundreds of others along Flagler Avenue.
The brick says: “Trump 2020, drain swamp, Brandon and Oma.” It cost her $95.
“[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,” Casey said.
…”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.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported on the complaints in an in depth report that can be read at this link.
…It was in this spirit that Afine Casey, an 80-year-old naturalized citizen from Holland, bought a brick to celebrate a memory with her 14-year-old great-grandson Brandon Algeo.
Casey, who lives in New Smyrna Beach now but was a longtime Winter Park resident, had come to the United States at age 23 with her husband, an American soldier. “My grandmother is sharp as a tack,” said Jason Algeo, Brandon’s father. “She still runs 5 miles a day. She’s awesome.”
…The brick remained in its spot for about a year.
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.”
Kevin Ward of Edgewater used to own a business on Flagler Avenue and posted the photo of the Brandon & Oma brick.
“Would they allow a pro-choice brick? That would be ridiculous. Where do we draw the line on this?” Ward said. “It clearly has offended a lot of people.”
Would any association have dared to remove an Obama brick?
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