Jacksonville Beach: City, police respond to controversy surrounding woman's political artwork

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - We're learning more about on-going disputes between neighbors in Jacksonville Beach.
        
They are fighting over artwork displayed on a fence of a home owned by a local woman, which opposes President Donald Trump.

The artist, Sonja Fitch, is a 68-year-old, retired school teacher, who claims she's been verbally and physically attacked by neighbors and she says police are not taking her complaints seriously.

READ MORE: 68-year-old Jacksonville Beach woman says she's being threatened over her artwork

However, Jacksonville Beach Police Department (JBPD) says otherwise. JBPD says they are taking every complaint Fitch makes seriously and provided First Coast News with dozens of reports showing where officers went to Fitch's home on 9th Street S.

According to the reports, since 2012, officers have been called to Fitch's 22 times.

Fitch has made quite the name for herself over the years. 

Neighbors call her the "Fence Lady." Fitch creates satirical art, opposing President Trump, racism, and other social issues, then hangs the artwork on her fence.

Since Fitch began creating the art three years ago, she says she's been verbally and physically attacked by neighbors and her complaints to police have not been taken seriously.

The issues with the artwork began in 2015, when Fitch put up her first piece.

One report says, two men wearing army fatigues confronted Fitch at her home. The report says the men snatched her Trump signs down while threatening to harm her.

The other reports run the gamut, from people throwing things in her yard, to drivers yelling obscenities.

In August 2017, Fitch says a neighbor pushed her during a confrontation.

JBPD says neighbors are also complaining about Fitch. One neighbor filed a report asking police to force Fitch to take the artwork down.
           
"I'm not saying they are necessarily appropriate comments, but people driving by they have a right to make comments too and she has a right to put signs up as long as they meet the city codes," City Manager George Forbes said to First Coast News over the phone.

Forbes says Fitch was cited for violating the cities signs code.

The code requires signs to be no larger than four square feet. Forbes says only eight signs are allowed.

Fitch argues the city code states artwork that does not meet the definition of a sign is exempt.

She's dedicated a portion of her fence to what she says is the difference between a sign and art.

"This has been my outlet. I can just do this on my fence. My free speech. My peaceful protest," Fitch said.

Fitch has been summoned to a magistrate hearing scheduled for Sept. 27 at 2 p.m.

 

 

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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