Tongues are wagging in St Augustine Beach over the visitation of a black billboard that proclaims in bold gothic lettering that Islam is doomed by its own doctrine; the appearance of which has angered many, drawn apathy from some, and has been supported by others.
An Internet petition started by Becky Williams in St Augustine on Saturday has already gained nearly 3,000 signatures to have the billboard removed from SR-A1A at Seashore Avenue in St. Augustine Beach.
Historic City News has determined that the billboard’s owner, St Johns Outdoor Advertising, rented the sign to an individual, not an anti-Islamic group as some have speculated. The company would not comment about the message or identify their customer. Off the record, we learned that since the rent was paid in advance, it would not be likely that the sign would be removed.
People who live in St. Augustine Beach say they understand the person who paid for the sign has a Constitutional right to free expression, however, many say they feel this billboard is inconsistent with the community’s standards.
To applause from some members of the audience, Caren Goldman, Executive Director of Compassionate St Augustine, appeared before the St Augustine City Commission Monday night to speak against what she described as a divisive message that not only is in conflict with the mission of the St Augustine Initiative for Compassion, but also with the feelings of the larger community.
Williams has said publically on local televised reports that she started her petition as a way to show the Islamic community that it is welcomed and accepted in her hometown.
One resident came to the sidewalk at the foot of the billboard with his own sign. John Poage waved to oncoming cars as he stood next to that sign which read, Locals for Tolerance. “I think tolerance is important and we are not looking for a fight,” Poage told one television reporter. “We want to adjust the conversation to something more appropriate.”