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Lawsuit: City of Lauderhill Stonewalled Haitian Flag Day Celebration

Lauderhill residents Frandy Cardichon and Juvenia Mackensie began planning a Haitian Flag Day celebration a full year before the holiday. In May 2017, they submitted a permit application to the city; coordinated with vendors, businesses, and bands; and began advertising and promoting the event.

But as the May 18, 2018 festival approached, the City of Lauderhill stonewalled them, the two say. First, they were told that their application had been lost and then that city police officers were unavailable to staff the event. Ultimately, after filling out a new application and arranging for state troopers to step in, the city said the organizers would have to fork over $15,000.

Now Cardichon and Mackensie are suing Lauderhill. They claim the city discriminated against them by breaking its normal event procedures and trying to block the event — simply because they wanted to celebrate Haiti.

"The city's discriminatory treatment of plaintiffs — based solely on animus toward Haitian persons and groups that support their equal dignity — violated plaintiffs' right to the equal protection of the law pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment," reads the complaint, which was filed last Wednesday in federal court in the Southern District of Florida.

Lauderhill spokeswoman Leslie Johnson said in an email that the city was not yet aware of the suit and declined to comment further.

South Florida is home to one of the largest Haitian populations in the United States and has long hosted major celebrations for Haitian Flag Day. Cardichon and Mackensie, leaders of the Haitian community organization Piman Fest, decided early in 2017 that Lauderhill needed one of its own.

"They wanted to celebrate the local Haitian population and send a message in support of equality, dignity, and pride for Haitians residing in the city of Lauderhill," the complaint says.

The two say it wasn't until this past April — only one month before the event — that the city told them it had lost their application for a permit. Even after the new application was submitted, Lauderhill officials "provided additional obstacles," according to the suit. They said the event could not proceed because there were not enough police officers to staff it, so Cardichon and Mackensie reached out to Florida Highway Patrol, which agreed to provide troopers.

The organizers believed the problems were solved, until a week before Haitian Flag Day, when Lauderhill officials told the two they would have to pay $15,000 to the city to secure the Lauderhill Mall even though it wasn't the venue they'd selected in their application.

In the end, the city denied the permit. The event was never held.
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Brittany Shammas is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. She covered education in Naples before taking a job at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She joined New Times in 2016.
Contact: Brittany Shammas