Updates: Yulee cemetery locks gates ahead of planned protest

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Locked gates and a closed sign zip tied to the fence is how people found Green Pine Cemetery when they showed up to see their loved ones Friday.

"I thought maybe that they would make it right,” Linda Strickland said. 

Strickland said she was hoping for an apology after a video of Green Pine Cemetery owner Ellen Stephens gained steam on social media.


 WATCH: Yulee cemetery owner asks mother to leave son's grave


Instead, the gates were locked when she got to the cemetery Friday.

"Very upsetting that I can't even go in and see my own baby's resting place," Strickland said. 

Action News Jax first showed you the video on Wednesday. In it, Stephens is demanding that Strickland and her friend leave because she said Strickland was parked the wrong way and on the grass.

"For her to be as rude as she was and now they've locked the gates, there is no just cause for it," family friend Joy Sullivan said. 

Once the video was posted on Facebook, several people in the community planned a protest.

"We are here to say, you can't just treat people like that in a place like this," Douglas Newberry said. 

The locked fence not only kept out protestors but also people who were trying to visit their loved ones.

"I came here to put flowers on my mother's grave. She passed away 9 years ago yesterday," Ralph Mathis said. 

Mathis said he planned for him and his wife to be buried at Green Pine Cemetery.

“I don't know. We might put our lots up for sale," Mathis said. 

Clyde Davis is the attorney for Green Pine Cemetery.

He sent Action News Jax a statement: 

"The Bible teaches us that nobody is perfect and nobody is without fault. We are all flawed and we all fall short of what others expect of us. There are no exceptions, except the one exception, who was crucified for all of us.

In the context of the present matter, it is also very important to remember that, in times of grief, people may not think clearly or act appropriately. It is also a very human response to respond to anger with anger, despite the biblical admonition to turn the other cheek. Life also teaches us that there are always at least two (2) sides to everything.

Green Pine Cemetery is a private cemetery. It has rules for the conduct of those who enter on the property. These rules are reasonably designed to protect the interests of everyone who may have a loved one buried there, or who comes there for any legitimate purpose.

Included in these rules are:

1. Rules related to the operation of automobiles. These include:

a. A blanket prohibition which bars any driving or parking on the grass. The reason for this is simple. There is an obvious risk that someone may drive onto a grave with resulting collapse of the burial vault and damage to both the remains, the grave and the motor vehicle.
b. A blanket prohibition on driving in any manner other than as provided in the traffic rules. This includes, among other things, an express requirement that one drives on the righthand side of the road. In light of the previous rule, the reason for this is obvious: If people must both drive and park on the road, then anyone driving on the left hand side and into on-coming traffic will force one vehicle or the other onto the grass with resulting risk to the graves.

2. Rule related to photography in any form. There is a blanket prohibition on this for obvious reasons. This is not a public facility and those who enter have every expectation of privacy. Consent of both the Cemetery and the representative of the deceased is expressly required.

3. Rule related to profanity and boisterous language. Simply put, no person is permitted to use profanity or loud and boisterous language at Green Pine Cemetery.

When anyone breaks the rules, the obvious duty of the representatives of Green Pine Cemetery is to require compliance. The fact that one grieves or the level of grief or the manner of expression does not allow anyone to put all other considerations aside. While it is appropriate to understand and have compassion, those are not a sufficient reason to ignore these rules or to
allow one person to put all others at risk."

The cemetery is also licensed and overseen by the state. Action News Jax reached out to see if it was legal to lock the gates to a cemetery during normal business hours and was sent Chapter 704 Florida Statutes, Real and Personal Property: 

704.08 Cemeteries; right of ingress and egress for visiting or maintenance.—The relatives and descendants of any person buried in a cemetery shall have an easement for ingress and egress for the purpose of visiting the cemetery at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner. 

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