Photo by Kaila Jones
The scene on the Indian River Lagoon side of Ambersand Beach Saturday was a mixture of social protest, recreational boating and a fishing tournament, with a rock music sound track as fishermen and boaters gathered at an event dubbed “Fish Joyce’s Dock” sparked by a Facebook video of a confrontation between a fisherman and a waterfront property owner that went viral.
Some 40 watercraft of all sizes – from an inflatable mattress to standup paddleboards, kayaks, flats skiffs, pontoon boats and runabouts – and a handful of wading anglers assembled in the lagoon next to a dock owned by Joyce and Feraidoon Khatibi at 12870 SR A1A.
The gathering of several hundred people, including children and dogs, fished and partied without incident under the watchful gaze of several Indian River County sheriff’s deputies and officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Throughout the morning, scores of walkers, bicyclists and motorists honked horns and cheered for the fishers. Neither of the Khatibis appeared.
“Fish Joyce’s Dock” arose from a March 14 encounter between Jose Ortiz of Melbourne Beach and Joyce Khatibi as Ortiz was wade fishing near her dock. In a video recorded by Ortiz, who calls himself Tony Toca on Facebook, Khatibi tells him she owns the water where he’s fishing and sprays a garden hose in his direction.
He tells her, “Impossible…you don’t own the water, sweetheart.” They argue a little more, with her calling him a “loser” and him calling her “sad”, “bored”, “rich”, and “miserable”. The video got more than a million views. Then late last week, the “Fish Joyce’s Dock” Facebook page sprang up inviting anglers to gather near the dock Saturday “to show support for your fellow fisherman and your passion.”
“Please be respectful of the laws,” the post added. “This event will be fun and full of laughs. Please keep it that way. Being ugly or nasty is counter intuitive as this is what we are fighting against. We fish in peace.”
And so they did, with no one getting arrested. And they even caught a few fish– trout, catfish, jacks and others.
Neither Joyce nor Feraidoon Khatibi emerged from their home to converse with or confront the protesters.
The laws governing water access and private property rights in Florida are murky, but Indian River County Property Appraisers Office spokesman Charlie Wilson said Friday “the dock has a permit but the water belongs to the state of Florida and, as such, is open to public access.”
Photos by Kaila Jones