California woman June Sortore defends her 10-foot-tall middle finger statue as free speech

SAN DIEGO - This California woman says her middle finger statue is an expression of free speech and her neighbors should not be offended.

June Sortore told our Scripps sister station 10News the 10-foot statue of a hand with its middle finger up has stirred controversy in the tribal community of Santa Ysabel.

"I've still got fight, I'm still able to fight," Sortore said when asked how she interprets the middle finger.

Sortore said she put up the statue out of frustration from the past tribal administration, problems with cattle running freely around the reservation and alleged mishandling of tribal funds.

"There was one project where a guy was supposed to revamp our water. The guy went off on a holiday and brought furnishings for his house," said Sortore.

She previously told East County Magazine that the statue is pointed at her tribal council -- the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel Tribal Council -- because she said the council was "repressive."

She told 10News the statue has been in her yard for five years and she has never had any issues.

But just a week ago, tribal officials sent her an email asking her to take it down. Tribal leaders called the statue an "embarrassment" and "offensive," especially to young children.

A playground and youth center are just down the street from Sortore's home.

10News asked Sortore if it was acceptable for children to see the statue, and she replied, "Yes, my youngest grandson helped me on it."

Despite objection from the current tribal administration, Sortore plans to keep the one-gun salute in her yard.

"Why is it bad? Why is it obscene? It's not hurting anyone. It's all in which your interpretation is," said Sortore.

Tribal officials declined to comment Monday, saying they plan to ticket Sortore if the statue doesn't come down for "disorderly conduct" due to inciting violence.

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