Donavon Burton Bloomington, Illinois bi-racial man given 10 day eviction warning after displaying Black Lives Matter flag from his balcony. Claims he’s been discriminated and that his lease has no stipulation about hanging flags.
Burton reportedly started hanging the flag to protest police brutality towards Black people. In the rented space at First Site Apartments, he lives with his fiancée and a son.
‘It’s for my first son. Thinking about him growing up in a world where there is so much injustice scares me. Also for myself, I don’t think a big company can choose how I advocate for my own rights,’ Burton who described himself African-American as well as Caucasian, told The Pantagraph.
According to reports, First Site has a rule that bans tenants from storing personal property on a patio or balcony. Burton said he was allowed to keep his grill, a bag of charcoal and tomato plants there, ‘but anything advertised over the balcony would not be allowed to stay up’.
Is a landlord obliged to support a tenant’s desire to express political disposition?
When Burton refused to take down the BLM flag, he was served a 10-day eviction notice that read, ‘Please keep your balcony/patio free of clutter at all times. Please do not store any personal belongings or furniture on your patio/balcony. Any balcony/patio found in an unsanitary condition or with personal belongings on it will be charged an initial fee of $75 plus the costs of clean up or repair.’
Offered Ulises Napoles, vice president at First Site, ‘First Site supports an individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression. However, First Site has a policy restricting personal items, regardless of content, including banners and flags, from being located on, or hanging from, balconies. First Site has an obligation to residents to enforce these policies, for the benefit of all residents,’
Continuing, ‘Mr Burton was aware of this policy, was reminded that hanging items from the balcony was a lease violation, and was instructed on multiple occasions to remove personal property items from his balcony. Mr Burton elected against complying and, as a result, was served with an eviction notice.’
Napoles added that in recent weeks all the residents of the apartment have been reminded of the policy, and the company ‘is in the midst of ensuring compliance with this policy.’
Burton, who disputes having breached the terms of his lease has retained an attorney, while saying that he not would vacate the flat anytime soon.
‘I reached out to Ulises and told him, I looked over the lease and I didn’t think there was anything against me hanging a flag,’ the resident told via Central Illinois Proud.
The part of the lease he is talking about is on page 3 of his agreement.
An issue of discrimination by race? What if tenant was white and wished to run, ‘white power flag?’
It states ‘Please keep your balcony/patio free of clutter at all times. Please do not store any personal belongings or furniture on your patio/balcony.’ Burton says, nothing in that statement has anything to do with a banner, so he got a lawyer, and she believes this was discrimination.
‘Unfortunately, this is a standard procedure for a lot of landlords to discriminate based on race, by claiming that it is something else,’ attorney Ruth Wyman told Central Illinois Proud. ‘Tenants have personal property out on their back porch, but the landlord is not enforcing this rule or regulation equally on other tenants, and that’s where the racial discrimination is coming in.’
Burton has since reiterated his intentions of staying put.
‘This Thursday will be 10 days exactly. I wouldn’t be expected to (evict), even by First Site. They just have to legally give me a 10-day notice and then they will have to go to court and I will be served by a sheriff with a physical eviction notice. Even that will have a court date on it, and I won’t have to move before the court date, which I will go to if I get served with that,’ Burton told The Pantagraph.
In addition, Burton also mentioned Illinois governor JB Pritzker’s announcement that has extended the prohibition on evictions until July 31 during coronavirus pandemic.
‘A person or entity may not commence a residential eviction action pursuant to or arising under 735 ILCS 5/9-101 et seq. unless a tenant poses a direct threat to the health and safety of other tenants, an immediate and severe risk to property, or a violation of any applicable building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation. Nothing in this Executive Order shall be construed as relieving any individual of the obligation to pay rent or comply with any other obligation that an individual may have pursuant to a lease or rental agreement,’ the April 23 order read.
Of note, Bloomington Communications Manager Nora Dukowitz said the issue ‘has not been brought to the city.’
‘It seems to be a private property dispute,’ she told the Pantagraph, adding that Burton could bring his concerns to the Human Relations Commission, which investigates allegations of discrimination.
Burton said he has not contacted the local commission. It remained unclear if he now intends to or as some have advocated on social media, ‘just move to a new address.’