Illinois man faces eviction for putting Black Lives Matter flag on display from his apartment balcony

BLOOMINGTON, ILLINOIS: A man has been asked to vacate his rented flat after he displayed the Black Lives Matter flag in his balcony. Donavon Burton allegedly did not comply with his landlord’s request, who had asked him to take down the flag.

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,” the 22-year-old, 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”. However, when the man refused to take down the 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."

Commenting on the incident, Ulises Napoles, vice president at First Site, said on Monday, July 6: “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.

“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."

Meanwhile, Burton, who has contacted an attorney to represent him in the case, said that he not would vacate the flat anytime soon. “This Thursday will be 10 days exactly. I wouldn’t be expected to, 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."

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.

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July 10, 2020 at 02:03PM

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