A man and his family may soon be evicted from their apartment after refusing to remove a Black Lives Matter banner from their Illinois balcony, he says.
Donavan Burton, 22, hung the banner in June to protest police killings of Black people following the death of George Floyd, the Associated Press reported.
Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black man, died while in police custody on May 25, and his death sparked an avalanche of protests across the nation. He died after now-fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for about eight minutes, as three other officers didn’t intervene. All four face criminal charges.
“It was scary to see all the videos out there of people being treated unfairly and so we just wanted to advocate any way we can,” Burton told WSIL.
Burton’s lease, however, prohibits any “personal belongings” from being stored on the Bloomington property’s balcony and his landlord, First Site, repeatedly asked him to take down the banner, WGLT reported.
Burton — who shares the property with his fiance and their baby — refused. He received a 10-day eviction notice on June 29, according to the outlet.
“I’ve been homeless before, so it’s terrifying now that I have a young child to take care of, and my fiancee,” Burton told WSIL.
Due to an eviction moratorium in Illinois, the eviction cannot proceed until it’s lifted, likely at the end of July, WGLT reported.
In a statement to the outlet, First Site Vice President Ulises Napoles said the company supports a person’s right to free 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,” the statement said. “First Site has an obligation to residents to enforce these policies, for the benefit of all residents.”
Napoles told The Pantagraph that over the last few weeks, all tenants have been reminded of the restrictions.
Burton said he does not believe First Site has been consistent in enforcing the balcony policy, WSIL reproted.
“It’s been commonplace for people to keep patio and balcony furniture on their balcony ... they just chose to enforce the rule when they found something they didn’t agree with,” he told the outlet.
Burton said he was also told that it was acceptable to have his grill, charcoal and tomato plants on the balcony but that “anything advertised over the balcony would not be allowed to stay up,” The Pantagraph reported.
Reporters with WGLT surveyed First Site properties over the weekend and reported finding that several tenants had personal items on their balconies visible from the street, including one tenant with a small Black Lives Matter sign in their window.
Burton said he has hired an attorney to represent him in eviction proceedings, according to the Pantagraph. His banner was still up as of Sunday, WGLT reported.