“The Crime of Being Black in a City That Doesn’t Want You There”


Hundreds of towns have passed nuisance ordinances that evict renters for calling the cops.

By: Samantha Michaels/Mother Jones

Beverley Somai was afraid of her downstairs neighbor. She first called the police on him because he was playing music so loudly it shook the floorboards of her Bedford, Ohio, apartment. But things escalated last year when he allegedly started following her and her disabled son around town—to the grocery store and the bus stop and back to the apartment building. As the months went on and he continued to follow them, she called the police repeatedly, hoping to make it stop.

In December, Somai, a black immigrant from Guyana, was informed by her landlord that she and her son would soon be evicted because of the phone calls. It was a police decision, really. In Bedford, police officers regularly force landlords to evict tenants who are deemed a “nuisance”—a label that, according to the town’s nuisance property ordinance, applies to someone if two or more perceived illegal activities take place on or near their property within a year. But in many cases, police simply consider two or more 911 calls as grounds for eviction. Which means that renters like Somai can find themselves on the streets simply for asking for help.

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