A tenant of a South Portland apartment building says her landlord is trying to remove the "Black Lives Matter" banner on her balcony with an abrupt crackdown on "offensive" signs.
On Aug. 10, the Seattle-based owners of Sanctuary, an apartment complex on South Landing Drive, sent tenants an email reminding them of an existing ban on signs and light displays on the windows and balconies of their apartments.
"We have received complaints that some signage in resident windows is offensive and/or unwelcoming to other residents," the email read. "We understand that this is a sensitive subject to many of our residents and that they are proud to support the causes near and dear to them. While we in no way want to discourage your support for any cause, we need your help to ensure that Sanctuary is a welcoming environment for everyone."
Jennifer Kelly, 47, believes the complaints were in response to Black Lives Matter signs—including her own, hanging from a sixth-story balcony.
"It's shocking. I felt appalled," Kelly said. "I just think their stance is really in the wrong place."
Kelly says the timing of the email—and a follow-up call she received from a leasing agent—made it clear the policy enforcement was targeted at Black Lives Matter signs.
"They are the only signs that are up," she says. "It's not in response to people newly putting up Christmas lights and being offended by that."
Kelly has lived in her apartment for over a year and said the property manager rarely enforced the ban on outdoor displays. Her neighbors have mounted flower boxes, strings of lights, hummingbird feeders and children's artwork.
Kelly's landlord is Seattle-based company Security Properties, which owns buildings in 21 states. In 2018, Security bought the Sanctuary building for $58 million. The building has 182 units, many of them with views of the Willamette River.
Representatives for Sanctuary's Portland and Seattle offices did not respond to WW's requests for comment.
Black Lives Matter signs are a common sight in Portland windows and yards, but as an uprising against police violence continues into its third month, some people have bristled at the message. A Black family in Lake Oswego received a letter from their neighbors this month demanding the removal of a Black Lives Matter window display.
Early this morning, a Sanctuary tenant named Shannon Larisey created a petition on Change.org titled: "Force Sanctuary Apt & Security Properties to rescind their unfair removal of BLM signs." She writes: "If you don't want to support BLM that's your own racism to deal with, but don't force that on your tenants."
The petition so far has generated over 300 signatures, with a goal of 500.
Larisey posted an update this afternoon on the petition about her most recent conversation with Security Properties. She says the company told her it should not have communicated the way it did and agreed that it should not have enforced one part of the sign ban and not others. The company told her it would issue another email as well as give additional training to management around communication with residents.
"Until the email is received and all aspects of the rule are enforced, I let them know, my sign would stay up," Larisey wrote. "I recommend, if you live there, to leave yours up too."
Kelly says she received a call Thursday morning from the leasing manager, who asked her to take down her sign because someone complained that she had not taken it down yet. She declined. The leasing manager responded by saying she would send Kelly's information to corporate without any further explanation of the consequences.
Kelly, who is white, says the message on her balcony is a way to support her neighbors who are people of color.
"It's human rights, it's equality," Kelly said. "How is that going to make a person of color in the building feel more welcome or feel safe?"