A building manager in Tennessee has banned the complex's tenants from displaying a Confederate flag on the property, which he announced in a Aug. 9 letter that threatened the eviction of anyone who was not compliant. The certified letter claimed that a tenant had moved out of the Johnson City townhomes because the flags made them uncomfortable.
In the letter, property manager Glen E. Simerly also said there had been a number of complaints about the flags. But one resident, Thomas Reed, who has flown a Confederate flag on the back of his truck, said Thursday that no one had ever told him directly they had an issue. “I feel like he is trying to take my freedom of speech,” Reed told news station WJHL Johnson City.
Simerly's letter warns residents that any breach of the new rule will result in not only the termination of their lease, but also "a number of charges and expenses for financial damages to the Owner, court costs and attorney's fees, in addition to rent in arrears."
He also told residents they would be responsible for any monetary losses suffered by the building if another resident moved out because they flew a Confederate flag.
“Unless you want to pay rent of those that leave their unit because of your behavior, I suggest you 'settle down' and act like adults," Simerly wrote in the signed letter.
— Jordan Moore WJHL (@JordanWJHL) August 13, 2015
Reed and another resident plan to take legal action against the apartment complex.
“I guess he just assumed that we would take down the flag, lay down, and do what we are told, but I wasn’t raised that way,” said Reed.
Attorney Stewart Harris told WATE Knoxville that while this is a free speech issue, it is not a constitutional one.
“What it boils down to then is a private contract dispute, the question simply becomes what does the lease say,” said Harris.