Fixing a years-long injustice
IT WAS a long time coming, but the Windom Bey family has finally won justice.
In 1994, the city of Rochester illegally terminated Eddie and Mary Windom Bey's right to use their own driveway. What's more, the city authorized the family's neighbor to build a fence across the driveway, blockading the family's car, truck and boats on their property.
The Windom Beys tried every legal method they could find to have the fence removed, but the city bureaucracy refused to budge and instead fined the Windom Beys for code violations caused by the fence.
Although the Windom Beys owned their house and kept up on their taxes, they were unable to afford the huge fines from the code violations that resulted from the fence the city authorized. As a result, the city of Rochester foreclosed on the Windom Bey family, and despite admitting that it allowed the fence to be installed in error, the city sold their house in 2011 to a private company called American Tax Funding.
With their eviction deadline fast approaching, Eddie and Mary Windom Bey got involved with Take Back the Land Rochester, a direct action-focused housing rights group. Take Back the Land Rochester quickly began to reach out to community members and organize protests.
When the Windom Bey family was served its 72-hour eviction notice, an anti-eviction protest was called at their home by Take Back the Land and other community groups. In response, the city backed down slightly and granted a 10-day stay of eviction. Organizers used this time to attempt to re-forge ties with members of Occupy Rochester and set up an Occupy-style encampment on the Windom Bey's front lawn.
Then, on June 19, while organizers were meeting at the Windom Bey's house to organize the encampment that was to begin that night, the Windom Bey family finally heard good news. Darryl Porter, the mayor's assistant, came to their house and announced that the eviction was canceled and that the city would work with the family to undo past mistakes.
The mood was jubilant. People who showed up to at the city council meeting to demand intervention from the city council instead delivered victory speeches. Take Back the Land Rochester is using this victory to highlight the injustice inherent in the housing market and is continuing its call for a moratorium on evictions in Rochester. Most importantly, the Windom Bey family will be able to keep the home they have lived in for the last 40 years.
The Windom Beys have been fighting for justice within the system for 18 years and got nowhere. Once they started protesting with the aid of Take Back the Land--and the threat of Occupy Rochester's resurrection--they got their house back in less than 18 days.