Boston Housing Authority told to pay $100,000 for ignoring Black tenant's complaints of harassment

The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) was ordered in November to pay $100,000 in damages to John Love, an African-American tenant whose complaints of racial intimidation and harassment by his white neighbors were ignored. The housing authority was also ordered to find Love a new apartment. The authority pledged to come up with a new plan to protect its tenants from harassment.

Love, a college student and security guard, filed several complaints of racial discrimination last year against his neighbors and asked to be transferred to another apartment run by the Boston Housing Authority. Love told the Boston Globe that housing officials did not respond to his complaints.

Love told the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) that his neighbors spraypainted "nigger," "KKK," and other racial epithets on the walls in his building at the predominately white Charlestown Housing Complex in April 1995. One month later, Love returned home to find "KKK rules" and "Niggers and Spics go back to Africa" spraypainted on his front door. Ku Klux Klan propaganda and fliers for KKK meetings were left on his doorstep and white neighbors called his friends "niggers" when they visited his apartment. Love filed complaints with the BHA after each incident.

Love said that a white woman on the first floor of his building would allow her dog to chase him and that the dog would block entrance to the building. Love filed another complaint, but no action was taken by the BHA.

In June and July, Love and a guest of his were confronted by white tenants at the basketball court at the Charlestown complex. In the first incident, the white men told Love to "get off the court and let the white people play." During the second incident, three white men with a gun who said, "Let's shoot these niggers." Over the next few months, the racist graffiti became worse in Love's building, the word "nigger" was written on his car windows, he was assaulted, and dog feces were left on his doorstep.

Love said that the harassment and intimidation became so unbearable that he began avoiding his neighbors altogether and began leaving and entering his apartment from the roof of the building. Love filed more than a dozen complaints with city officials about the harassment. In August 1995, after several months of inaction from the housing authority, Love filed a complaint with MCAD. The Boston Housing Authority refused to settle the case before it was heard before the Commission.

MCAD Chairman Michael Duffy told the Associated Press that the Boston Housing Authority had not engaged in overtly racial behavior, but failed to give Love "a place to live that was free of harassment because of his race." Duffy later added that Love was "extraordinarily compelling in his arguments."

Duffy criticized the housing authority during the proceedings. The authority's civil rights unit did not investigate Love's complaints as they were required to do. He noted that the housing authority's only actions involving Love were when his neighbors filed complaints against him. MCAD gave no credence to the complaints filed against Love by his neighbors.

Boston Housing Authority administrator Sandra Henriquez said that the authority may appeal.