ROCHESTER — Kay Keenan came home to her Rochester Housing Authority apartment Monday to find her Trump 2020 flag had been removed from its flag holder, rolled up and placed next to her door with a note.
“The office continues to call me about the Trump Flag. Please do not put it back up,” wrote the property manager.
By Tuesday, Keenan had the flag back up in its holder, flying adjacent to the U.S. flag she also put up last week as she appeals the housing authority decision. Keenan said she had permission to fly the flag during the appeal process.
“I’m proud of my president, I’m proud of my country, and I have a right to say that,” Keenan said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. She feels she is being denied her First Amendment right to expression “because I live in low-income housing.”
Housing authority attorney Jerry Grossman said the policy is a blanket one. “Political signs are not allowed on the outside of the building. They can have it on the inside, but not the outside,” he said. “You’re not allowed to attach any political things to the outside of the building.”
Grossman said Keenan has every right to drape her flag to the inside of her window for everyone outside to see. “It’s spelled out in the lease agreement,” he said. “Your unit is what you rent. You don’t have control of the outside. It would be like you going to City Hall and wanting to put banners up outside. It’s public property.”
The RHA’s lease agreement states, “All areas of the property outside of the apartment are to be considered common space and as such, no items of any kind are allowed to be exhibited by a tenant on any part of the outside or inside common space of the building(s) or placed on the grounds of the property without prior written consent from the office. These items include, but are not limited to, the following: signs, advertisements, notices, banners, flags, storage structures, sheds, […], etc.”
Keenan noted in her appeal that her U.S. flag was left alone. “Why was my American flag not taken down and why are other tenants allowed American flags as well as miscellaneous flags?” Keenan wrote in her appeal.
Grossman, not commenting on Keenan’s appeal, said having a U.S. flag outside the building wouldn’t represent any specific cause. “If they asked me if it was OK to have a U.S. flag, I would say that would be OK,” he said.
Keenan, 67, said she was expecting pushback when she installed Trump’s campaign flag “because people hate Trump.” She said some people in the neighborhood who she used to be friendly with her stopped speaking with her after she installed the flag.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Keenan said, she had a Trump bumper sticker or her car, and people would give her the finger as they drove by and alleged that she “almost got ramrodded off the highway” because of it.
Keenan's decision to put her campaign flag out was to send a message to other area Trump supporters that it is OK to be openly supportive of him. “I put my flag out because so many people have fear. You have to fight through the fear so that we can get our message out,” she said.