Shelbyville, TN: The Mysterious Case of the Bedbug Evictions

We haven’t stopped by Shelbyville, TN lately—you know the town overwhelmed more than a year ago with the arrival of  hundreds of Somali refugees to work in the Tyson’s chicken plant nearby.  Readers may recall it is also the location of the now infamous battle— the Labor Day Holiday battle— when Tyson’s cancelled Labor Day and swapped it for the Muslim holiday EID (at least until a major furor erupted in the national media).

So, back to today’s story from Shelbyville.   Coincidentally just as a film crew was in town to document the trials and tribulations of Shelbyville’s immigrant population we hear about the curious case of the  Bedbug Evictions.

With documentary cameras rolling, members of Shelbyville’s Somali community met with Hispanic residents and the T-G (Times Gazette) to talk about living in Tennessee, as well as some of the problems they have encountered, such as eviction from a local apartment complex.

Mohamad Ali and Hawo Siyad both told the documentary makers that around 150 Somalis were evicted from Davis Estates last year after one of the units in the complex was found to be infested with bedbugs.

The Somalis say they love Shelbyville and think Tennessee is beautiful but the ‘fly in the ointment’ was the Bedbug Evictions.   Then there were the Menacing Flashlight Men (I’ll get to that shortly).

However, her experience in Shelbyville, as well as Mohamad’s, was marred by the bedbug-related evictions.

Hawo said that an Somali infant was found to have suffered numerous bites from the parasite and the mother did not know the cause. Doctors told the refugee mother to report the cause to the owners of the apartment.

“When she did, they did nothing about it,” Taylor (Luci the Local activist) said. When the mother returned a second time to alert the property owners, 150 of the refugees were told to pack their things and move out, Taylor said

“They evicted anybody that spoke out,” Taylor claims.

So, let me understand this.  One woman went to complain, but Luci the local activist says that anybody who spoke out was evicted.  So did 150 Somalis go to complain?  What were they complaining about if only one apartment was infested?  I’m confused.   150 got evicted because one apartment was infested.  Hummm!  Sounds fishy. Something tells me there is more to this story.

Now to the menacing men with flashlights….the plot thickens!

Both Hawo and Mohamad also claim that men representing the apartment owners would conduct late night inspections of the units, showing up unannounced with flashlights and frightening the refugees.

Taylor explained this action was very upsetting to some of the Somalis, given their experiences in their home country, where there is no government to speak of and roving bands of militants frequently have their way with the people.

It was especially upsetting to the women, Taylor said, who would sleep with little or no clothes and then have to deal with strange men suddenly entering the apartments, shining the flashlights around. Taylor was told that this practice is still going on with the remaining Somali residents and wants to know how to get it stopped.

Now, this is all pretty improbable.   Think about what Luci the local activist is alleging here (before a documentary film crew).   Men with flashlights illegally entering apartments in the middle of the night where naked Muslim women are sleeping—-dang that is a beheading offense where these refugees came from.

So what happened?  I bet you are dying to know the ending to the Mysterious Case of the Bedbug Evictions and the Menacing Flashlight Men!

Nieto (public awareness coordinator for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition) said that the matter was investigated by the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, who found no wrongdoing on the part of the apartment owners.

You can bet if there was even the slightest wrongdoing the Tennessee Human Rights Commission would be going for blood (and calling in CAIR!).   But, that doesn’t really matter, the charges are now on FILM, a documentary film (everyone knows documentaries are truthful films), and I will wager there is never any mention made of  the Tennessee Human Rights Commission findings of no wrongdoing.

These are, afterall, community organizers who know their business well—the means (any means) justify the ends.    Shelbyville, this is a set up.

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