Louisville Tenant Union leader Shemaeka Shaw is facing a 2019 burglary charge for removing her own property during a set out eviction. Supporters and members of the Louisville Tenants Union appeared with her in court today.
Shemaeka Shaw grew up in Louisville and moved out of her parents’ house after high school in 1999. She then began renting in West Louisville. Prior to 2016, she had never experienced an arrest or an eviction. After reporting a sexual assault by her landlord to LMHA, the landlord retaliated by evicting her for non-payment of rent. Even with evidence that the landlord accepted her rent payment, she was evicted. Despite having a mediation agreement where she was given 30 days to vacate her property, the landlord arrived with Sheriff Deputy Mark Handy to execute the eviction before the end of the 30 days. She was then physically assaulted by the deputy when she tried to explain the 30 days’ notice. Deputy Handy physically removed Shemaeka from her home and charged her with resisting arrest and criminal trespassing.
Shemaeka was acquitted on both charges, primarily because she helped expose deputy Handy’s history of lying under oath. Thanks in part to her activism and advocacy, four murder convictions were overturned due to Handy’s criminal misconduct as an officer. Handy was convicted in 2021 of perjury and tampering with evidence and is a glaring example of the role state police violence plays in the forced displacement of Black communities. Handy is not an aberration but very much part of a systemic pattern. Unsurprisingly, the sheriff's office cleared (the now retired) Handy in an internal affairs investigation in Shaw's arrest. Handy ended up only serving 17 days of his one-year prison sentence and is now free while Shemaeka faces a felony charge.
Shemaeka went to the hospital for the injuries inflicted by Handy after she was released from jail. She lost most of her possessions, her photos, her tv, her bedroom set, her car, and her security deposit in the eviction after being beaten, arrested and dragged out of her home...all resulting from reporting a sexual assault. She would be homeless for the next 8 months.
In 2018, a HUD audit of Section 8 units in Louisville found violations in 97% of the homes inspected (898 homes). These homes all received passing grades in local LMHA inspections. In January 2017, Shemaeka moved into one of these Section 8 houses in the Chickasaw neighborhood that had failed 4 previous inspections for exposed wiring. The house caught on fire in April 2018 and she lost everything once again.
Shemaeka then moved to a unit in the California neighborhood owned by Neighborhood Rehabilitation, LLC. This company is one of hundreds of properties (under dozens of names) owned by prominent Louisville landlord John Clark; a serial evictor who has amassed tens of thousands of dollars in code violations over the years and was called “Louisville’s worst landlord” by a local news outlet in 2012.
Shemaeka’s new home was infested with mold and mildew, the windows were nailed shut and the property had already failed 2 inspections. Shemaeka began making maintenance requests with LMHA. In March of 2019, John Clark filed an eviction for nonpayment of rent. Although her rent payments were current, this is a common situation for Section 8 tenants who report code violations. When the landlord fails to respond to the complaint, LMHA withholds their Section 8 payment under a process called "abatement.” This process gives the landlord license to file for eviction. The LMHA abatement process creates a serious disincentive for tenants to report code issues.
An ask has been issued to assist this activist leader cover their attorney fees. If you’re able to support, her Cash App is $malachi217.
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