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Local Group Protests Eviction of Family

By Rachel P. Kovner, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

A Harvard Business School employee and his family were evicted from their Cambridge home on Tuesday after a highly publicized dispute and bitter protest.

Claude Desir, who works in the business school cafeteria's deli section, and his wife, Marie Desir, were also arrested on Tuesday for trespassing in their home of 14 years and for resisting arrest. The family had been told to leave the residence by Monday.

But members of the Eviction Free Zone (EFZ), a Cambridge tenant advocacy group, protested the decision. They claimed the building owner, First Realty Management Corporation, evicted the Desirs even though they were not behind on their rent, in order to renovate the unit and rent it for more money.

"It's clear that the management was intent on evicting this family whatever way they could get them out," said EFZ member Bill Cavellini.

"They changed [their reason] from a criminal case against the father to noise to business reasons and general lease violations," he added.

But Ellen Dolan, a spokesperson for First Realty, said the allegations of profit-motivated eviction are "absolutely untrue." She said she could not discuss the specific reasons for the Desirs' eviction due to privacy rules.

Cavellini said the landlord had initially cited Mr. Desir's arrest on an assault charge in 1997 as the reason for the eviction, but that after Desir was acquitted of the charge, they changed the reasons to lease violations, including noise complaints.

And Cavellini said that by evicting lower-income clients like the Desirs, who receive government subsidies for their rent, the owner can remodel the apartments and rent them out at higher prices.

According to Cavellini, the Desirs--who have three daughters, including a seven-year old autistic child--are currently staying with friends while the EFZ searches for a more permanent home.

"He has to stay at a friend's house for a week or two, because he can't stay in Cambridge without the subsidy" Cavellini said. "It's too expensive now for a family with three kids."

Cavellini said the family was not allowed to collect their belongings before being evicted on Tuesday. And he said his organization is currently trying to raise the $1200 fee required to get the belongings out of storage.

He also said the Desirs--who were released on $25 bail each, paid by the EFZ--had been injured by police officers as they were arrested. The couple was taken to Cambridge Hospital and Ms. Desir is wearing a sling on her arm.

While the Desirs had originally agreed to vacate the apartment in June, and had been granted extensions until August 9, Cavellini said the family's situation could have been resolved if they had more time.

He said the Desirs asked to be able to remain in their apartment until Wednesday, when they were set to obtain new subsidy certificates that might have allowed them to find a new apartment in time.

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