A Brighton real estate broker who was photographed flipping off a group of roughly 70 protesters said today that the photograph was "taken out of context," and claimed that the gesture was a reaction to a racial comment.
Jerome Bibuld, an agent at City Realty Group, was photographed Wednesday flipping his middle finger to protesters as he stood next to Fred Starikov, a Managing Partner at City Real Estate Development Corp.
Bibuld said one of the protesters called him an "Uncle Tom."
"(The finger) was my reaction," he said.
In an email to Metro, Starikov defended his colleague, saying, "I am not saying that he was right to do what he did, but in fairness to him and to your reporting, it should be brought to light that it was in response to racist comments being made by the angry protesters," he said.
Starikov also defended his organization, saying: "We purchase distressed properties that are in need of major renovations and we invest in to low income neighborhoods and provide affordable housing. In case you are unaware, there is a shortage of affordable housing in Boston. We bring houses back up to code and make them very nice with the help of investors and community banks. I believe we provide a much needed service and I believe we are doing positive things despite what a few organization may believe."
He went on to call leaders of the tenant rights group City Life - one of the protest organizers - "bullies."
The tenants gathered with signs outside the company’s Chestnut Hill Avenue office Wednesday afternoon to speak out against what they consider to be predatory rent spikes and unfair, no-fault evictions.
Protest organizers said the Brighton-based company is using the foreclosure crisis to buy up homes at rock-bottom prices, then going back on its word to tenants and instituting predatory rent hikes that are well beyond original lease agreements.
Eliza Parad, who heads Chelsea Collaborative’s City-Wide Tenants Association, another protest organizer, said demonstrators were "only protesting and chanting."
"Ray Fernandes, whose back in is in the picture, said 'We are angry about what is happening but did not go there to fight. We have to be patient and just keep asking for what we want," she said. "I personally, was not nearby when the photo was taken. I am not sure what was said or what transpired but I hope that nothing insulting was said by a protestor."