Norwalk auto shop owner faces protest over alleged racially charged remarks

Photo of Abigail Brone

NORWALK — A crowd of about 20 people gathered outside a local auto body shop Tuesday to protest the owner’s alleged racially charged remarks toward a tenant in a building he manages.

The tenant, 29-year-old Norwalk resident Laura Garcia, said she moved with her husband and two children in November 2019 into a multifamily home on Flax Hill Road, of which Fedor Auto Body Works owner Allen Fedor is the landlord. But in March, when Garcia and her family left the home, a dispute allegedly ensued when Fedor said he planned to retain some of the security deposit to fix hole in a wall that Garcia said was not caused by her family.

The argument led to remarks via text from Fedor regarding Garcia’s Latin American background, Garcia claims. Garcia is originally from Guatemala and moved to the U.S. seven years ago.

During the text exchanges regarding the wall repairs, Garcia listed the issues the family previously had with the apartment including a faulty smoke alarm and mice, to which Fedor responded, “It’s ok, I guess you illegals are just dirty like in Mexico.”

On Tuesday, Fedor confirmed he made the comments.

“They were screaming at me that white people are landlords because they’re money hungry and I’m like, well that has nothing to do with it this,” he told Hearst Connecticut Media. “I apologize for calling them that but again I kind of feel discriminated against because I happen to be white and a landlord.”

The comments prompted Garcia to seek help in her dispute with Fedor and led to the first protest outside the auto body shop on March 31. The second protest was organized in part by community activism groups Chapinas Manos Unidas, Unidad Latina en Accion, and Black & Brown United in Action.

The shop closed early in preparation for the protest, Fedor said.

“Norwalk is home to a significant number of migrants and people of color,” the protest description read. “Diversity and respect are essential for this vibrant community.” Migrants and activists denounced Fedor for the comments and his “attacks on the Norwalk migrant community.”

Garcia said she reached out to local housing officials and intends to file a lawsuit against Fedor for the security deposit if he does not return the funds. Fedor said he will return the funds, but has 30 days from the family’s departure from the home to do so.

Norwalk Fair Housing Officer Margaret K. Suib did not respond to request for comment on the status of Garcia’s complaint.

“People are afraid and don’t speak out until someone else does,” Garcia said.

abigail.brone@hearstmediact.com