On July 1st, cities across the country held demonstrations for UNDM’s national day of action. UNDM chapters in Los Angeles, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, and Austin participated in our national day of action. This call comes after the launch of UNDM, after years of organizing, national unity has been reached across these cities in the fight for working class housing.
In Los Angeles, we meet at one of the first construction signs of gentrification, the 6th street bridge, and marched to Soto/Whittier- a huge intersection Boyle Heights. We agitated there about the rent strike, the economic crisis, and how we can fight back against evictions.
Supporters and bystanders joined in with the group. We then marched back to our original location on the bridge and dropped our banners in solidarity with the nationwide actions.
In Charlotte, we hosted an agitation outside the Mecklenburg County courthouse. At this, activists gave speeches about how evictions benefit the ruling class and only harm the working class. A banner stating “Resist evictions! Unemployment $ is not enough, Cancel all back rent” was held up by activists.
Organizers there were able to unite with a local group volunteering for jail support for protesters that day. Other bystanders gathered by to hear and support the calls against evictions.
“We’re here to say that the unemployment stimulus check, all of these things that the government is doing to quell our rage is not enough and we won’t be bought off. We are calling for an end to all back rent, an end to all [utility bills] that haven’t been paid. Simply because we can’t afford it. 44 million people are out of a job right now, how dare they say that we’re supposed to pay our rent… We are here to organize a United Neighborhood Defense Movement because if we don’t have a clean stable form of living we have nothing. And to get something we gotta fight for it! “An excerpt of a speech given by a Charlotte activist
In Pittsburgh, we showed up to the Regent Square Rentals(RSR) office calling for a rent strike and the firing of company heiress Kelsey Patterson and employee Brian Wise for their harassment of tenants.
After weeks of protests, RSR’s lawyers called UNDM to “make peace”. But we made it clear that we would not stop fighting for their minor concessions, we are fighting until they meet our demands! Kelsey Patterson and Brian Wise, who have both harassed and stalked tenants, have since been suspended from their positions.
Kelsey, who lives around the corner from the office, couldn’t seem to keep herself away from the protest. While she was worriedly peering on from the street corner, activists effectively called her out as the neighborhood stalker and forced her back into her home.
This action was met with police repression from plainclothes officers, whom Kelsey has been working with to target tenants and activists. However, activists successfully got out without any problems. Overall, this action was a success, both in uniting the community against these slumlords and in support of the rent strike and in successfully confronting our enemies and showing the power we have when we organize and fight back!
In Austin, UNDM organized tenants from 4 Presidium Group-owned complexes to deliver their demands to management. Presidium Group is a Texas-based real estate group that has targeted some of these complexes in Austin for a large-scale development project that would displace thousands of working class tenants and set off a wave of gentrification in the area.
At each of the complexes, tenants of that complex delivered a speech stating why they were there and reading off the lists of demands. Quad West and Tempo tenants have been on rent strike since April 1st. Solaris tenants have been on rent strike since May 1st, and University Estates tenants just went on rent strike starting July 1st!
At Solaris the tenants’ demands and speech were delievered in Spanish, which is the main language spoken by tenants of the complex. At University Estates two managers that tenants are demanding be fired were spotted in the office staring out the windows as the crowd approached. They hid out of sight once tenants started pointing them out and directly confronting them. At Quad West a security guard approached the crowd but quickly left after people told him to. After he left, about 6 tenants that were nearby joined the crowd and started celebrating with them.
Tenants at half of Presidium’s Riverside properties are on rent strike.
“The rent strike has taken on a new character because it’s unified nationwide, and that’s the most important part about all of this. Now is the time to join, now is the time to do something like this in your city…We’re building a working-class movement that is made by working class people for working class people. We’re showing solidarity for the rent strike and following through with eviction defense! We will defend each other tooth and nail! Against predatory landlords, against developers, against cops- the enemies of the people. And we will confront them in a unified way! Support the rent strike! Support eviction defense!”– Speech excerpt from an Austin activist in support of the action
Overall, we view the actions across the country as a success and a great display of solidarity nationwide. As we expect evictions to surge nationwide the need for eviction defense is vital to keeping working class families in their homes. The current economic crisis is not going to get better anytime soon, with millions out of jobs and no way to pay rent, we continue our rent strike demand of “No Rent Without Work or Wages”!
Landlords can try to intimidate tenants, even resorting to the courts and the police to kick us out of our homes. But we are organizing and fighting back, we support our neighbors and community, here and across state lines!