Blockading Gentrification in Chicago

2016-04-09 09.18.15

Today we take a militant stand against gentrification in Chicago by joining forces with Somos Logan Square to shut down Milwaukee Avenue just outside a major construction site during brunch hours. Power Construction’s ongoing efforts to create high price, luxury apartment towers on Milkwaukee Avenue will drive up rental prices in the community and create yet another space where everyday people simply cannot afford to live.

In addition to amplifying a larger battle cry against gentrification, we are also lifting up the very basic and immediate demands of Somos Logan Square with regard to this development. The towers currently being constructed should not exist, but given that they soon will, community members demand that a greater number of units be designated as affordable housing and that the price of those units reflect the means of the economically disadvantaged.

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Having pursued every practical avenue to address their concerns and grievances, community members fighting for their homes in Logan Square have been left no option but to escalate. Their petitions and attempts at negotiation have been met with scorn and dismissal by officials like Alderman Joe Moreno and developers who benefit from the gentrification process.

Gentrification is the violence of colonialism. Just as slavery in the United States was reinvented over time — most recently in the form of the prison industrial complex — displacement has taken different shapes over the years.

The US government notoriously pushed Native peoples onto land that was viewed as being undesirable. When use of that land was eventually deemed necessary by the colonizers, Indigenous people were again shuffled elsewhere, as the “value” of the land became more fully exploited by those who seized it.

In both the past and the present, the legality of such land seizures is irrelevant to any discussion of ethics or action, as the applicable laws themselves have long been constructed to facilitate this kind of “progress.”

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Today, low income communities, communities of color and traditionally diverse communities are being dismantled because the land that marginalized people were allowed to build their lives on has been deemed “valuable.”

This is a cycle that cannot be allowed to continue.

At this moment, some of those most impacted by these issues have put their liberty at stake for this cause. They have been joined by a number of white allies, some of whom are endeavoring to hold space on behalf of co-strugglers who are more vulnerable than themselves to state action. White people who undertake these risks such as these, in opposition to harms that are largely steeped in whiteness, recognize that being a traitor to white supremacy means understanding that Brown, Black and diverse communities should not be surrendered to those who would box out local families and businesses in favor of trendy boutiques and brunch spots.

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We do this work today to honor the struggle and humanity of those fighting gentrification, and to express the same sense of shared struggle that once united the efforts of the Black Panthers and the Young Patriots.

As a group focused on the defense of women and non-binary people of color, we recognize that the intersections of our oppressions are not simply a common point along our forward paths. The intersections where our oppressions, identities and struggles connect are in fact a tangled web-work of overlapping issues and experiences. We have a great deal in common with the multiracial group Somos Logan Square, and we believe interconnected oppressions call for interconnected resistance. Because we are all going to need each other to get free.

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On Lifting Affected Voices

It is our primary purpose in moments like this one to  help affected communities, organizing in their own defense, to envision and make material the direct actions that will escalate their campaigns, but it is also our duty to lift up the voices of those most impacted by the issues. For that reason, we would like to share Patty’s story about being threatened with displacement in her community.

We are here today to stand with Patty, and to act in defense of her community.

Patty’s Story

I am the daughter of Mexican immigrants that decided to call Logan Square their home 4 decades ago. I have then called it mine since 1990 and I can proudly say it still is. Both sides of the family resided here for quite some time. I remember that on the weekends we would take family trips to the shops on Milkwaukee, or sometimes even to Mega Mall in which we supported the small mom and pop shops that we got to know for years.

There wasn’t a family member that didn’t live within half a mile or less from us. My parents even met while working at what once was the Father and Son factory, which are now luxury condos. However, there is a sad reality that has become all too familiar for my family and many others, and that is that Logan Square may not be our home for much longer due to the increase of unaffordable housing.

A few years back our 30 unit building that we had been living in for almost 13 years was bought by a wealthy developer and our family and friends soon faced the infamous 30 day notice. We knew every single family that stayed in that building, even some of our own. We knew our neighbors, their kids, which car belong to who on the block. All the kids from our street, including myself at some point, walked together to and from Avondale Elementary school during school days. And when that 30 day notice hit my family they were about to lose everything they knew, everything I knew.

My family is a working class family, living from pay check to pay check, and they were left to wonder “now what? Where are we going to go?” Instead of staying quiet we decided to fight back by demanding that we stay in our homes. During that fight we found out that our local politician by the name of Rey Colon had a corrupt partnership with this developer that bought our home. It is relationships like those that make history repeat itself and make displacement an all too common phenomenon in our community. What Rey Colon did, is exactly what Joe Moreno is doing. This man is choosing profits with his developer friends over the lives of its residents. These luxury developments will only bring tax increase and drive displacement. 

We have, and will continue, to prevail as a community by coming together and fighting back. 

Today, we are acting in solidarity with Patty and all those like her who are willing to escalate the fight. Our communities must continue to build connections, march, reclaim homes and at times literally bring business as usual to a standstill. Because faced with the realities of racism, economic inequality, criminalization and displacement, we have every right to fuck up your brunch.

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We believe that if more and more of us take this kind of disruptive action, across issues and communities, a wider spectrum of marginalized people will feel empowered to defend their lives, their safety and their dignity, by any means necessary. We are here to lend our skills to those efforts, because we believe that creative self defense and militancy are the only remaining paths to survival in a system that functions in opposition to our well being.

We hope that that this moment will lend some strength and hope to those who’ve grown weary, and provide some inspiration for those crafting their own visions of resistance. And as always, we hope to see you in the streets.

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