Tag Archives: Gentrification

LA Bosses Attack Homeless Workers

LOS ANGELES, September 26—A multiracial group of 50 women and men marched up the Venice Beach Boardwalk for the second time in two months to demand justice for homeless workers Brendon Glenn and Jason Davis, killed by LAPD cops—and for one of the latest local victims, Jascent-Jamal Lee “Shakespeare” Warren, slain on August 30 by a Cadillac Hotel security guard.
Shakespeare was killed when he went to the aid of homeless friends being harassed by the hotel owner, Sris Sinnathamby, who used a racial epithet as he ordered guard Francisco Guzman to shoot Shakespeare. Charged with murder, Sinnathamby has been released on $1 million bail. Guzman ran away but was captured six days later. He is charged with murder, attempted murder (he shot another man in the leg), and firearms possession.
As Google and other tech firms transform Santa Monica, Venice, Marina del Rey and other Westside neighborhoods into “Silicon Beach,” they are accelerating these neighborhoods’ gentrification and pushing to rid the boardwalk of homeless workers. The racist Los Angeles City Council has declared a homeless state of emergency and pledged $100 million to address the problem, with no known source for the funding or a plan to spend it. Of a previous $100 million the city earmarked to combat homelessness, $87 million went to “law enforcement.” Currently, there are police-escorted sanitation sweeps every Friday morning to run homeless workers off the beach, but no plans to provide housing or even bathroom facilities. As L.A. continues to plan for a 2024 Olympic bid, these crackdowns will only increase. L.A. bosses are eliminating homeless people, not homelessness.
One speaker at the rally raised the issue of racism and recent efforts to integrate police forces throughout the U.S. He concluded that having Black, Latin, and Asian cops, whether rank and file or top brass, does nothing to change the racist, brutal essence of the job. Capitalist bosses in every country use the police to terrorize the working class, he explained, as can be seen with the 43 disappeared students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, and the striking miners murdered in the Marikana Massacre in South Africa. The cops in those countries are the same color as the workers they slaughter, but they’re on the opposite side of the class war.
We are meeting new faces and groups who are cosponsoring these protests. The two Unitarian Universalist church contingents were larger this time. PLP distributed CHALLENGE to marchers and passersby. We identified capitalism as the root cause of the problems of homelessness, racism, and police brutality, and communist revolution as the solution. We are inspired by reading in CHALLENGE about the ongoing protests PLP has helped build in New York City around the murders of Kyam Livingston, Shantel Davis, and others. We will be marching in Venice again on Sunday, October 25.LA

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Racist Gentrification Sweeping Workers Out of Harlem

HARLEM, NEW YORK CITY, August 19 — Several weeks ago, the Record Shack, a legendary 35-year-old music store on 125th St in Harlem, was suddenly evicted. The owner was not even allowed inside to get his personal possessions; his goods were brought to a Yonkers storage facility that’s asking $12,000 for their return. The landlord is a local church, The United House of Prayer, that has been selling off its ample property to the highest bidders, including banks and chain stores, that are invading the rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood. Last weekend, as on many past Sundays, local activists rallied outside the shuttered music store, demanding its re-opening and condemning the landlord church.

Harlem, home to many poor and working-class African-Americans and a major cultural center, has already been cut in half. That is, housing affordable at the average Harlem worker’s $20,000 wage and to small black-owned businesses are being displaced by luxury condos and upscale stores. What are being labeled “subsidized units” in the new buildings are pegged at incomes of $40,000-$60,000. Going, going, gone are affordable apartments and small businesses.

Resistance to  gentrification has been constant, from students and residents uniting to oppose Columbia University’s takeover of West Harlem, to a militant Movimiento por Justicia in East Harlem, to several groups in Central Harlem. There have been demonstrations large and small and several actions, uniting all the groups. Unfortunately, severe weaknesses pervade the struggle.

All the groups suffer from a major focus on politicians. They rightly denounce the sellouts like ex-mayor Dinkins and Rep. Charles Rangel, and Harlem’s traitorous City Council representatives, but then hope to elect new politicians who say they will fight in the people’s interest. No few individuals can turn around the basic fact that the government’s role is — first and foremost — to protect the flow of profits, and also to control uprisings by the governed. But this obsession with elections means that debating the merits of individuals, or listening to politicians’ speeches occupy many meetings.

Much activity is focused on a few people attending meetings of political bodies and hoping to influence their outcome. Although protesting at politicians’ offices or events can be good focal points for mass actions, the major effort must be to build mass activity and expose the role of politics in a capitalist society. We need more mass actions such as gathering to stop evictions, or we could occupy renovation projects.

Nationalism is the other major stumbling block to building a mass campaign. At the August 3rd Record Shack demonstration, some people wanted to boycott other businesses owned by the Church, not a bad tactic, but on the basis that they were run by Jews or Koreans; they chanted “Buy Black.” This slogan ignores the fact that the evil landlord is himself black, as are many other Harlem oppressors.

It was possible to have a discussion with a few demonstrators about how racism is used to super-oppress and divide people, but nationalism serves to maintain those divisions and hide the underlying class divisions. When we all mass in large numbers with militant actions, then we’ll really see which side people are on and allow us all — workers and students of all backgrounds — to fight together.

Some anti-gentrification movement fighters do see that capitalism, based on endless greed for profits, and built on racism, is the problem. By distributing CHALLENGE and having continuing discussions, we must try to win them to join the Party for the long struggle ahead and not become defeated by our current inability to turn around gentrification.

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Fight Racist Destruction of Harlem

NEW YORK CITY, April 12 — Hundreds of Harlem residents and their supporters formed a human chain across several long cross-town blocks and then marched on the NY State Office Building, battling the gentrification of East, Central, and West Harlem, which will displace thousands of working-class residents and many small businesses. The cops tried to pen the demonstrators into a small area on the street, but they immediately broke through the barricades and took over the sidewalk. Almost all the passing motorists honked in support.

Having recently approved the take-over of West Harlem by Columbia University, the City Council’s zoning subcommittee has now voted to rezone Harlem’s main thoroughfare, 125th Street, and two surrounding blocks all the way across Manhattan, for luxury housing and businesses. Central Harlem is home to mostly low-income and working-class African-Americans, averaging below $25,000 annually. It’s also a cultural center, home to generations of black writers, performers and artists. East Harlem (El Barrio) is a mainly Latino neighborhood, also providing housing for mainly low-income workers. This demonstration marked the first time in recent history that groups from all these areas have marched together.

For two decades, gentrification has been underway, with the renovation of old brownstones and houses, attracting African-American professionals and a growing white population. As local property values rise, Harlem can be totally gentrified within the next decade. Tenant activists estimate that half of all Harlem residents may be forced to move.

Although this show of militancy and unity was heartening, a weakness of the movement has been its looking for “good “politicians to turn things around. Some hope the new black governor, David Patterson (who replaced Eliot Spitzer), will protect their interests. But Patterson is closely tied to the other prominent black NY politicians, ex-mayor David Dinkins and Rep. Charles Rangel, who are deeply embedded with developers. Some hope City Council members will carry their banner, but the Harlem representatives have long supported gentrification. A few involved fighters are nationalist, and see this attack as only against “their own group.” Most have welcomed the support of all.

Several comrades have been active in a Harlem church and community groups. We’ve pointed out how only a movement of rank-and-file workers and students can be relied upon to have our interests at heart, and that all politicians can only survive by doing the bidding of capitalist profiteers.

This attack on all of Harlem is based on racism of the foulest sort, hoping that not only will all NYC workers not back Harlem’s struggle, but will even welcome “racial cleansing.” We emphasize the role that racism plays and the necessity of multi-racial unity.

Most importantly, we must win our friends to see that gentrification, like the housing and financial crisis, the growing income gap and widening war and fascism are all part of capitalism, and therefore all our efforts should be linked to the fight against this racist system. We will continue to distribute CHALLENGE and bring some new friends to May Day.

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