Mutual Aid Disaster Relief discusses how poor and working-class tenants in housing projects in Panama City are being evicted in the wake of Hurricane Michael.
A call to action.
Hundreds of residents in low income housing projects in Panama City have gotten eviction notices in the days following the category 4 catastrophe of Hurricane Michael, which shredded the region into a state of nonrecognition. In short, it looks like a war zone.
In an area where no bush, no tree, no building was spared in some measure by Michael’s thrashing wind gusts, were relieved occupants of impoverished communities whose walls weren’t felled. The survivors of a storm bearing the same descriptor all storms as of late – historic – pulled through only to find landlord issued notices pinned to their doors. The notices gave them one to three days to leave.
They were given no rent reimbursement, no contingency directive and with the caveat that all things left behind would be destroyed courtesy of land owners.
In the Macedonia Garden Apartments, the morning after landlords gave verbal assurance that residents could rest easy until November 1st when further decisions on eviction would be given, the residents woke to find 72-hour eviction notices on their doors. And when the landlords were spotted on site, they had a small army of police escorts with them, a homage to collective years of their tenants’ rent paying and occupation which cushioned their pockets in the good times and will spell out a windfall in the bad times when the shock and awe developer brigade come sweeping through to gentrify spaces over the bones of dilapidated tenements. The residents of which were given their marching orders on one of the worst days of their lives.
Parking lots of these communities were pacing ground for evicted people with heavily limited access to fuel, alternative housing options, medication, food, or running water – and in a time of acute crisis. And in a time where the ominous travesty of capitalism had awakened in a fury to look them in the eye and kick down whatever semblance of home remained with them.
“the ominous travesty of capitalism had awakened in a fury to look them in the eye and kick down whatever semblance of home remained with them.”
As Mutual Aid Disaster Relief autonomous medics and distribution crews with trucks and vehicles full of supplies continuously came through these spaces, free legal aid information was disseminated of pro bono lawyers standing by. Those left behind in sweltering apartments thick with moldy air, were still waiting for FEMA after they had already cancelled two appointments to get assessments for residents’ federal assistance.
FEMA’s cancellations and no shows came in the aftermath of their delivered directions to occupants who were waiting for them that “every person who lives in the home must be present at the house when we come for the assessment.” Thus, what a cancelled appointment looks like is a mother of a one-year old baby staying in an apartment for days on end which is half exposed to open air and “with nails and ceiling falling on us when we are inside.” With the looming deadline for their eviction notice, some families can’t leave because FEMA is coming. “And we can’t not be here when they arrive.”
To further the atmosphere of high anxiety and despair, whereas there the absence of FEMA is heavily felt, so is the concentrated presence of police and military back-dropping the destruction. These disaster colonialism actors zip through the streets, cutting through traffic in multi-dozen vehicle caravans and post up with military outside of collapsed houses of commodity where products that have been laid bare are causing a frenzy of panic to capitalist watchdog law enforcement. Police have been arresting people in violation of the sun-up to sun-down curfew in desperate effort to quell the scenes of frenzied looters from their darkest post law and order fantasies.
While efforts to guard hurricane felled liquor stores are in full effect, climate catastrophe jerks forward, promising favorable profit margins for those who sweep forth in their wake. What future do we have when literal armies are assembled to alienate the masses from goods post-disaster while nary a feather is ruffled within these military and militarized bodies who enforce status quo deregulations to ensure the train of society is propelled ever faster down the tracks towards environmental destruction?
ICE Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with CBP Customs and Border ‘Protection’ who are fresh off of earth quaked by their participation in the abduction and imprisonment of hundreds of migrant children and the families they were torn from. These modern day kidnappers and human traffickers declared border enforcement ops frozen during and in the aftermath of hurricane Michael, yet reports flooded in through social media of CBP standing by as police gatekeepers trickled hoarded goods to ID checked community members in food distro lines.
Dozens upon dozens of lit up CBP vehicles flanked with police escorts flew through traffic throughout the days following the storm. No matter what purpose for their highly visible and highly invasive presence in the hurricane devastated region, the tension and fear their vehicles stoked was in direct opposition to any possible assistance they could possibly state they were contributing to storm traumatized communities.
The script is the same. And has been for decades. “This strategy has been a silent partner to the imposition of neoliberalism for more than 40 years. Shock tactics follow a clear pattern: wait for a crisis, declare a moment of what is sometimes called “extraordinary politics”, suspend some or all democratic norms – and then ram the corporate wishlist through as quickly as possible.” Here, Naomi Klein lays bare the shock and awe playbook of disaster capitalism, of which the Florida panhandle is being carved with the blueprint of at this moment- as residents pace, as military gathers, as police occupation supersedes any semblance of meaningful federal relief.
We are mobilizing to hold the landlords accountable, remove the specter of police and military from catastrophe stunted communities, exist in resistance to the prioritization of profit and opportunism over people and community and the substantive victory of solidarity over charity.
Liberation is a bridge.
They have defined disaster and we are left to define recovery.