Filed under: Action, Anarchist Movement, Gentrification, Graffiti, Housing, Southwest
Report on anti-gentrification graffiti in Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
Just northeast of downtown Los Angeles is the neighborhood of Highland Park, currently the target of blatant gentrification. According to most people, the completion of the Metro Gold Line in 2003 was the first step in this process, although it took years to feel the effects. Few people rode the Metro into the Highland Park station and most commuters just went between downtown and the end of the line. After the economic recession hit in 2008, the gentrification of Highland Park truly began, just as it did in a dozen other major cities. With thousands losing their houses to foreclosure, greedy speculators and house flippers soon moved in to restructure the neighborhood and alter its population.
By 2015, the gentrification of Highland Park was obvious to all, the invasion blatant. Local institutions were overwhelmed, changed, or disappeared altogether amid this blatant economic assault. At the time of this writing, people are still being evicted from their houses to make way for mostly white colonizers willing to pay more rent. A major player in all of this is Occidental College, the same university where Barack Obama studied to become a murderous hypocrite, and this liberal institution bought up several properties near Highland Park, driving up rent for everybody in North East Los Angeles. By 2016, a brand new constellation of gentrifying businesses had been set up along York Boulevard in Highland Park. Among them was a place called Namaste Yoga.
In the early morning of November 18, 2019, a group calling itself the North East Militia (NEM), tagged the entrance to this business with the phrase: Northeast Ain’t For Sale. Just down the street, the group also tagged the upper floor of a nearby building with the phrase: Gentrifiers Stay Out!!! This last tag was signed by the NEM and adorned with a circle-A symbol, making clear to the neighborhood they were anarchists. All of this was highly visible on that tiny strip of York Boulevard and increased the long-brewing tension in Highland Park. Shortly after this vandalism, the eighteen year-old mega-star Billie Eilish became the latest symbol wealthy white arrogance when an interview question about Highland Park began to circulate the Twitter-sphere.
Three months earlier, Eilish did an interview for Coup de Main Magazine where she describes the neighborhood as follows: “It’s kinda like a little hipster block party, almost. It’s not huge, it’s this little area. There’s this one street called York, which is kinda where everything is. [My family] moved there when it was affordable. It wasn’t a great neighborhood and nobody really lived there. It wasn’t a popular place at all, then over time, tons of stores and little shops popped up, and it’s huge now, and kinda popping, which is weird. I think it’s really cute. It’s very homely, very comfortable.” This sheer ignorance of this entire answer made many locals snap, regardless of the mega-stars young age or her appropriated fashion sense. Thanks to people like Billie Eilish, the LAPD is now instituting a new foot-patrol along North Figueroa Street, a service they never provided back when “nobody really lived there.” Now that there’s a few gentrifying businesses to protect, the LAPD is eagerly meeting with these new shop owners so they can further repress the neighborhood locals.
In this context, the sudden appearance of the North East Militia is nothing short of miraculous. Unlike every major US city along the West Coast, the city of Los Angeles has remained mostly resilient to the economic restructuring of the 2010s, and there is a still a chance to halt the advance of gentrification. In places like San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, and Seattle, the phenomenon of the hipster gentrifier has been replaced by the techie gentrifier, an entirely different class of colonizer. In Los Angeles, the hipster is a still a thing, easily identifiable through their appearance and actions. Just like in Oakland during the late 2000s, the white hipster is still being used as a first wave of gentrification in various Los Angeles neighborhoods. Most people agree that Echo Park and Silver Lake have been largely sterilized through gentrification, with Highland Park, Eagle Rock, and Boyle Heights up next. Compared to the gentrification of Oakland, the city of Los Angeles is probably still in 2011, and it’s entirely possible to push back against what might seem inevitable, but isn’t.
The actions of the North East Militia are not only inspiring, they’re exactly what’s needed in this time of homeless camps, greed, and psychopathic wealth inequality. The only way to depose this corrupt and brutal system is to constantly challenge it at every opportunity, using whatever means are effective. We hope the North East Militia continues its activities in Highland Park, just as we applaud the consistent resistance in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood that has gone on to inspire the world. Remember that Los Angeles Indymedia is still active and able to provide the same services as Athens Indymedia or the late Linksunten Indymedia. Be loud, be clear, and never stop.
Long Live The North East Militia!
Long Live Anarchy!