Filed under: Action, Housing, Midwest, Police, Solidarity
This article was originally published in Fight to Win, a publication of the General Defense Committee (GDC) in so-called Michigan.
by Lindy and LK
GROWING HOPE, GROWING FENCES
Wednesday, August 23rd, the board of the local nonprofit Growing Hope called the cops and evicted all people staying underneath their downtown Marketplace Hall — without notice — and attempted to install fences to block access to the property. Organizers in the General Defense Committee (GDC), Washtenaw Camp Outreach, the MANY and more were mobilized for an emergency eviction defense. The community, together, blocked the fence installation and eventually they packed up the fence they had already put up and left.
Individuals evicted that night had been staying on and off for most of the spring and summer. Growing Hope staff had been collaborating with the folks to share the space safely and cooperatively and had asked for outside support from community members. A lawsuit threat — from the landlord of downtown businesses on Michigan Ave — on Growing Hope and FedUp Ministries clarified the alliances of the ruling class. The Growing Hope board had an emergency meeting and voted to evict people to avoid any liability.
“ONE WEEK OR WE WON’T LEAVE”
The cops offered to pay for two nights at Harmony House, a local motel, for only the three people evicted that night. The community demanded a one week hotel stay for all individuals displaced by the eviction.
We chanted “one week or we don’t leave” for two hours. Intentional bluffing of the pigs muddied our understanding on whether or not the pressure was working.
While that was going on, a pregnant woman from the homeless community got into an altercation unrelated to the action. The cops rushed her, attempted to arrest her and put her in a cop car. All participants in the action responded immediately, ran over and chanted for them to “LET HER GO.” The pigs called for backup and roughly 12 more pigs showed, including some from the county. They eventually released her and her partner due to our pressure.
Wednesday night, after the defense was done, we circulated flyers and social media posts calling the masses to phone zap the president of Growing Hope Sarah Wixson, demanding Growing Hope pay for the rest of the seven nights.
The eviction was not prevented, though we won small concessions in that the folks who were evicted from the property got two nights in a hotel paid by the state, and even more nights paid by Growing Hope. Sunday afternoon, the board president of Growing Hope resigned. Two other board members have since resigned.
The community acted in unity, making material gains in solidarity with our homeless neighbors, flexing collective power.
There have been multiple community meetings since, where there is hard and fast consensus: Ypsilanti needs daytime and nighttime shelters open year-round.
YPSILANTI: WE DEMAND SHELTER NOW
Ultimately, the city of Ypsilanti, and Washtenaw County have no plans for sheltering people. The landlords, businesses, the DDA and frankly the whole damn capitalist system have no solutions, just more of the same. Calling police on people that don’t have a house is a violent act to those seeking shelter in the community they belong to. More than 70% of Ypsi residents are renters and close to 80% of those rentals are owned by slumlord Stewart Beal. Nearly half of the black community in Ypsi is defined as living below the poverty line. With the moratorium lifted on evictions, rent increases, funding cuts on food stamps, stagnant wages and inflation pricing we are seeing more and more folks living outside, staying in their cars, in hotels and bouncing from place to place. There are way more empty homes than there are homeless people. There is no “housing crisis,” there is a crisis of people power. Power to have control over our housing and our lives. Power we have to build collectively.
We will be collaborating, organizing, and talking with others in the next few days and weeks. More information about actions and organizing will follow. To get connected, contact the Washtenaw GDC and we will plug you into this struggle.