On Tuesday December 6, 2011 we took a stand. We took a stand against stealing people’s property in the name of recovery. We also took a stand to save a space we care enough about to rebuild with our own hands. This is a space that was active before I arrived in New Orleans, but I am determined to work with my family of comrades to get it back in fighting shape. Survivors’ Village isn’t just community space; it is a home base for those who understand the radical transformation necessary for us all to achieve liberation. And in this realization and the impending detriment that a loss of this space could be to realizing our vision and bringing it into the everyday reality bit by bit, we knew we had to stand up and shout “Stop!”
Sometimes a battle is dropped on your front door and demands that you are the one(s) to make change happen, you are called as the one(s) to start/finish/progress this fight. Well that is what happened when we were told that the City of New Orleans was trying to sell New Day Survivors’ Village through a Sheriff’s Sale. Not only was a piece of our livelihood being threatened, but we were also alerted to the injustice that is being illegally perpetrated against unable homeowners.
Survivors’ Village was not served notice that it was one of the properties to be auctioned at a forthcoming Sheriff’s Sale until less than a month before it was to be held. A $575.00 blight fine that had ballooned to over $9,000 after daily penalties were tacked on was what put the sale into motion. The amount of the daily penalties, being greater than half of the initial fine, per day. Months before the decision to put the property up for auction, the initial blight sighted had been remedied and improvements on the rest of the property were constantly being planned and carried out. We had not been notified that there was an ever increasing fee being lobbied against the property, nor were we aware that they decided to sell it.
Does the city really believe this is the best way to deal with blight? It appears to be an easy way to remove property from the hands of those that are poor and limited in their resources and ability to finish the necessary work on their homes. And with the lack of due process, in getting a judge’s order (a law has been implemented making this obsolete) or hiring a non affiliated curator to receive court documents on behalf of the defendant, who never receives them, the city is making it apparent that they are not concerned with reconnecting homeowners and displaced New Orleanians with their homes. But instead are satisfied being a huge obstacle for poor and displaced homeowners while placing advantage in the hands of the privileged who can buy, renovate and make a profit on these homes, further gentrifying New Orleans in the process.
As this picture became clearer we knew that the issue wasn’t just Survivors’ Village, it was this whole corrupt process. In a serendipitous fashion Occupy Wall Street declared December 6, 2011 a day of action against foreclosures. And since the City decided it was a creditor that was going to perform code lien seizures and then auction off these foreclosed upon homes after subsequent non payment of unfair fines. The Sheriff’s Sale was a perfect platform from which to decry the lopsided favor of the City. Many of the volunteers working to restore Survivors’ Village had been in some way or at some time engaged with the Occupy NOLA encampment, so reaching out to link our actions was the natural next step.
There was immediacy in the planning due to the impending sale, so we congregated together with a crew of dedicated activists that were willing to sit through long meetings and democratically come up with a strategy to stop this sale. It can be difficult to achieve consensus and a unified vision for how things should be done. We didn’t always agree on what we were hoping to realistically achieve, how confrontational we should be with the bidders or the wording of our message, but in the end consensus was reached, which is necessary reinforcement to further our fight for the reclamation of true democracy and must be practiced as a pinnacle radical value.
As a group we thought that our action to disrupt and possibly prevent the Sheriff’s stolen property sale could be disbanded quickly and we would be threatened with arrest, so we prioritized the language that needed to be delivered first. We had decided that this was not the most strategic time to take arrests, we would get in there, say our piece while holding it up for as long as possible and then either be off or stay in a silent protest with signage, depending on the level of police suppression; a guerilla strategy for the initial incitement.
Every time the auctioneer spoke through his microphone to begin the auction, our mic check illuminating and vilifying the process leading up to and including the auction would begin. The auctioneer would try to speak over us, but “the people united will never be defeated.” We mic checked, sang and chanted intermittently and rotating, deciding that if he wasn’t trying to proceed then we could save our voices and just be present in protest. After an hour and a half of this back and forth, start and stop, the police finally gave us a warning. We overestimated how long we would be tolerated and perhaps they overestimated how long we were willing to stay, which was longer than many of the potential bidders did. We gave two collective speeches after the first warning and then remained silent throughout the rest of the auction.
The auction did go on after two hours delayed, but we felt successful. Our will was felt and our home base was spared, it being virtually unsaleable due to taxes placed on it, which are not even applicable to the New Day nonprofit which owns Survivors’ Village (sometimes not doing paperwork on time is a benefit).
Another success was in connecting with people who are directly affected by this practice and these sales. A man at the auction asked for our help in stopping his house from being sold, so his property was included in the mic check, “do not bid on property…” was the demand. And even though his house opened at a low cost, it too was not bid on.
He was basically in the same position we were in, and the city refused to waive the extra outrageous daily fees and have him just pay the $575 even though he had complied with blight removal. It’s these people who don’t have the resources that we have (limited as they are) to fight the city, that are the most vulnerable and need to be represented; it’s for these people that we stand up and shout “STOP NOW!” It is for them and with all of those struggling with housing injustices that we will continue to fight until it is acknowledged and purported, that housing is a human right.
Survivors Village joined forces today with recently evicted Occupy NOLA protestors to successfully disrupt a Sheriff’s sale of foreclosed properties. Delaying the sale for two hours, the protestors chanted:
“This auction is illegal and immoral. It is a way to steal homes, redistribute wealth and prevent the right to return. The sale of blighted property is the city’s attempt to remove poor homeowners who have already suffered tremendously from economic and natural disaster. Blight has become an excuse to gentrify. Charging poor homeowners outrageous fees in order to steal their homes is an underhanded way to keep people displaced. Stop capitalizing off of crisis! This process is corrupt! You are stealing homes! STOP NOW!”
The sale was scheduled to begin at noon. At approximately 1:45 pm, after several potential buyers had already left, the police arrived and threatened the nonviolent protestors with arrest. Before declaring that the remainder of their protest would be silent, the protestors announced their intention to physically defend any properties sold: “We will be in court. We will be in the streets. We will be in the houses–defending them, boarding them up, and occupying them”
Protestors specifically identified two properties and successfully urged buyers not to purchase them. The Fight Back Center, a long-time community center in the St. Bernard neighborhood in New Orleans’ 7th ward was slated to be auctioned at today’s sale despite city personnel having acknowledged that there were numerous legal problems with the process. “This is community space and we will fight to keep it that way,” protestors declared.
Protestors also urged buyers not to purchase the home of an individual who had approached them to express thanks for what they were doing. The individual’s home had been completely renovated, but the city refused his offer to pay the $575 fine that had been assessed, refusing to waive the thousands of dollars in fines that accrued daily since the home was declared blighted. He was financially unable to pay these fees and thus faced loss of his home. Following the protestors’ declared intention to defend these properties, neither received a minimum bid and thus remained unsold.
Protestors also distributed flyers educating the crowd about the realities of the auction. The flyers declared:
“This is an auction of stolen properties. When a property in New Orleans is declared ‘blighted’ it is because homeowners are unable to complete the necessary work on their properties to comply with the city’s codes. The city gives the homeowner a fine of $575 and orders the homeowner to finish renovation or demolition of the property within thirty days and pay the fine or face additional fees of up to $500 per day. When poor homeowners are charged thousands of dollars each week—money they would put into their homes if they had it—the city leaves them no choice but to go bankrupt or hand over their properties. This is state sanctioned theft under the guise of “recovery.”
The protestors’ disruption at the Sheriff’s sale occurred less than eight hours after Occupy NOLA was itself evicted from their encampment at Duncan Plaza. Around 4 pm, Occupy NOLA was issued a temporary restraining order by U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey who said he was “not happy” that the city opted to clear the camp while a motion for a TRO was pending.
Today’s protest was also carried out in solidarity with a call from Occupy Wall Street, who declared December 6 a day of action on the foreclosure crisis.
View videos of today’s protest at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FYTocI1MGU&feature=youtu.be
(Lower 9th Ward Village & Survivors Village)
Premiering Saturday, Sept 17th at 12 noon
hand made crafts and furnishings from young men currently incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola
Fresh fruits and vegetables
red beans and rice, bar b q, boiled shrimp, turkey necks, corn and potatoes
beer, soft drinks, ice tea, and water
located at: The New Day Center
across from the 3800 block of St. Bernard Ave.
3820 Alfred St.; New Orleans, La. 70122
email@example.com 504 -239-2907
The Katrina Commemoration Committee will sponsor its annual march from the base of the Industrial Canal in the 9th ward to Hunters Field on the 29th of August 2011.
Last year the prevailing thought was that the 5th year event was going to be the last chance to really make a statement because after that the media and others around the country/world would definitely move on to other events and disasters. That is probably true from a media marketing perspective, but for those of us that lived and are still living the disaster, moving on is not an option. The storm that brushed by New Orleans on August 29, 2005 was never the cause of the disaster. The shoddy work of the U.S. Government that led to the levee failures and flooded the city was only the beginning of our troubles. The real disaster began immediately after the storm when the city’s white supremacist economic elite and its “colored” collaborators decided to remake the city in their image, which strongly resembles a 21st century plantation. These collaborators which included the mayor, city council, head of HUD, and almost every black elected official, thought that the plan would only affect the poor, who they never represented anyway! They were not only unprincipled, but pretty misguided in not realizing that the majority of people in New Orleans were working poor and anything that affected them would change all the power relationships in the city.
It started almost immediately with the governor labeling blacks in New Orleans looters and giving the police department and National Guard the power to shoot to kill. This was parroted by the then mayor. We now can see how that worked out. Then the state took control of the public school system, firing all the experienced teachers and breaking the union. This was done for the expressed purpose of privatizing the industry, so now profit is the goal, not serving the children. Then it was decided that certain areas in the city should not be repopulated; all of these areas such as New Orleans East, the Lower Ninth ward, and all of the traditional public housing developments were areas that were almost exclusively black and working class. Then the decision was made to not open the public hospital that was a critical life line for the black working poor community.
Then the political attacks began, and are still going on!! Though the city is only 30% white, the white supremacist economic elite has used the weakened state of the black community— as well as the failure of blacks, other people of color, and progressive whites to forge any kind of united front–to take away any semblance of power by blacks and people of color in the city. All of the major power bases in the city that were majority black are now majority white. This includes the mayor, city council, district attorney, police chief, school superintendent, and judges elected since the storm; in fact any position of power that has been filled since the storm has most likely been filled by a white person or a non New Orleans native. This has been accompanied by a sustained war against the poor, the homeless and all other lower working class persons in the city. Since New Orleans was declared a blank slate, we are the social experimental lab of the world. Anyone with money and a new idea…come to New Orleans…”they will accept anything.”
This is just meant to be a sample of what has happened to the city since the storm. As a native New Orleanian and a Black person, I could go on and on with examples of how sad it feels to be politically and economically powerless in my own city. Suffice it to say calling this a 21st century plantation is not meant to be a joke.
All people that believe in social justice should make it a point to march on August 29th. We cannot afford to move on because the disaster is not over; it’s an ongoing living event that seems to get worse each year since 2005. Therefore we must march each year in order to remind ourselves that we are in a fight and cannot rest!! We have lost many battles, but the war is ongoing and we must not quit!
I hope to see you at the levee breech on the 29th!
AND after the march and program at Hunters field, everyone is invited to join the residents and former residents of the St. Bernard community in their annual
“UNITY IN THE COMMUNITY
CELEBRATION OF LIFE”
3820 Alfred St
(the 3800 block of St. Bernard Ave.)
All residents of St. Bernard and the city of New Orleans are invited to COMMEMORATE the 6th year anniversary of the flooding of New Orleans
at the NEW DAY/RISNG SUN St. Bernard “FIGHTBACK CENTER”
following the citywide commemoration march and 2nd line from the lower 9th ward to Hunters Field
DATE: August 29, 2011
PLACE: 3800 block of St. Bernard Ave.
TIME: 4 p. m. until…….
BRING YOUR CHILDREN, YOUR GRILLS, YOUR BOILERS, YOUR FOOD……
AND MOST OF ALL,
your love for each other and your community!!
for more information call Endesha @ 239-2907