By Ed Dalton
Over a dozen Tenants at Springdale Gardens, who have been organizing a rent strike against slum conditions, received notices to vacate in the middle of last week. In response, Defend Our Hoodz (DOH), a housing struggle organization, organized a speak-out protest against management, evictions, and accumulation of rent during the economic shut-down.
Although the notices to vacate are not legal, and the city has imposed a stop on evictions, the management and Springdale Gardens uses the letters as a form of intimidation, and coercion to prevent further organizing, and to bleed money from those who have no income. Management at the complex has already been forced to grant the first of 15 demands put forward by activists and tenants, resulting in the firing of the former property manager Regina Wright.
According to DOH, activists reached out to the ruling class media, who first attempted to claim that it was unsafe to go out during the stay-at-home order, then changed their position to argue that they were just too busy to cover the illegal eviction and intimidation attempts against some of the poorest working class communities. When those who have nothing are tossed into the streets, there is a media blackout.
The community at Springdale Gardens came together to carry out their protest and speak out on Saturday, tenants and activists disregarded the stay at home order, finding it necessary to fight back so that they can keep homes to stay at. They chanted against the property owner Mr. Charles, “they told us to stay inside, Mr. Charles wants us out to die.” They held signs that read “Rent Strike! No rent without work or wages!” “The city doesn’t protect tenants, organize neighborhood defense” and a large red banner reading “stop all evictions, fight back against slumlords.”
While working class tenants are required by law to shelter in place, and thrust into mass unemployment, parasitic landlords remain committed to tossing those who cannot pay out into the streets. DOH vows to fight this with anti-eviction brigades that they have begun to organize in multiple complexes across the city.
The illegal notices to vacate, were given out due to non-payment and stated that: “Further, demand is hereby made on you to quit the premises…if you do not vacate the premises before the 11th day of the date of receipt of this notice, then a suit will be filed against you in a court with jurisdiction, and we will ask the court to force you to vacate the premises. In this event, we will also ask the court to require you to pay the landlord’s cost and attorney fees.”
What the notice to vacate issued by the slumlord fails to mention is that on April 10 Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt issued an order to all property owners in the county prohibiting from evicting or even issuing notices to vacate. This order is active until May 10, weeks after the deadline on the notice to vacate issued to the Springdale Gardens tenants, making the notice itself illegal and each notice punishable by a $1000 fine or up to 180 days in jail. Given this, the utter disregard and contempt for people’s well-being is on full display from Mr. Charles.
Laws and orders put in place are often circumvented by the slumlord, or not enforced by the Fire marshal or Sheriff’s Department. It takes an organized and combative community to overcome the pressure from the landlord, and Springdale Gardens is proving to be up to the task. Whatever will be won by the tenants at Springdale Gardens will be won through fighting and rising in protest as they have done.