By Mike Talavera
On June 30, the United Neighborhood Defense Movement (UNDM) launched its website with a post announcing its formation. The national housing struggle organization is starting with chapters in Los Angeles, Austin, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, and San Marcos.
“The current crisis of capitalism demands greater unity and preparation,” the post reads. “The housing struggle can not be limited to just one neighborhood, or one city, or even one state – it must be united across all of these in order to take on the forces that toy with our homes, communities, and lives!”
In a separate post, UNDM called for a national rent strike day of action on the first of the July. “We call on organizations across the country to host demonstrations and agitate in the neighborhoods where rent strikes are happening,” the post reads. “If no rent strikes are happening where you are, agitate on the need for rent strikes, and to support them nationally.”
On the national day of action in Austin, UNDM organized tenants from four apartment complexes owned by the same slumlord company to deliver their demands to management, traveling to each site and giving speeches. Each complex has tenants on rent strike.
In Pittsburgh, UNDM activists and tenants called for a rent strike outside a slumlord’s leasing office and agitated to tenants who were there to pay their rent in-person. In Charlotte, activists agitated outside the courthouse with a banner which read, “Resist evictions! Unemployment [checks are] not enough, Cancel all back rent” and agitated passersby with chants like “Resist evictions, we won’t go!” UNDM activists also dropped a banner in Los Angeles and agitated for rent strikes at a popular intersection in the Boyle Heights neighborhood.
UNDM did not appear out of thin air but as the result of anti-gentrification and tenant organizations around the country struggling towards greater unity. Defend Our Hoodz in Austin, Defend Boyle Heights in Los Angeles, and Rent Strike San Marcos all made their own posts notifying their supporters of their joining the new organization.
“We will never forget Defend Our Hoodz – and of course, Austin will never forget us!” the DOH post reads. “We know that we have helped lead the fight to defend our neighborhoods in ways that have shaken this city and made ruling class landlords, developers and politicians tremble. Those enemies are still right to be nervous – because this transformation does not mean the end of the work that has threatened them – but actually signals a shift into an even greater threat to their hold over our communities – a United Neighborhood Defense Movement ready to take them on!”
UNDM acknowledges the past struggles of its chapters on the website, highlighting DBH’s support of mariachis in the renowned Mariachi Plaza, DOH’s campaign against the Domain on Riverside in southeast Austin, and the fight against slumlord Peter Patterson in Pittsburgh. As evidence of these fights continuing under the new organization, the Pittsburgh UNDM chapter reported that Patterson’s daughter Kelsey and her co-manager were recently suspended in response to ongoing protests by tenants.
Concluding its launch statement, UNDM called for a national conference this year to have political debates and establish deeper organization and unity. They encourage interested organizations and individuals to message them at email@example.com for more information about attending.
Tribune of the People extends congratulations and solidarity, long live UNDM!