By Henry Underwood
On January 31, members of the United Neighborhood Defense Movement (UNDM) held a rally at Austin City Hall to demand the city allocate funds from large corporations and its own budget to forgive all tenant debt, while making landlords themselves compete for the rental assistance lottery it recently introduced.
Members carried signs with slogans like “Tenants shouldn’t have to pay for the crisis of the wealthy!” as they marched across Cesar Chavez Street toward city hall, where they gathered below the steps on the building’s main facade.
“The eviction moratoriums are not the solutions; they are just kicking the can down the road,” a UNDM member said into a megaphone, adding that landlords can use contract loopholes and intimidation techniques to force tenants out of their homes, despite the moratoriums. “We absolutely do not accept these terms.”
“We demand that the ruling class and the government of this country pay for [tenants’] debt. They’re making hand-over-fist during this economic crisis, and they damn sure should be the ones who pay for it,” he said. “Not us.”
The speaker also denounced the city’s rental assistance lottery program as an attempt to pit tenants against one another and undermine working class organizing. “This is a classic move by the ruling class, and we refuse to fall for it,” he added. “Why don’t they make landlords compete for it?”
“We have seen in other cities how organization has kept tenants housed,” he continued. “We need to organize and come together and fight back, because we know that none of these politicians are going to keep us housed.”
During the speech, members unfurled a banner directly above the main entrance to city hall from the second floor balcony, reading “Make the government and corporations pay for rent forgiveness!”
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