By Blake Garrison and Jakob Stein
The United Neighborhood Defense Movement (UNDM) carried out actions in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles this past week demanding, among other protections, an end to evictions for non-payment and the collection of back rent.
In Pittsburgh, activists hung a banner reading, “The UNDM Demands: An End to All Evictions for Nonpayment, Government and Corporations Pay Back Rent” in the front yard of Mayor Bill Peduto’s home. The mayor was targeted specifically because he has the authority to declare an eviction moratorium under his executive powers but has sidestepped responsibility, claiming he needs city council support.
Last year when City Councilwoman Deb Gross added an eviction moratorium amendment to a larger emergency measure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peduto’s chief of staff, Daniel Gilman, sent a memo telling Gross to withdraw the “hostile” amendment and pass the measure without eviction protections.
UNDM also hung a banner outside of the city-county building in downtown Pittsburgh with all five of their demands, which included the forgiveness of rent debts, a 50 percent decrease in rent for families making less than $100,000 per year, and the turning over of public housing to the people.
At the demonstration, they chanted, “No evictions, no back rent, we won’t pay a single cent!” One tenant who has faced eviction twice in the past year gave a speech on the building steps, asking why the working class is expected to take the fall for the ruling class’s failures.
“You’re telling me you can bail out big companies and big businesses, but yet you refuse to bail out tenants, when shelter should never be a commodity! [To] Guarantee what tenants owe is a speck of dust! If you can do it for these big corporations, and you have, and continue to, why can’t you do it for us?”
In Los Angeles, tenants and activists with the Los Angeles Tenants’ Union (LATU) and UNDM held a protest at the offices of LB Property Management (LBPM), the managers of the Sinclair LA apartments in the neighborhood of Westlake. The activists have been organizing at the complex over the past several months due to management’s unwillingness to maintain the building as well as evicting a tenant in the midst of the deepening economic crisis and COVID-19 pandemic.
The protesters entered the LBPM building carrying banners that read, “Stop Evictions!” and “Tenants Unite against LB Property Management, Fight for Better Conditions!” and posted their ten demands on the wall, which included an end to both evictions and the collection of back rent, as well as numerous repairs to the building, lowering rent, giving notice before entering tenants’ units, and an end to harassment. Other protesters rallied outside the building, temporarily blocking cars from leaving, while chanting, “Repair the Sinclair, We Aren’t Going Anywhere!” and shouted down one of LBPM’s executives, Brian Theobold, when he came out to record the activists.
Both chapters of UNDM have made their position clear that working-class tenants should not pay for the deepening imperialist crisis, which leaves so many without the means to pay for the basic necessity of shelter.
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