Judge orders encampment at University City Townhomes to be dismantled Monday

from mainstream media

“The encampment is trespassing on private property,” the judge said.

Signs erected outside of the University City Townhomes in Phila., Pa. where an encampment and protest has been ordered to end.
Signs erected outside of the University City Townhomes in Phila., Pa. where an encampment and protest has been ordered to end.ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

A judge has ordered that the protest encampment at University City Townhomes in West Philadelphia be cleared out by 9 a.m. Monday.

“The encampment is trespassing on private property and I have ordered it to be dismantled” by the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office, Common Pleas Court Judge Joshua Roberts said during a hearing held via Zoom on Thursday afternoon.

The encampment, a mix of tenants and supporters, was formed with around 15 tents and a border of wooden pallets on the sidewalk nearly a month ago in response to the efforts by IBID Associates, owners of the townhomes, to sell the property for redevelopment.

Calling the judge’s ruling “absurd b.s.,” townhomes resident Krystal Young, 28, said Thursday night that people of the encampment have decided they will resist any attempt to break it up.

“We are gonna stand up and defend ourselves,” she said, without elaborating.

Darlene Foreman, 60, a member of the People’s Townhomes Residents Council, an encampment leadership group, concurred with Young.

“We are gonna do what we need to do, the best way we can,” she said. Asked to explain, Foreman said: “I can’t give you all the secrets.”

The 2.7-acre affordable-housing complex sits at 40th and Market Streets. As many as 69 primarily Black and Hispanic families are set to be displaced.

On July 22, Roberts issued the original order saying the encampment would have to be disbanded.

News of the Monday clear-out didn’t surprise people at the encampment, who had expected this outcome.

That didn’t make the judge’s order any easier to accept.

“This process is turning us upside down,” said Foreman, one of two townhomes residents who spoke during the court proceeding. “We feel disrespected. We could wind up living in some of the tents.”

A statement from IBID last month called the encampment “an unfortunate and ill-advised decision.” Those who gathered there had “no legal right to assemble,” it said.

In an unusual back-and-forth during the hearing between Roberts and attorney Daniel McElhatton, who represents IBID, McElhatton referenced the clear-out, and strongly suggested to the judge that anyone refusing the order to vacate should be “taken into custody.”

“I’m not going to do that,” Roberts responded.

“How about putting them on a bus and sending them to Baltimore?” McElhatton said.

Roberts didn’t respond directly to the remark. But he said: “Everyone is going to be asked to leave. No one will be detained.”

McElhatton didn’t respond to requests for comment.

IBID has owned and operated the townhomes for 40 years.

In 1982, the federal government agreed to make housing-assistance payments to IBID in exchange for IBID’s development and leasing of dwelling units on the property at subsidized rents, according to court records.

Once the 20-year term expired in July, IBID had a choice to renew its contract with HUD or opt out of the housing-assistance program.

In statements and conversations, people participating in the protest encampment have said that they wish to remain in the fast-gentrifying neighborhood, and that they’d be uncomfortable if compelled to relocate to areas outside West Philadelphia.

Tenants will be given housing vouchers, but they fear landlords won’t take the vouchers and they won’t be able to find affordable housing because of an ongoing shortage.

The townhomes are in the Black Bottom neighborhood, a historically Black neighborhood.

The property has long been zoned for commercial mixed use, which allows for high-density commercial office, research and development, and residential uses, court records show.

“Unfortunately, the owners are entitled to sell the property or do with it as they wish,” said Dennis Culhane, professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania and a national expert on homelessness.

“However, it’ll mean a net decline in low-income units.”

The program that the federal government used to offer favorable terms to IBID in exchange for making affordable housing available doesn’t exist in the same form that it did decades ago, Culhane said.

Because the government no longer makes these deals, there isn’t a pipeline of low-cost housing for people who need it.

“We have an affordable-housing shortage in this city,” Culhane noted.

Philly Eviction Defense Community Meeting

from Instagram

Find your place in the fight for housing!
-Learn how to research your local landlords
-Join and build eviction support networks
-Help create zines, pamphlets, and posters on tenants rights Where: Clark Park, corner of 45th and Chester Ave
When: June 25th at 4pm

International Exchange on Housing Justice: Learning from LA PAH (Spain)

from Making World Books

How should we welcome people at assemblies? How should an assembly-based, decentralized movement be organized? How can we carry out non-violent direct action? How should we negotiate with others? How can we change narratives and perceptions? How can we harness the power of the streets? Many move­ments answer these questions over time through trial and error, but PAH aims to contribute to the debate by reflecting on its own experiences and presenting them in this manual. We take a step back and analyze the practices that have allowed our movement to overcome a series of obstacles and have a far-reaching impact on Spanish society, both materially and ideologically.

The Plataforma de Afectadas por la Hipoteca (PAH) (the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages) in particular has instigated a paradigm shift in terms of viewing housing as an inalienable human right and demonstrated the strength of collective action in the pursuit of greater social justice. It has shown that there are ways of making the personal political and transforming struggles based initially on personal dramas into large, organized movements that challenge the authorities and wider society.

Members of the PAH will be here to exchange critical lessons with housing activists based on the recently produced La PAH: A Handbook.This manual describes the essence of PAH and pays tribute to the platform’s history and efforts to obtain decent housing for all, targeting an international audi­ence that views its achievements as a ray of hope.

[April 16 3:00 PM 4:30 PM Making Worlds Bookstore & Social Center 210 South 45th Street]

Saboteurs of Rent

from Hypocrite Reader

Get (the fuck) out, slumlord, parasite, hoarded wealth, they graffitied in black or red permutations on the walls and fences of nine vacant homes in West Oakland, California, stolen land they said, held in the portfolio of Sullivan Management Company (SMC) East Bay. Later that morning of May 2, 2021, an anonymous group released a communiqué claiming the actions through Indybay, a local independent media site. The group called SMC’s owner, Neil Sullivan, one of the biggest evictors in the region, “predatory” and the vacancies a “violent force.” These vacancies’ violence manifested in at least two forms: upward pressure on rents by limiting the rental stock; that they are vacant while growing numbers lose housing. On one fence the group painted, “BLACK PEOPLE USED TO LIVE HERE.” “As long as these houses are not functioning as shelter or materiel resource for those who need them most, we must disable and disarm them as weapons of extraction and poker chips for the rich in their apocalyptic games,” the anonymous group wrote, going on to invite others to take similar actions.

To my knowledge, no such sabotage has yet followed in West Oakland or elsewhere in the East Bay area, though in the preceding days and years SMC had been the target of other kinds of direct action and organizing. On May 1, for example, local houseless solidarity group House the Bay demonstrated how to open up a vacant home to house unhoused people—by opening up another vacant SMC unit, setting up an installation inside and circulating propaganda illustrating how to do just that, and holding a block party there and in the street. Throughout the pandemic many of those who rent from SMC organized themselves into what they call SMC Tenant Council. Tenant councils or tenant associations are organizations of tenants living in the same building or sharing a landlord, convened to apply collective pressure on an intransigent landlord. Like other such groups in the tenants’ movement in this period, this council fought a rent strike in the name of rent cancellation, and when SMC struck back with eviction threats they successfully parried. Not only has the desire to see some of these tactics repeated been frustrated, this assembled diversity—rent strikes, home expropriations, and anti-landlord sabotage—is seen together all too rarely; I know of no other contemporary campaign which has integrated these tactics (I use campaign here broadly; the anonymous group indicated in their communiqué they aren’t associated with others).

Participants and documenters of the housed and unhoused tenants’ movement, including myself, have given much attention to the rise of publicized home expropriations and rent strikes in recent years. As for expropriations, Oakland’s Moms 4 Housing, Los Angeles’ Reclaiming Our Homes, and Philadelphia’s OccupyPHA have animated the imaginations of both those who have hoped for such reclamations and those who’ve wondered how to house those without. Of the aforementioned only the Moms’ occupation preceded the pandemic; rent strikes had already been becoming a more commonly rehearsed tactic in the tenants’ movement’s repertoire—thanks in no small part to LA Tenants Union, the largest autonomous tenants union in North America. “Tenants union” typically refers to a body that supports, coordinates, and agitates tenant associations, while the term autonomous indicates independence from institutional funding, a reliance on member funding, and, usually, volunteers rather than staff. As unemployment spread with the chaos of COVID-19, so too did rent strikes and autonomous tenant unions supporting them. In October 2020 a continent-wide federation of such unions, the Autonomous Tenant Union Network (ATUN), held its founding convention. I participated in that convention as a member of the Bay Area’s Tenant and Neighborhood Councils.

As our points of unity testify, ATUN does not believe the housing affordability crisis can be ended without the end of capitalist, colonialist landlordism. Many in this tendency of the tenants’ movement approach our efforts as gathering social forces for revolution by building an independent and agitated support base—by building what some call dual power. By assembling, as the thinking often goes, independent institutions of proletarian tenant power, such as tenant associations and tenant unions, we assemble a force capable of challenging and supplanting that of landlords, capital, and the state in a forthcoming moment of general social crisis. Generally, the dual power account explains this pro-revolutionary potential through the development of the capacities of organizations—it does not provide an etiology of direct actions, such as the home expropriations which spread in the earlier pandemic phases or the anti-landlord sabotage which did not. Direct actions and their consequences can and do spread, intensify, and accumulate more or less independently from organizations, particularly if one understands the term organization to refer only to groups that are formally constituted, as many advocates of dual power tend to understand the term. The role such actions, the informal organizations that sometimes enact them, and their consequences can play in promoting a revolutionary process must also be interpreted.

The late abolitionist communist Noel Ignatiev composed an explanation of the relation between direct action and dual power, a strategy he called creative provocation. Looking to the acts of abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison and John Brown in provoking a cycle of reactions and actions leading up to the Civil War—which he, after WEB Du Bois, reads as the United States’ true revolution—Ignatiev argues that our acts need not necessarily result in observable victories in the present for them to fan embers into the wind that carries them to future conflagration. “[T]he abolitionists…sought to divide all who could be divided, draw a clear line between themselves and the moderates, and establish themselves as a distinct pole against the consensus on the [moderates’] side” and in doing so push the opposition to greater recklessness, leading to the secession that made the Civil War possible. Creative provocation is roughly the inverse of the more widely-held theory of the radical flank effect most commonly exemplified by the oversimplification that Malcolm X’s radicalism made Martin Luther King Jr.’s reformism appear more reasonable. Where this iteration of radical flank theory would explain how to lay ground for compromise, creative provocation does so for revolution; rather than pull the opposition to a newly safe middle, creative provocation cuts the cord between agonists and makes confrontation necessary.

Proponents of dual power in the tenants’ movement may not always have a theory for how home expropriations contribute to their pro-revolutionary strategy—nonetheless they see in them, more or less clearly, a glimpse of the hoped-and-striven-for time to come. More opaque perhaps, if even looked to, is anti-landlord sabotage such as the anonymous West Oakland vandalism of May 2, an ensemble of tactics which may have equal if not greater potential to provoke. Some may, some have, even claim(ed) sabotage jeopardizes the viability of the movement by alienating the public or soliciting state repression, demanding tenants engage only in so-called non-violent direct action, taking the conservative side in an old social movement controversy as to whether property destruction constitutes “violence.” But if we want a world without rent, we must consider all options.

What light might a burning building shed, a broken window refract, a graffitied wall condense, upon the revolutionary prospects of the contemporary tenants’ movement? Since 2013, Philadelphia has been home to the most sustained campaign of such sabotage that I’ve found documented, presenting a crucial case study, though that sabotage aligned itself more against gentrification than with tenants. Only in recent years has the tenants’ movement equaled if not out-scaled the anti-gentrification movement that it overlaps with, in no small part due to the multiplication of autonomous tenant unions. According to one anonymously published zine, Anti-Gentrification Direct Actions: Philadelphia 2013-2018 (AGDAP), anti-gentrification saboteurs committed more than 60 distinct acts with targets including constructions sites, cafes, and private homes, and acts including graffiti, window-breaking, construction equipment destruction, and arson. As the AGDAP timeline shows, these acts of sabotage first spiked numerically in 2015, carrying on the energy from the initial Black Lives Matter upsurge, while the peak of intensity was an arson and riot in a gentrifying neighborhood on May Day 2017. From 2017 to 2018, the number of actions more than doubled, from 10 to 25. According to one Philadelphia anarchist close to the scene from which these actions emerged, who spoke to me on the condition I refer to them only as E, this later moment drew its escalation in part from anti-Trumpism and anti-fascism. (Note that my count refers only to lines on AGDAP’s timeline since in some cases where several, or more, objects of gentrification were destroyed as part of what appear to have been or were claimed as singular coordinated efforts.)

The first couple documented acts occurred eight months apart in January and August 2013 in the Point Breeze neighborhood of South Philadelphia. An article in the local anarchist periodical Anathema from July 2015, “On the Recent Attacks Against Gentrification,” described Point Breeze as “rapidly gentrifying” over the preceding four years, with median incomes increasing from $77,300 to $115,000 and the white population growing by 30 percent. As in West Oakland, the Philadelphians started with graffiti—defacing a few new residential buildings with abstract lines. An action that August targeted a coffee house owned and bearing the name of the developer and landlord OCF Realty, helmed by later city council hopeful Ori Feibush; saboteurs threw concrete through the coffee shop’s windows the same morning the local community organization Point Breeze Organizing Committee (PBOC) marched to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Feibush, who had been in conflict with PBOC over his development efforts, accused PBOC of the attack. PBOC denied responsibility and condemned the vandals, advocating for a criminal investigation and non-violent protest only, accusing them of being provocateurs and part of a supposed tradition of violent tactics that had jeopardized movements going back to the Civil Rights Era. E told me that OCF Realty had likely been targeted due to the attention PBOC had brought to their gentrifying activity—which, E explained, involved a strategy “where they put like fancier cafes in the neighborhoods they were going to gentrify as like a little foothold and then they’ll also like start flipping houses and like renting stuff out and building developments.”

For whatever reason, whether because of backlash from PBOC or something else, AGDAP records no further actions until 2015, when, again, they picked up, perhaps emboldened by a national movement upsurge whose tactics often incorporated property destruction. The first several actions of 2015 again targeted OCF and Feibush. By then, Feibush was running for city council against Kenyatta Johnson, who was endorsed by PBOC and other progressive community organizations. Twice that March, anti-Feibush graffiti popped up in Point Breeze, the first time accompanied by posters and the second time vandalizing his campaign office. Toward the end of the month, an OCF company car’s tires were punctured in West Philadelphia. In April, someone graffitied “Don’t vote 4 Ori” in Point Breeze, leading Feibush to finally snap and blame, again without evidence, his opponent Johnson for the series of sabotages. PBOC again published a statement, this time withholding respectability politics and focusing criticism on Feibush’s history of dishonesty regarding such attacks. One might speculate that the changed social movement environment had altered the tone of PBOC’s response. A fifth attack on OCF upped the ante—destroying several locks and windows at two vacant homes of theirs in South Philadelphia. Johnson defeated Feibush, with Feibush doing especially poorly in Point Breeze. (It so happens that Johnson and his political consultant wife Dawn Chavous were indicted in 2020 on 22 counts from racketeering to fraud, all related to abusing his influence over development-related zoning.)

That June, Anathema republished communiqués claiming the sabotages of cars and vacant buildings in late March and April. In the first of the communiqués, the saboteurs invited others to “let the yuppies and developers know they are not welcome” by “creat[ing] environments hostile to gentrification,” giving instructions about how to pop a car tire and explaining that it’s “a fast and easy way to cause damage to our enemies,” with two tires taking less than two minutes. A group calling itself the Radical Action Network wrote the second communiqué, saying they were “following the lead of the rebels of Ferguson and Baltimore,” justifying their acts “because we are tired of living in a system that constructs houses for the rich, while the poor and working class people get nothing but more police, more jails, more budget cuts, more misery.” Anathema included a third communiqué in the issue, which described the removal of surveillance cameras from a construction site in West Philadelphia’s University City district. The anonymous authors justified their attack in similar terms to the other two communiqués, emphasizing both the simplicity of the action as well as the connection between gentrification and policing. They added, “[t]he removal of surveillance cameras makes room for other more damaging anti-gentrification attacks to be taken with less risk” and expressed excitement for the emerging series of such attacks.

A couple more sabotages occurred in June and July 2015, including graffiti reading “FUCK CONDOS” thrown up on a development in University City and white paint splattered on another OCF Realty car. The introduction to ADGAP explains some of the focus on University City, where Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania were massively gentrifying West Philadelphia ostensibly on behalf of their students and professors. According to one report, between 2000-2016, the Black population of West Philadelphia declined 35 percent while the white grew 74 percent, with median rents rising 27 percent and median home prices 169 percent.

That summer, Philadelphia anarchists in the area began to specifically defend and promote sabotage as a worthwhile anti-gentrification tactic, writing pieces independent from claiming responsibility for particular actions. I’ve already discussed how the Anathema article from July, “On the Recent Attacks Against Gentrification,” explained some of the focus on Point Breeze. The authors also criticized the tactical narrowness of PBOC and their respectability politics as betraying an opportunity for solidarity. Contrary to the claim that sabotage undermines the movement, the authors argue that sabotage’s positive legacy spans not only the Civil Rights Era but also the more recent earth liberation struggles and the much earlier fight for colonial independence. Instead of competition and betrayal among the factions of the anti-gentrification movement, they advocate at least “avoid[ing] public denunciations and endorsements of police intervention” and at most “stand[ing] behind [sabotage] publicly and be[ing] explicit that different methods exist within the same struggle,” the latter point coming from a position usually called diversity of tactics. Drawing on the anarchist principle of favoring direct action over actions intended to influence politicians, the authors argue that sabotage and expropriation, in concert and among other tactics, “can put a real damper on development” through dissuading the economic agents thereof. They also argue that it’s worthwhile to enact one’s “frustrations with class society” by taking pleasure in destroying that society’s artifacts. Finally, they claim “that every attack is an invitation to act, a call to others to revolt.”

The next month, the anarchist blog Philly Anti-Capitalist published the anonymous “A Concerted Effort Against Gentrification.” “The momentum of recent actions leads us to believe that now is an especially good moment to call for a focused opposition to gentrification,” wrote the authors. They argued that the recent attacks unveil the often concealed violence of gentrification, which, through the displacement of Black residents, is part of the broader violence against which Black Lives Matter moves. These actions “have created a momentum outside of the institutional left” and in this autonomy built the capacity of individuals and groups to take further autonomous action. And as increasing gentrification makes possible the spread and escalation of sabotage across neighborhoods, “resistance will become harder to control.” Such resistance, taking the form of attacks against “the material processes of development,” is difficult to pacify—more difficult, the authors imply, than strategies reliant on so-called non-violent tactics. Beyond the spread of sabotage tactics, the call for concert encourages the convening of in-person reflective dialogues about anti-gentrification strategy—so as to, among other benefits, reduce the “risk of alienating with our attacks people who might otherwise understand our motives and see themselves as part of the same struggle.” Anathema reported a first such gathering happening in mid-July at an undisclosed location, while ADGAP lists another in mid-December.

The strategic reasoning in these two articles differs from, but is complementary with, that of Ignatiev’s theory of creative provocation. While creative provocation describes a process of direct action that develops dual power through action and reaction across a whole cycle of struggles, these authors, iterating on the beliefs of insurrectionary anarchism, focus on the proliferation of tactics and the accumulation of their material effects on both the actors and targets from moment to moment in an upsurging anti-gentrification movement, itself channeling energy from another overlapping movement—Black Lives Matter. E told me explicitly that insurrectionary anarchism influenced them and their peers; these writings, and the Philadelphia communiqués as well, are brimming with that tendency’s concepts. While insurrectionary anarchists indicate insurrectionism as a position organic to all radical social struggle, seeing elements initially stated by early anarchists like the Russian collectivist Mikhail Bakunin and the Italian communist Errico Malatesta, it emerged historically as a self-conscious tendency in Italy during the 1970s, as a reflection on and critique of contemporary Italian movements. It then was transmitted to the US from the 1980s to the 2000s through the anti-nuclear, earth liberation, and anti-globalization movements, where it arguably has become the predominant tendency in anarchism. Sabotage was widely promoted by insurrectionary anarchists; for example, the scene-ubiquitous insurrectionary anarchist quarterly from the late 2000s to early 2010s, Fire to the Prisons, republished an anonymous essay written some time before 2003 probably by someone(s) Spanish, “On Sabotage as One of the Fine Arts,” in a 2009 issue in which they also covered the arrest of the Tarnac 9, a French group of alleged railroad saboteurs also alleged to have authored The Coming Insurrection.

One short essay from 1989 by the Italian Alfredo Bonanno, “Anarchists and Action,” contains the essential concepts. Rather than focus on mass mobilization, anarchists “should identify single aspects of the struggle and carry them through to their conclusion of attack.” Driving toward attack, these struggles should be informally self-organized, rather than embedded in formal organizations, since formal organizations, Bonanno argues, are shaped to a greater degree by capital and tend to infect individuals with a “spreading feeling of impotence” because of the limitations on the kinds of tactics the organizations will support. Finally, rather than accepting compromises by making agreements with opponents, anarchists should insist on “permanent conflictuality.” Direct attack, self-organization, conflictuality—an insurrectionary anarchist trinity. The efficacy of these elements of strategy relies on one further notion, iterated by Bonanno, expressed by early anarchists including Bakunin: the propagandistic effect of deeds; Bonanno emphasizes that even small acts make an impression through their ease of repetition. (E speculated that as the Philadelphia sabotages proliferated, it was likely that the saboteurs included more people from outside the anarchist subculture that initially incited the actions, judging from alterations in tactics and messaging.) The accumulation of subversive acts in accordance with this insurrectionary anarchism, says Bonanno, here nearer to Ignatiev, encourages “conditions of revolt [to] emerge and latent conflict [to] develop and be brought to the fore.”

2015 closed out with a half dozen actions around West Philadelphia, including two separate banner drops against new residential developments, one accompanied by graffiti against racism. There was also graffiti on an upscale bar and a just-opened high-end restaurant called Clarkville.

The next year, the attacks continued in West Philadelphia. In early March, four buildings had their locks glued and their walls painted with messages against gentrification and the police. In late March and early April, vandals graffitied banners hung from construction sites, including a project by OCF. Late May saw Clarkville vandalized again with paint on its windows, signs, and surveillance cameras, one message reading “GENTRI GO HOME.” In the second half of the year, sabotage spread from the West. At some point in June, as part of an international call to action called the Month for the Earth and Against Capital, a construction site was hit with the most sophisticated sabotage of the anti-gentrification campaign thus far. Saboteurs destroyed machines and parts of the building, and removed survey markers. The rhythm of one sabotage a month continued until after the election of Donald Trump, which triggered, as the reader will recall, a substantial uptick in the recruitment and militancy of factions across the left (for the purposes of generalization, we’ll consider most anarchists part of the left). 2016 ended with two vandalism attacks over about two weeks, targeting the South Philadelphia offices of OCF Realty, first the walls with paint and then the windows with glass etch.

In keeping with the tactical repertoire of the ascending antifascist era, 2017’s sabotages would include some in the form of black bloc marches. Black bloc refers to marching masked and garbed in all black, grouping together with all those similarly dressed, so as to not only conceal the identities of individuals but to also make it difficult to identify who is responsible for which acts. Typically, the acts are of property destruction, although in direct confrontations with fascists, the acts often include physical assaults of persons. Before the first such bloc—which assembled on the day of Trump’s inauguration to attack luxury businesses and cars and aligned themselves with prior local efforts through graffiti like “Fuck Gentry Scum”—the year opened on January 12 with a memorial window-breaking in University City in honor of two anarchists who had died in Oakland’s Ghostship fire. From February through April, three actions targeted OCF Realty in Point Breeze: windows broken at a construction site; banners removed from a site in coordination with #DisruptMAGA propaganda; posters against gentrification and Feibush specifically were wheat-pasted throughout the area.

The next couple actions, on May Day, effected a qualitative leap in intensity—each equally reliant on sabotage’s signature anonymity, but anonymized differently, by clandestine darkness and by black mask. In the young hours of that International Workers Day, which is also, as E commented, “an anarchist holiday basically,” 11 OCF townhouses under construction—the same site where vandals broke windows in February—were lit, burned, two falling to the flames, two requiring safety demolition. The average sale price of each home, all of which were uninsured since Feibush was self-financing the project, was $587,500; Feibush claimed the damage exceeded $1 million. Despite concerns such an action might alienate the public from the anti-gentrification struggle, neighbors interviewed by the press all seemed to understand the context, as did the journalists themselves. One local professor recognized it as “classic resistance to new developers.” Another neighbor—“This particular developer has not exactly endeared himself to the Point Breeze community.” Not to be discouraged, at least publicly, Feibush wrote on Facebook that OCF wouldn’t be intimidated; “we’re not going anywhere,” he said. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives offered a $10,000 reward for the arsonist(s), on top of which Councilman Johnson offered $2,500 and Feibush $90,000 more. No communiqué appeared claiming the massive sabotage, perhaps because the heightened risk of the action discouraged those responsible from creating a paper trail, but the context lends reason to assume, as Feibush and the public did, that the arsons were part of the ongoing anti-gentrification efforts. As of the latest report from 2020, there have been no related arrests.

Black masks, paint, and broken glass followed the flames, with Philadelphia’s second anti-gentrification black bloc of the year, this time in North Philadelphia. The bloc, made up of 30 to 50 militants according to different estimates, attacked luxury cars and homes, carrying a banner reading “Gentrification is death, Revolt is Life,” dealing over $100,000 worth of damage according to one estimate. They also encountered a consequence of the risk of such a visible action, even while anonymized, even with observers aware of the motivation: a group of residents formed, outnumbering the bloc, eventually containing two of the group, whom police later arrested and charged with causing a catastrophe, criminal mischief, and other alleged crimes. Anathema in their next issue published a defense of the attacks, underscoring the value of direct action and identifying gentrification as part of a social war as old as settler colonialism against which nonviolent resistance is powerless. In a communiqué in the same issue, anonymous self-described “bitches with hammers” considered the action a step up from the Inauguration Day bloc. The writers took responsibility for the bloc’s insufficient preparation and the neighborhood and police response, noted that a couple intended targets had been missed, and recommended several tactical improvements for future blocs.

A couple milder attacks in June and July, as well as an attempted arson at another OCF development, this time in North Philadelphia, brought the year to a close. In 2018, the instances of sabotage more than doubled, more numerous than I can recount in detail. Proportionately, the focus on OCF declined, though the windows at an office and a coffee house of theirs were shattered in separate incidents. The anti-gentrification black blocs were not repeated, and, for the most part the tactics resembled those of years past—graffiti, glass breaking and etching, locks glued, cameras destroyed, banners dropped, tires popped, etc. There were at least four innovations, two tactical and two target-related. Borrowing a trick from the earth liberation movement, in February some construction equipment had its gas tank sugared (although the classic monkeywrenching field manual, Ecodefense, recommends over a dozen alternative, more effective methods to disable bulldozers and the like). Perhaps more effective was a third attack on OCF—toilets at one of their cafes were decommissioned by flushing concrete down them; this sabotage was claimed by the “Summer of Rage preseason softball team.” The phrase Summer of Rage had previously appeared in association with the May 2017 black bloc, which police took to refer to the name of a group; another construction site sabotage, graffiti, and a glue attack at a completed development on 2018’s May Day were claimed by the Summer of Rage Anarchist Crew. As for general targets, saboteurs began gluing ATMs and bike rental kiosks, presumably to limit the monetary and bodily circulation of gentrifiers. More than 40 such actions occurred between February and April. Finally, as Amazon considered a potential HQ2 in Philadelphia, the company’s infrastructure became an anti-gentrification target. Several of their lockers had their electricity cut, a Whole Foods was propagandized with fliers and a banner, and an Amazon truck was torched.

What did any of this accomplish?, one might wonder. The simplest answer, not especially useful for pro-revolutionary theory, would be little to nothing beyond the acts themselves. The authors of the AGDAP zine warn against “creat[ing] a false sense of strength,” and that “past actions [do] not mean resistance to gentrification is thriving,” writing that their hope in documenting the sabotages is to offer “memory and imagination” to all those who might choose to fight in the future. A still-darker view is available. E told me that along with insurrectionism, nihilism too was an influence of theirs, common enough amongst Philadelphia anarchists in those years. In the Anathema issue covering May 2017, the closing article on a tendency referred to as “black anarchy” (in contrast to red anarchy, such as anarchist communism or syndicalism; not to be confused with the Black anarchism developed by peoples of African descent) defines the tendency largely in terms similar to insurrectionism, but with a nihilist attitude with respect to revolution or even insurrection: “all the various ideas, concepts and conceits of an anarchist victory via revolution or insurrection in the current context are nothing more than political heroin.” The option the so-called black anarchist chooses in the face of hopelessness remains “savage attack” rather than “resignation.” If the communiqués and articles are any guide, it doesn’t seem that, at least regarding the claimed actions, nihilism was the predominant view—clearly some people at least pretended to hope for the possibility of stopping gentrification.

When I asked E about the goals of the sabotage campaign, they told me that “insurrectionary anarchy didn’t really have any sort of history like in the recent past in Philly and so like even though like a lot of the stuff was anti-gentrification I also think people wanted to like encourage the development of like practices where people attack things directly”—which clearly seems to have been successful. E added a number of other goals which seem to have been met: “[simply] being in conflict . . . whether people succeeded in stopping all of gentrification or not”; “doing damage”; “frustrating people’s efforts to gentrify”; “to like build individual or group capacity”; “having fun.” All relatively modest, and frankly worthwhile goals for any social movement campaign, reliant on property destruction or not.

Beyond the near-term failure to stop gentrification, it may still be too soon to recognize the provocative effects of these efforts—and in any case, a more comprehensive analysis than this retelling would be needed to really make an assessment. Suffice it to say that the combination in Philadelphia of vacant public housing expropriations and two militant unhoused encampments, before and during the George Floyd Rebellion, were able to win a recently unprecedented 50 vacant properties for a popular community land trust. E was careful to give the credit for that win to OccupyPHA—PHA refers to the local Housing Authority—but also said “I’m sure that that kind of anti-gentrification stuff in this like kind of uncompromising way made space for things like stealing houses to be more acceptable.” Propaganda of the deed, and all that.

With the West Oakland sabotage of SMC in mind—where vandals once targeted the same landlord as did expropriators and a tenant council—one can’t help but wonder what might have been, what might still be possible, in Philadelphia if the saboteurs coordinated, indirectly or otherwise, with tenant association organizing and home expropriation campaigns—and, likewise, what might be possible in Oakland and elsewhere, were saboteurs to sustain momentum in concert with the broader tenants’ movement. This may be possible now in a way it wasn’t before—now that, since the pandemic, the tenants’ movement and its burgeoning autonomous tenant union tendency have reached a scale not seen in recent years, if ever. While gentrification is an enormous, amorphous force, the opponents of tenants are clear: landlords. Though sabotage, illegal and anonymous, is of necessity difficult to communicate and coordinate with directly, tenant union campaigns regularly reach a point at which their activity and targets are public.

With respect to confronting individual landlords, sabotage could be an additional lever with which to move a landlord from their intransigence toward demands and pressures issued from a tenant association; with respect to overturning landlordism as a whole, it may not be enough for every building to have a tenant association, for every vacancy to be expropriated, for every eviction to be blockaded—landlords may need to be driven away from even considering rent collection as a business by encountering tens, hundreds, thousands of sabotages large and small leeching back upon their already parasitic cash flow. The end of rent will require not just the dual power to which a vast network of tenant self-organization contributes but, also, a direct confrontation with landlords that a multiplication of sabotage might help creatively provoke. If saboteurs were to contribute their own humble tactics to the tenants’ movement, the least tenant unions and the like could do would be to stay silent and never call the cops, if not outright embrace tactical diversity. As rent abolition more and more comes to be the revolutionary watchword of tenants, all of its present forms should be recognized and considered—the rent strike, the expropriation, the sabotage. Any act which harms no tenant and inhibits the landlord’s ability to collect is ours with which to provoke the possibility of a revolution for a world without rent. Imagine, a tenants’ movement in red and in black.

 

This Is America #155: Philly and Spokane Heater Bloc; Discussion on Coup Power Point

from It’s Going Down

Welcome, to This Is America, December 30th, 2021.

On today’s episode, we are joined with members of Heater Bloc Spokane and Philly, as we discuss how they are responding to attacks on houseless and displaced people in their communities and working on a new mutual aid initiative that involves creating DIY “heaters” that are designed to be (more) fire safe in tents and encampments. For a guide on how to build your own heaters, go here. Check the links above for ways to donate.

Joined by a special guest from Feel the Newswe then switch gears and talk about the recent leak of a power point presentation outlining the January 6th attempted coup and how a series of text messages from Fox News anchors directly to Trump officials during the storming of the capitol shines a light on the relationship between the State and the corporate press.

Defend And Support Kensington Encampment

from InstagramPhoto by Philadelphia Eviction Defense on June 12, 2021. May be an image of text that says 'The city has threatened to evict several encampment sites in Kensington. Bring donations! (Safe use supplies, tents, blankets etc.) Food will be served. DEFEND AND SUPPORT KENSINGTON ENCAMPMENTS June 16th, 2021 Meet at 7am @1800 E Allegheny Avenue Support needed throughout morning/ afternoon No more sweeps! No more evictions! Housing for all!'.

Eviction Defense Requested: Kensington Encampments

When: Wednesday June 16th, 2021
Meet at 7am
Support needed throughout day

Where: Meet @ 1800 E Allegheny Ave

Why: The city threatened to evict several encampment sites in Kensington, posting up signs listing the “1800 block of Hilton Street, the 1800 block of Allegheny Avenue, and the (illegible) of East Allegheny or any other place in the neighborhood known as Kensington”. Rallying point is near the intersection of Allegheny & Kensington Ave, where we can see most sites listed.

The city publicly said they won’t evict once a lawsuit was pending, HOWEVER they told all businesses/service providers they’ll be evicting that day. This is a deliberate confusion tactic to keep eyes off of Kensington! We will not let them act unseen on our neighbors.

Residents have requested support early that morning even if the city doesn’t try to evict, as police harassment occurs DAILY here regardless of formal notice. Residents report belongings being trashed by cops each morning. This is just eviction without the notice!

Do you have information that could help with the lawsuit against the city to stop the sweeps? Email stephanie.sena@law.villanova.edu

[image description: a graphic with orange lettering overlaid on a street map that uses turquoise lines on a black background. There is an orange border. The text reads, “Defend and Support Kensington encampments. June 16, 2021 Meet at 7am @ 1800 Allegheny Avenue Support needed throughout the morning / afternoon No more sweeps! No more evictions! Housing for all!” In the center left is an orange square with black writing. The text reads, “the city has threatened to evict several encampment sites in Kensington. Bring donations! ( safe use supplies, tents, blankets, etc ) Food will be served. End image description.]

Photo by Philadelphia Eviction Defense on June 12, 2021.

Eviction Defense

Submission

On Wednesday March 31 individuals showed up to a call to eviction defense at the 13/15th & Locust PATCO Station, where some Philadelphians have created an encampment for themselves.

People started offering their support as early as 7:30AM (Food Not Bombs). Followed by other autonomous individuals who spent the day in the terminal to combat and resist the city’s planned “service day.” “Service days” are long known to be the misleading term the city uses for sweeps. This is widely understood amongst people plugged into housing issues and people living outside or on public property.

Defenders spent the day in the terminal monitoring the police presence, getting to know the people in the encampment, arguing with city workers to maintain possession of unaccounted for items, and guarding people’s tents and belongings to prevent them from being deemed trash or getting ruined while workers power-washed the terminal. Workers unsurprisingly had a host of disrespectful things to say about the Philadelphians living in the terminal and their belongings.

Housing services showed up to suggest that residents leave the terminal for other housing options. Supporters remained present and directly over-heard city services proclaiming that we were there to use the residents for publicity. An interesting interpretation considering no one was photographing, recording or otherwise taking it upon themselves to tell residents what to do. Some supporters checked in with residents after their conversations with city workers. Heard were sentiments such as “they’re trying to get us to go into rapid rehousing but I’ve been through this before and it’s a bunch of bullshit, we’ll be out of there and back on the street by next week.”

At the end of the day, several occupied areas were successfully defended and were untouched by city workers, who originally told residents they would have to at least remove all of their belongings. Unhoused people often lose their belongings in sweeps because they are unable to watch their things all day, unable to move all their belongings themselves, or unsuccessful at resisting city workers who are intent on proclaiming that any personal items that aren’t on private property or on ‘your person’ are trash.

While the defense on the ground happened in solidarity, the discussion online surrounding it beforehand raised relevant issues, especially as moratoriums end and eviction defense becomes an increasingly pressing issue and way to show up against capitalism and for each other.

On March 29th and 30th a flyer started to circulate on anarchist, housing-support and eviction-defense networks (such as Signal and Telegram), as well as on social media. The simple B&W flyer stated “Block the eviction” / “Stop the city from clearing the encampment at 12/13th & Locust PATCO station” / “Meet at 10am — Defend at 11am” / and “Share widely.”

The “action words” included “Block,” “Stop,” “Meet,” and “Share.” The flyer did not mention black bloc, nor did it suggest defenders “throw down,” or “fight the police.” A discrepancy that makes the critical comments following the flyer’s appearance important to question, analyze and address.

Visually it referenced the accidental blockade of the Suez Canal by the Evergreen ship — which is popularly known to have been a temporary (and celebrated amongst anti-capitalists) disaster for commerce. It was relevant (albeit somewhat tangentially) in that eviction defense/illegal occupation of city-owned property is inherently threatening to capitalism and often involves literally blocking government workers from carrying out sweeps.

When the flyer was shared on the popular social media platform Instagram (IG), Individuals and activists added commentary by way of clarifying “re-posts” and comments about the flyer. For example:

“Hey it isn’t an eviction, it is a sanitation event. Please don’t show up to fight the police. The department of Housing Services have promised that people’s belongings won’t be thrown away as long as their owner is with them.”
“Honestly delete this post (re: flyer/call to eviction defense). We’re worried about people showing up in black bloc to fight the police for an eviction that isn’t happening”
“Clarity: it seems that folks are *not* being evicted tomorrow. However encampment residents are asking that people are there ONLY to make sure they are not displaced. They have been told they will not be during tomorrow’s routine cleaning.

DO NOT ANTAGONIZE ANY POLICE. Showing up and being SUPPORT is fine, but anything else goes against the graces for brutality from the police. So show up, be kind to the encampment workers, protect them and their things if you HAVE to, and that’s it.

Do not put people’s lives in danger with your own agenda.”

“So so important that folks not antagonize or escalate on their own impetus with houseless  comrades in the crossfire.”

These statements, while not necessarily wrong or made in bad faith, are representative of misunderstandings, as well as misrepresentations of direct action and those who carry it out.

The intentions of the private networks who participate in direct action are frequently critiqued, often in bad faith, because the government, mainstream media and liberal agenda encourages a disdain towards them. This is tactical on the governments part, as these individuals often make a life-style out of resisting and combatting government oppression. The goal here is not to point fingers and declare which statements were from whom, but to discuss why the commentary was premature, misguided and harmful.

People claiming that the city does not mean to harm individuals living in encampments and squats —on any occasion — is, first of all, mislead. Secondly they are directly supporting the city government in being free to terrorize the housing-insecure population uninhibited. Even if an eviction is not happening at all, people showing up en masse to demonstrate their support and willingness to fight evictions in general deters the city from dishing out eviction notices.
When it comes to encampments or people living on public property, the best eviction defense is building relationships, sharing resources, and offering aid on a regular basis. This lets the government know who is in solidarity with them. This may include community aid, street art, combative action towards oppressive government programs/officials and much more.
However none of those things can stop evictions if we do not make a practice of showing up on the day and time that they’re rumored to happen AND demonstrate our willingness to not take the city government’s orders. Showing up to “support” only goes so far. At some point what matters most is who is prepared to keep standing and keep guarding belongings when city workers demand we back down. This is why we take issue with the cautionary language contained in the comments.

Eviction defense is anti-gov, anti-cap and anti-property. It ultimately involves combative/non-compliant action verses cooperative/lawful support. Participating in & defending encampments, squats, and even non-gov-approved mutual aid is conflictual, disobedient, and risky. It predicates a power struggle with the government and city services. Showing up to an eviction defense requires a willingness to not cooperate with the government and to possibly accrue legal penalties. It also potentially creates grounds for police to justify targeting, taking note of, and repressing you.

You are supporting people in resisting laws, zoning and city operations. For some, this warrants “bloc-ing up” and for others it might not. This can depend on countless factors, some of which might be if individuals are involved in other illegal activities and anti-state efforts, if they are already on the police’s radar or facing police repression, or if they are inherently targeted by police.

Eviction defense is about more than preventing people from losing their possessions and having to find alternate shelter. It’s a relevant fighting ground for undermining capitalism, state power and its entities – most notably, private and government-owned property, both being extensions of colonization.

Encampments are already illegal because they overwhelmingly exist on public property owned by city government. Encampments exist in the first place because the city hoards property, fuels gentrification and refuses to allow anyone to make shelter out of the countless vacant homes capable of providing it. The reason the city doesn’t allow these homes to be used is because all government systems are invested in capitalism.

Capitalism works by placing monetary value on the things people need to survive — like housing, food, and healthcare — making them unavailable to those without adequate capital. Capitalism is maintained by creating consequences like homelessness, hunger, loss of autonomy or death for those who do not acquire and maintain the level of capital needed to acquire those things.

As such, the city government, including the OHS has an obligation to make sure people are unable to “live for free” by occupying public spaces instead of paying for private property or surrendering their autonomy to be granted a spot in a shelter.
People made many anticipatory and presumptuous claims about those behind the flyer and the call for eviction defense. Critical responses to the flyer were based on a fear of black bloc, escalation, conflictuality, as well as the private networks that organize and plan direct actions. Publicly encouraging a narrow and uninformed understanding of black bloc is a fantastic way to bolster police repression. It alienates willing and active individuals who may already be on the police’s radar and need to obscure their identities to keep themselves safe in settings monitored by police.
A clear misunderstanding of what conflictual and combative tactics are for was also evident. The people in our networks seek to destroy systems of oppressive. Sometimes this does involve literal destruction of property but that’s just one of many tactics in the arsenal. Eviction defense is a defensive action that may or may not involve direct confrontation with the police. The goal (which was clearly communicated in the flyer) was to prevent eviction and protect the people in danger of being evicted. It is with a lack of understanding and solidarity that what occurred in response was an expectation for people to throw down, start a “street fight” with cops, and harm individuals in need of defense.
Lastly, a common thread in the critiques was for individuals to not show up “with their own agenda,” or act “on their own impetus.” Believing that people should not show up to eviction defense as part of their own struggle is disempowering. People commonly show up to actions because they are personally interested in seeing something through. This is usually because it is a part of their personal agenda for resistance against larger systems.

It is short sighted to think eviction defense and housing justice only concern those who are currently unhoused in a specific situation. Property is violence because the state owns and controls land and punishes people for trying to survive by making the things they need inaccessible through capital. Anyone with an interest in resisting or combating capitalism’s grip on our lives has a personal interest and agenda when it comes to eviction defense. Defending someone’s home, when their residency is illegal is joining them in their resistance. Defense isn’t a passive action. It is patronizing to not recognize that people living in encampments, squats and on public property are already involved in resistance, regardless of if it is only for themselves or part of a larger agenda against oppressive systems.

Squatting, Rebellion, Movement: An Interview with Philadelphia Housing Action

from It’s Going Down

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On this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we speak with two members of Philadelphia Housing Action, about the ups and downs of 2020 that has been outlined in the recent piece, Occupy, Takeover: How Philadelphia Housing Action Turned Vacant Buildings Into Homes. It details how throughout 2020, members of the group moved unsheltered individuals and families into livable, unused homes owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Moreover, in the midst of the rebellion that kicked off following the police murder of George Floyd, the group was also involved in setting up several encampments throughout the city, which often were marked by standoffs with the police and barricades in the streets.

While the eyes of the nation were centered squarely on the autonomous zone in Seattle, in Philadelphia, such encampments were able to leverage the city to turn over 75 homes to a land-trust, providing housing for multiple families and formerly unhoused individuals – including many who had been squatting in the months prior.

As extreme weather becomes the norm and building takeovers to provide shelter and resistance to sweeps of homeless camps become more widespread, the campaign by Philadelphia Housing Action remains an instructive example of what is possible.

More Info: Occupy, Takeover: How Philadelphia Housing Action Turned Vacant Buildings Into Homes, Philadelphia Housing Action on Twitter, and Philadelphia Housing Action homepage.

Occupy, Takeover: How Philadelphia Housing Action Turned Vacant Buildings Into Homes

from It’s Going Down

Following months of riots, building barricades, and stand-offs with police trying to evict encampments, in late September of 2020, Philadelphia Housing Action was able to claim victory, after the city of Philadelphia offered unsheltered families and individuals access to housing in formerly vacant buildings, a process which people had already begun in the months prior, as homes owned by Philadelphia Housing Authority were squatted. In the end, upwards of 75 homes were handed over by the city, which included many homes which had been previously squatted. Here Philadelphia Housing Action looks back at 2020 with analysis and a timeline on what all went down. 

On Sept. 26, housing activists and organizers from Philadelphia Housing Action declared victory after the city agreed to allow 50 previously unhoused families who took over a number of buildings to live in vacant, city-owned housing through a community land trust.

Philadelphia Housing Action has actually been many years in the making; grounded in struggles around gentrification, displacement, homelessness, police violence, institutionalization, family separation, legalized discrimination and more. All of us had been in the city for years if not our entire lives. OccupyPHA had been sweating the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) for over five years around it’s rogue private police force and systematic displacement of neighborhoods through forced relocations under threat of eviction, selling of public land to developers, deliberate vacancy and eminent domain. In 2019 OccupyPHA had an encampment in front of the housing authority which lasted over 120 days focusing on these issues that laid a lot of the groundwork for what was to come. The issue of vacant public housing blighting neighborhoods and creating the pretext for eminent domain had long been a concern and the idea of occupying those houses as an act of protest and counter-gentrification had been discussed for at least a year.

Early on in 2020, the group of us who would go on to form Philadelphia Housing Action were finding each other in the same spaces as we challenged the city’s Office of Homeless Services around the ongoing policy of evicting homeless encampments. Like most places, nobody seemed to give a shit about homeless people and attempts to get media coverage or rally allies fell pretty flat. After a while, it became obvious that fighting the city on their terms wasn’t enough, we needed to take direct actions and force the issue; moving people into vacant publicly-owned houses seemed like the best way forward. Once COVID-19 rolled in and people were given stay at home orders, it just seemed like common sense for us to move ahead with take-overs, like a few other groups had already done around the country.

For several months as a small group we worked at that entirely under the radar and managed to occupy around 10 Housing Authority houses, primarily with families numbering a total of 50 people before the city erupted over the murder of George Floyd. Although Philadelphia Housing Action represented members from several groups, there were never more than 5 or 6 of us doing the work, none of us were getting paid and we got all the houses up and running with less than $1,500 from small donations or out of pocket. We had no legal or formal organizational support and relied entirely upon ourselves.

SOURCE: Philadelphia Housing Action

Within 10 days of the George Floyd uprising, we initiated a homeless protest encampment downtown and within the month we had made the announcement about the housing take-overs. Over the course of the summer hundreds of people became engaged in the encampments and the campaign while our group grew smaller, some members breaking away and one dying tragically of an overdose. We ended the year having housed 150-200 people, occupying 30 houses, continuing to fight the city for what we were promised and doing our best to weather the drama that comes after any upswing in mass movement activity inevitably tapers off and devolves into finger-pointing and competition amongst former allies.

We are proud that not a single occupied house was evicted and that there were no arrests in the largest organized and public housing takeover in the United States in more than a generation. We are gladdened that through the protest encampments and occupations the connections between homelessness, housing, and institutional/historical racism were put into much sharper focus while the racialised systems of domination, surveillance and control that permeate the homeless industrial complex, public housing, family court and more were successfully linked to the movement against police and state violence. We are hopeful that our demonstrated ability to link, cross-pollinate and grow movements for tenants rights, homelessness, public housing and foreclosures can be replicated by others across the country, for indeed they share a common enemy. Our campaign victory to win the transfer of vacant city-owned property to a community land trust for low-income housing was a big win for the national movements around housing and human rights and was built upon the shoulders of the many people and movements who came before us both here in Philly and abroad.

It is our assessment that in the year to come, we will see a great deal more in the struggles around housing as a mass eviction wave looms and the economy seems poised to fall off a cliff. We hope that in some small measure, we have done our part to set the stage for the fights to come and inspire others to take the bold and direct actions necessary to keep our communities safe and advance the struggle for universal housing.

Below is an incomplete and summarized timeline of our activities in 2020.

January 6th Philadelphia Housing Action protests encampment eviction at 18th and Vine St/5th and Wood streets along with members of North Philly Food Not Bombs (NPFNB),

February 12 Philadelphia Housing Action attends and contests meeting held by Office of Homeless Services about the coming planned eviction of the encampment at the convention center,

March 23 Philadelphia Housing Action and allies including NPFNB contest eviction of encampment at the convention center on the morning of City’s stay at home order, confronts David Holloman of Homeless Services with newly published CDC guidelines advising against evicting encampments. Later in the afternoon, Philadelphia Housing Action takes its first abandoned PHA property and opens it to the homeless community.

Throughout April and May Philadelphia Housing Action identifies and opens 10 more city owned houses for homeless families while city remains in lockdown.

April 10-17th Philadelphia Housing Action supports first protests/daily actions since lockdown led by no215jails coalition for the mass release of people from jails and prisons.

April 16th Philadelphia Housing Action supports action by No215Jails Coalition at CJC, chases Judge Coyle and her small dog who had denied every single case for release put before her down the street and blocked her exit from the parking garage.

April 17th Philadelphia Housing Action publishes Op-Ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer calling for the opening of empty hotels and dorms for the unhoused during the pandemic.

April 22nd Philadelphia Housing Action / ACTUP informs the City of Philadelphia about federal funding available that would pay for non-congregant housing in the form of Covid Prevention Spaces.

May 5th Philadelphia Housing Action contests encampment sweep on Ionic St w/ members of NPFNB. Delays sweep.

May 13th Philadelphia Housing Action supports ACTUP, ADAPT/DIA, Put People First, DecarceratePA, Philadelphia Community Bail Fund and March on Harrisburg pressing Managing Director Brian Abernathy to open non-congregant housing for people living in shelters, nursing homes and recently released prisoners. Demands universal testing in all congregant housing.

May 27th City of Philadelphia evicts homeless encampment from the international terminal baggage claim. Philadelphia Housing Action had visited the encampment several times throughout may and participated in advocacy work that delayed eviction for over a week due to legal action from Homeless Advocacy Project and attention from the press. First Covid-19 Prevention Hotel is opened in Philadelphia.

May 30th Philadelphia Housing Action joins the largest multi-racial uprising against police violence in the history of the United States in response to the killing of George Floyd. Uprising is city-wide and spills into the surrounding area with a week of street fighting, looting, riots and marches. The National Guard is mobilized to the city and occupies downtown, displacing the homeless population while people continue to loot and blow ATMs.

May 31st Philadelphia Housing Action / ACTUP / Put People First / Global Women’s Strike / March on Harrisburg demonstrate/hold funeral services at the home of Liz Hersh, Managing Director of the Office of Homeless Services.

June 6th OccupyPHA and Philly for REAL Justice lead a march of several hundred from PHA Police Department Headquarters to Temple Police Department Headquarters and back highlighting the impact of unaccountable private police departments on North Philadelphia and their connection to gentrification and displacement.

June 10th Philadelphia Housing Action and homeless activists initiate a protest encampment at 22nd and Benjamin Franklin Parkway under the banner of Housing Now. Encampment defies police orders, declares a no cop zone, bans homeless outreach, issues demands and expands rapidly. In the evening a small march blocks traffic and breaches the outer doors of Mayor Kenney’s apartment complex.

June 15th James Talib Dean, 34, co-founder of the parkway encampment, co-founder of Workers Revolutionary Collective and member of Philadelphia Housing Action dies at his home of an accidental drug overdose. Parkway encampment officially renamed Camp JTD.

June 22nd Marsha Cohen, executive director of Homeless Advocacy Project issues a public apology for her comments to the Philadelphia Inquirer about Philadelphia Housing Action being ‘insane’ and ‘using homeless people as pawns,’ amongst other vaguely classist/racist comments.

June 22nd Occupy PHA/Philadelphia Housing Action makes public announcement about its housing takeovers on independent media outlet Unicorn Riot.

June 23rd Philadelphia Housing Action taps water fountain, runs 1000 feet of pip to install running water, hand wash stations and a shower at CampJTD.

June 26th Philadelphia Housing Action and representatives from Camp JTD meet with city officials in an abandoned storefront. City makes no offer of permanent housing, denies having power over the housing authority or ability to convey other vacant city-owned property.

June 28th Philadelphia Housing Action / OccupyPHA open second encampment on an empty lot across from Housing Authority headquarters on Ridge Ave. The lot, taken through eminent domain by the Housing Authority is slated for of 81 market rate and 17 ‘affordable’ units, along with a parking garage and ‘supermarket.’

June 30th Housing Authority attempts to fence in Ridge Ave encampment and post no trespassing signs. Encampment residents resist, blocking bulldozers and tearing fenceposts out the ground, led by Teddy Munson. Managing Director Abernathy orders Housing Authority to ‘stand down,’ proving that city has power over the Housing Authority. Supporters immediately erect barricades around the entire perimeter of Camp Teddy, working into the night.

July 7th Philadelphia Housing Action taps into city power at CampJTD, installs outlets to power fridges, etc.

July 9th Philadelphia Housing Action breaks off negotiations with the city after several weeks of talks. Cites city’s refusal to offer any actual housing and refusal to bring the Housing Authority to the table.

July 9th PHA Police attempt eviction of occupied house. OccupyPHA/Philadelphia Housing Action and loosely organized Eviction Defense Network rush to the scene and successfully force the police to withdraw before they can enter the building. The house is the first of only 4 to be discovered by the Housing Authority.

July 10th City posts eviction notices for both encampments, cutoff date set for July 17th.

July 13th Philadelphia Housing Action rallies hundreds of supporters at Camp JTD, vowing to resist eviction and demanding permanent housing. Support for the encampment ratchets up all week with allies calling for supporters to sleep over to defend the encampment the night before eviction.

July 13th-17th OccupyPHA and Camp Teddy residents protest at Philadelphia Housing Authority President/CEO Kelvin Jeremiah’s personal home every day.

July 15th City of Philadelphia pressures porta-potty rental company National Rentals to cancel contract with CampJTD. Philadelphia Housing Action supporters cut locks to city bathrooms at Von Colln Field in response.

July 16th City backs down from eviction. Managing Director Brian Abernathy resigns. Mayor Kenney says he will become personally involved in negotiations.

July 20th Philadelphia Housing Action meets in negotiation with Mayor Kenney, other high level city officials as well as the CEO/President of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, Kelvin Jeremiah. OccupyPHA vows to continue occupying houses. PHA carries out raid of long standing land occupation, the North Philadelphia Peace Park, in the middle of negotiations.

July 30th Final meeting with Mayor Kenney.

August 4th Both encampments weather Tropical Storm Isaias.

August 10th Philadelphia Housing Authority holds press event with employees posing as ‘community members’ speaking out against Camp Teddy. OccupyPHA and Camp Teddy residents counter-demonstrate, infiltrate event and get on the microphone.

August 11th Philadelphia Housing Authority announces the creation of a ‘Community Choice Registration Program’ in an effort to appear like it is meeting protest demands.

August 13th Deputy Managing Director Eva Gladstein breaks off negotiations with Philadelphia Housing Action in an email, saying protestors were not meeting the city halfway.

August 16th City posts 24 hour eviction notice for protest encampments.

August 17th Over 400 supporters turn out the morning of eviction to defend the encampments. City Council Members Gauthier and Brooks intervene and re-open talks between the city and the encampments Talks last for over 6 long hours. Lawyer Michael Huff files in Federal court for a restraining order and injunction against eviction, representing individuals from both encampments.

August 17th PHA Police attempt extrajudicial ejectment of occupied house late in the night. OccupyPHA arrives and forces PHA Police to leave mid-ejectment. OccupyPHA demonstrates at PHA CEO Kelvin Jeremiah’s home every day the rest of that week.

August 25th Federal judge rules in favor of the city, clearing the way for an eviction, but mandating 72 hours notice with protections and storage for residents property.

August 31st City issues ‘3rd and Final’ eviction notice set for September 9th.

September 1st Philadelphia Housing Action publishes Op-Ed in Philadelphia Inquirer detailing demand for the transfer of vacant city-owned properties to a land trust for permanent low-income housing. Philadelphia Housing Action meets again with the City despite eviction notice. City and Housing Authority finally admit to having the power to transfer properties to meet the demands, but claim they simply do not want to.

September 3rd Philadelphia Housing Action and encampment residents participate in blockading the reopening of eviction court. The courts are effectively closed down for the morning before protestors are cleared by riot police.

September 4th OccupyPHA and camp teddy occupy a many years vacant, but newly built PHA property around the corner from Camp Teddy. After holding the building for several hours, occupiers foolishly allow access to the PHA Police. PHA finally moves in tenants the same night. In an email, PHA informs OccupyPHA found Jen Bennetch they have requested a federal investigation of her and the housing takeovers under the Riot Act.

September 6th Philadelphia Housing Action, encampment residents and supporters rally and march to Mayor Kenney’s apartment building and hold intersection and rally for hours.

September 8th Whole Foods, Target and CVS board their windows in preparation of encampment eviction and possible riots. OccupyPHA and Camp Teddy visit the homes of senior managers of the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

September 9th In a repeat, roughly 600 supporters turn out to fight the eviction, barricades are massively expanded at Camp JTD, including the closure of N 22nd St next to the encampment. The street remains closed for the rest of the month. City attempts to send Clergy to both encampments in an attempt to persuade people to leave but they are shouted down and leave in humiliation. Although trash trucks and buses are staged on the parkway, police never appear. Both encampments remain in a state of heightened alert over the coming weeks. Police test response time and defenses several times but do not arrive in force.

September 10th supporting organizers at camp JTD invite Mayor Kenney to a brunch on September 14th, raise a banner facing the parkway with the invitation.

September 14th Mayor Kenney declines to attend brunch.

September 18th HUD Mid-Atlantic Regional Office formally confirms that the Philadelphia Housing Authority can legally transfer properties without the need for federal approval.

September 26th Philadelphia Housing Action announces that city has tentatively agreed to transferring 50 vacant houses to a community land trust in return for ending the encampments. City/PHA comments that the announcement of a deal is ‘entirely premature.’ In talks, City had confirmed with Philadelphia Housing Action that they were willing to transfer the houses and continue negotiations in exchange for removal of the 22nd st barricades, a decision ratified by popular assembly of Camp JTD residents after much canvassing and discussion over the next several days.

SOURCE: Twitter @PeoplesParty_US

October 1st Philadelphia Housing Authority proposes settlement with OccupyPHA for resolution of the Camp Teddy encampment. PHA offers 9 fully rehabbed houses, two empty lots, the transfer of any squats that have already been approved for disposition to the land trust, amnesty for all Philadelphia Housing Action squatters, an end to extrajudicial ejectments and evictions by PHA Police, jobs for encampment residents to rehab the houses, a 1 year moratorium on sales of PHA property and an independent study on the impact of PHA property sales, participation of PHA Police Department in City of Philadelphia reform initiatives and to fully implement the CCRP with up to 300 vacant properties.

October 2nd Camp Teddy residents ratify the agreement and OccupyPHA signs agreement to vacate by the night of Monday the 5th.

October 5th Camp Teddy vacates and clears encampment by deadline. PHA informs the City after the fact. City is reportedly furious.

October 8th OccupyPHA founder Jen Bennetch wins a PA Superior Court ruling setting a state precedent affirming the right to film DHS workers (Philly’s version of Child Protective Services) performing their duties. The case originated in 2019 when the Housing Authority and homeless service provider ProjectHOME brought a complaint against Ms Bennetch for having her children with her in the daytime during her 2019 124 day occupation of the PHA headquarters. Ms Bennetch denied DHS workers entry to her home and filmed them in front of her house. In the lower court ruling, the family court Judge Joseph Fernandes had ordered Ms Bennetch to delete and remove from social media all videos of the DHS workers and to never record them again. Ms Bennetch’s appeal to the Superior court was based on First Amendment grounds.

October 10th Managing Director Tumar Alexander approaches OccupyPHA with a ‘best and final’ offer for resolution of Camp JTD in exchange for 50 additional houses.

October 12th After multiple assemblies and extensive canvassing at Camp JTD, Philadelphia Housing Action signs agreement to vacate on a tight timeline in exchange for 50 additional houses. Over the coming weeks Philadelphia Housing Action, supporters, the Housing Authority and the City work to find people housing and clear the encampment.

October 21st A Camp JTD resident legally obtains a unit at the formerly occupied newly constructed vacant PHA property around the corner from Camp Teddy.

October 23rd Marsha Cohen officially resigns as executive director of Homeless Advocacy Project.

October 26th Camp JTD formally closes and is fenced in by the city. Upon closure Philadelphia Housing Action counted 30 occupied city-owned properties. In the final weeks, 35 residents were given rapid re-housing vouchers despite income requirements and 10 elders gained immediate access to PHA senior housing. Philadelphia Housing Action estimates that more than 200 people gained access to housing over the course of the encampment through housing occupations or various city/housing authority programs.

October 26th Philadelphia Police shoot and kill Walter Wallace Jr, sparking widespread riots.

October 29 November 1st OccupyPHA/Philadelphia Housing Action demonstrate nightly at Council President Darrell Clarke’s home forcing a meeting with OccupyPHA and allies on November 4th. The following week the Philadelphia Housing Authority confirms Clarke has dropped his opposition to Philadelphia Housing Action getting houses in North Philadelphia. By November 23rd Darrell Clarke procedurally kills his own initiative to give $14.5m to the Philadelphia Police Department and refuses to comment to the press.

November 11th Philadelphia Housing Action occupies lobby of 22nd district for several hours after receiving the MOU between Philadelphia Police Department and Temple Police Departments. MOU is read out loud clarifying the limits of Temple University Police jurisdiction and generally harassing the police working that night, a turkey was thrown across the lobby.

December 1st Philadelphia Housing Action visits Covid Prevention Site Hotels and occupies lobby, confronts security.

December 2nd Philadelphia Housing Action has call with Office of Homeless Services and hotel residents about impending closure of Covid Prevention Hotels on Dec 15th. Demands delay of closure and extension of program. Over the coming weeks it is revealed the city will be moving residents from the hotel into former halfway houses that do not have private rooms or bathrooms. Philadelphia Housing Action continues to organize with residents and other advocates for the permanent housing the city promised at the beginning of the program. Activity is ongoing.

December 23rd Philadelphia Housing Action successfully pressures PHA to get gas turned on to several properties that were being denied service by PGW. City moves first residents from prevention hotels to former halfway houses and Philadelphia Housing Action learns that the new facilities have no heat or hot water. Philadelphia Housing Action and supporters visit the home of Office of Homeless Services Director Liz Hersh at night, talking to neighbors and playing loud music to protest the closure of the Prevention Hotel and the placement of people with preexisting health conditions into congregant housing with no heat or hot water over the holiday.

December 28th Philadelphia Housing Action visits Walker Hall, the former halfway house owned by private prison contractor CoreCivic that is now housing residents from the Covid Prevention Hotels. Security denies access to the premises and calls the police. The location is in a remote industrial area and lacking services, transportation or access to food. Heat and Hot water are still not available to all residents, nor are they allowed to possess space heaters. Residents have windows in their doors and are not permitted to block them. Female residents complain about male guards looking into their rooms. No transportation was made available. Residents are searched upon entry and at least one resident, a disabled elder, has been expelled for possession of a marijuana cigarette.

January 1st Philadelphia Housing Action, pushing for corrections around the availability of federal funding in a Philadelphia Inquirer article on the closure of the Covid Prevention Hotels is able to confirm that the City of Philadelphia never applied to FEMA for funding that would pay 75% of the program costs of the program. The statement from a city official on record undermines the entire premise of closing the hotel due to a lack of funding and exposes a high level of willful incompetence at the Office of Homeless Services. Furthermore, Philadelphia Housing Action and ACTUP are able to confirm that the current facilities will not be eligible for FEMA funding due to their congregant nature.

City Officials Addressed In Paint

Last night in North Philly, on 19th & Oxford street, the site that the city planned to move unhoused individuals into today Wednesday, December 30th was targeted.

The unhoused individuals are currently staying in “Covid hotels” at the Holiday Inn on 13th and Walnut streets for shelter from the pandemic and cold. City government says they’ve run out of funding and can no longer house them here, but we know that’s not true. The city wants to save money and alternatively use the site to shelter housed and employed people suffering from covid. Yet another instance of the city further displacing unhoused people and prioritizing the privileged.

We’ve had enough of the bullshit and the runaround. We’ve had enough of orgs that hardly show up or don’t make proactive and decisive moves. We have decided to act autonomously and will continue to.

The slow trickle of evictions started on December 15th when advocates began to post up outside the hotel and distribute donations to residents and friends on the streets.

Mayor Kenney, in an attempt to ward off bad press, put out statements to the effect of “do not be concerned, the hotel residents will be situated with permanent housing, we will not be kicking people out on the street.” Spewing his usual bullshit, he is interested only in saving face and assuring liberals they need not be concerned or called to action. Meanwhile, some hotel residents were moved to an unused former PRISON in Kensington that same week — an interesting take on “permanent housing.”

The recent snow fall and protests have delayed planned evictions. However nothing concrete has changed. We’re tired of pushing meekly against the force of those in power, of doing nothing more than creating delays. Delays that temporarily disrupt the plans city officials still intend to carry out when we become fatigued and distracted. Despite the protests, another eviction notice was issued this week. Today marked the last day residents were apparently going to be permitted to stay in the hotel.

The site at 19th & Oxford, where they were expected to be transferred, appears to be a detention center of sorts. Word on the street is that it does not have hot water, some units may not have heat & the residents were going to be roomed in pairs. The point is this situation is abhorrent.

The city treats unhoused residents like undesirables they mean to discard of. They prioritize saving minimal amounts of money at the expense of the most vulnerable, marginalized Philadelphians— most of whom have existing health issues, adding to the stress and trauma they already endure by being unhoused. Our neighbors are not disposable. They should not be shuffled around from place to place, often without understanding where they’re going or what the conditions they’re walking into will be.

All attempts at negotiating with the city for better treatment have failed and been full of deceit on behalf of city officials… no fucking surprise. We have been too gentle in our modes of feedback. Protests have received media attention and some public support, but none of this is stopping the city from making their moves.

We all know this city loves and hoards it’s property. We need to “dialogue” with them in a language they understand or at least can’t ignore. Instead of waiting for the city to move people into the Oxford building, last night anarchists rolled up to sabotage the locks, graffiti the building and smash about 20 large windows and the glass door entrance.

Liz Hersh, the Office of Homeless Services, Resources for Human Development and Mayor Kenney have been addressed in paint. No one should be mistaken about the intention behind the actions. The media will surely spin its usual narratives, but we are not interested in letting the anticipation of their words influence or silence ours.
We did our thing. We said our piece.

Judge Ruling Permits City to Evict Tent Encampments

from Twitter

Philadelphia, PA: A federal judge just ruled *against* a requested injunction filed by lawyers representing homeless city residents fighting @PhillyMayor Jim Kenney’s plan to send in police to evict tent encampments. The judge reportedly requires the city to give 72 hours notice.

Here at the James Talib Dean memorial encampment on the Ben Franklin parkway, things are fairly calm and dozens of tents are still up along with hand washing and service stations. Some police are nearby but no plans for raids seem imminent today, although camp residents are wary.

Urgent Eviction Defense

from Instagram

A Second Eviction Has been posted by the city for both JTD (22nd and Ben Franklin) and Camp Teddy (2013 ridge ave)
Residents have no intentions of leaving while the city negotiates their livelihoods in circles.

Tomorrow, Tuesday August 18th @ 9:00 am.

We need bodies to come out and hold down both locations for
* Cop Watching & Police Survalince
•Patrolling the area, recording names and badge number. Lower arrest risk
* Barricading & Securing the Camp
* Help move, and construct barricades for the perimeter. Trucks are useful in picking up barricades from around the city and transporting them back. Lower Arrest Risk
* Residential Support
* Keep resident informed on ongoing actions, help residents pack their belongings and clean, keeping calm and getting/keeping contact in the event we are displaced. Lower arrest risk
* Defense Unit
* Willing and able to defend camp against the cops physically. Using your bodies as a line of defense. Come equipped with protective gear. Higher arrest risk

With eviction courts opening back up and the moratorium over, landlord and police are ready to ramp up eviction like this city has never seen before. Philly will not back down and submit to the oppressive forces trying to sweeps us up and out of sight. We will stand together. The city has decided to use our cities unhoused as testing bunnies for what poor and disenfranchised folks all around the city will experience on September 1st, when eviction are allowed to procede and people can be uprooted from their lives. Send a CLEAR message that an attack on our must vulnerable is an attack on our whole community, this is unacceptable. Will you stand with us?

Tomorrow morning, BEFORE 9 o’clock !

Be prepared to defend against our camp.

Help Raise Legal Funds for Imprisoned Encampment Volunteer Daniel Gibson

from Fundrazr

Hello everyone! My name is Christa Rivers. It brings me nothing but pain and anxiety to write to people in our community but I have to tell this story. My partner, Daniel Gibson, had been volunteering with the Occupy PHA encampment in north Philly. PHA police and Philadelphia police have been surveilling the camp. On the night of July 2, 2020 he was on his way home when he asked the police why they were following him. He was arrested that night, and is currently upstate in SCI Coal Township. They beat him; he still has bruises and scratches all over his body two weeks later, still has a swollen and fractured knee, fractured shin bone. The charges they have against him can be fought, we just need to hire a lawyer. Which is why we’re turning to the community for help. I want my loved one home. We believe that hiring a lawyer, whom we have already contacted, will yield the best results. This is going to be a long process because of covid 19 and because the court system is slow, especially for those who are already in state custody. I just want to do everything possible to make his time in prison end sooner than later. As of right now, we are keeping the fundraising deadline open to account for future curt dates. Please help anyway you can, share with people, donate, connect us with a pro bono lawyer–anything.  Thank you, from both of us.

[Contribute Here]

New camp, “Camp Prosperity” at Kelly Drive & Segley

from Twitter

BREAKING: “Camp Prosperity” is a 3rd encampment involved with the Philly homeless protests – in addition to the #JTDCamp & the Teddy Camp on Ridge.

A 3rd location of about a dozen tents have relocated to Kelly Drive & Segley behind the Art Museum.

Defend the Camp! Stop the Eviction!

from Facebook

Why don’t you live for the people!
Why don’t you struggle for the people!
Why don’t you die for the people!

Learn more about the struggle for housing at https://philadelphiahousingaction.info/2020/

[Friday July 17, 7:00am

The city is moving ahead with plans for a Friday eviction. It’s time for all of us to join together to defend the camp. All hands on ceck, please spread the word!]