Monday, December 19, 2016

Residents and GSU Students Threaten to Block Turner Field Development if Binding CBA Not Agreed Upon

Outside Atlnta City Hall
As the final sale agreement for Turner Field is set to be completed by the end of the year, the surrounding communities of Summerhill, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, and Pittsburgh still have no binding CommunityBenefits Agreement.

Today Turner Field area resident and GSU students meet at the capitol to send a clear message to the city and the developers of the Turner Field property.

“As residents, we simply can't afford another development project that further displaces our community members and has no real community engagement, and no real accountability to our neighborhoods”, stated longtime Peoplestown resident Alison Johnson.

Public officials and development stakeholders have argued that any Community Benefits Agreement negotiation is cost-prohibitive, but fail to acknowledge that the investments and priorities addressed by the CBA could be funded by proceeds from the sale of Turner Field. The sale is expected to generate at least $30 million in revenue, but instead of investing in our communities, our public officials are investing in yet another stadium. That land was stolen from our community through eminent domain and urban renewal, and we demand that it be returned to the neighborhoods that have lost so much across so many decades.

“Students of GSU stand in solidarity with the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition. We will do everything in our power to ensure that President Becker sits and negotiates a Community Benefits agreement with the coalition. President Becker should expect a good fight from students on this. It is our responsibility to ensure our tuition does not go to a purchase that will not benefit the communities it will affect”, stated the United Students Against Sweatshops, a TFCBC ally.

 “If we must set up a tent city, we will; if we must chain ourselves to construction equipment, we will; if we must fill the jails over and over, we will. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to stop yet another questionable and inequitable development project in our community, and we call on everyone to stand with us in our time of need!” Stated longtime Peoplestown resident Columbus Ward.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Graduation Ceremony Disruption Serves as a Public Warning

On Wednesday, Dec, 14th, members of the Turner Field campaign coordinated a direct action at Georgia State University’s mid-year commencement ceremony. During the University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby’s commencement address, residents and students intervened with chants of “Dr. Becker, do the right thing” and “CBA or no deal.” Their chorus sounded through the Georgia Dome, and received focused attention from Hank Huckaby and Mark Becker. Huckaby berated the protestors, and incited police officers to remove them from the seating area.  

Asma Elhuni, JT Pennington, and Athri Ranganathan were pushed out of the Dome and taken to a holding room. There, they were detained and interrogated by police for two hours. The encounter was largely non-confrontational, though officers handcuffed Ranganathan and claimed he was lying about his name, date of birth, and social security number. After a delayed acceptance of Ranganathan’s information, officers issued criminal trespass notices to all three individuals. Asma, JT, and Athri are currently under a two-year ban from entering Georgia State University property. They are amidst discussions on how to fight this heavy-handed ruling.

The administration's back-turning to Turner Field residents, unwillingness to negotiate, and drowning of voices has incited community anger. The action was an intentional jab at GSU President Mark Becker and his refusal to discuss a Community Benefits Agreement with Turner Field Neighborhood residents. The threat of GSU-sponsored displacement of Turner Field residents is imminent, and must be countered. The Housing Justice League and its allies stand against the removal of Turner Field residents from their homes. It will continue this fight as the purchase deal moves forward and effects ripple through the Turner Field neighborhoods.

GSU is finalizing its purchase of the Turner Field stadium on Dec. 31st. The Turner Field campaign, a broad coalition of residents and students, is fighting for this purchase to benefit the community. The Community Benefits Agreement for which it is fighting ensures that GSU must gain community consent before developing the Turner Field stadium. The campaign prioritizes the right for residents to remain in their homes and for the community to regain legal ownership over its property. Turner Field residents demand that their voices be lifted up and seriously considered.    

Image may contain: 5 people, people standing, crowd and outdoor Image may contain: 3 people, shoes, tree and outdoor

Residents and students gave a public warning to Mark Becker and his administration on Wednesday. The campaign commits to continuing action until GSU seriously engages residents and their demands. There is much at stake in the purchase deal, including the future of the Turner Field neighborhoods-- it cannot be taken lightly. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Peoplestown Residents Send Clear Message, "We will not be Moved!"

On Monday, Nov. 21st, residents of Peoplestown and Housing Justice League members marched to the Atlanta City Hall to testify in front of City Council members who voted to authorize eminent domain proceedings against Mrs. and Mr. Darden and Tanya Washington. Protestors brought “Thanks-taking” themed posters plastered with the face of Mayor Kasim Reed, highlighting Reed’s gentrifying tendencies and impassivity in meeting with residents. The contingent group outside City Hall was only a small part of the 6,000+ signatories who signed a petition supporting Tanya and the Dardens’ resistance to displacement.

Tensions came to a head in City Council, where individuals on both sides of the displacement issue spoke their opinions. Peoplestown residents who supported building the park, and thus the displacement of Tanya and the Dardens, reiterated their concern for flooding in the neighborhood and beliefs that park construction would subside flooding. They cited conversations with engineers and watershed department officials who suggested the park construction was a useful response to the flooding. Indeed, many of these residents were well-dressed white professionals.

Following their narratives, Tanya Washington spoke. Many of her supporters yielded their speaking time, giving Tanya 16 minutes at the podium. Articulate, visceral, and honest, Tanya spoke about the timeline of park construction within the neighborhood and her commitment to staying in her home. Tanya highlighted that the current park construction plan was not the best plan possible. Initial drafts of park construction placed it close to the Turner Field stadium, away from the 100 block of Atlanta Avenue. She noted the City wished to advance this park plan because they had already displaced most residents on the block. “But going forward with a wrong displacement project doesn’t make it right,” Tanya noted.

The city’s legal takeover of the block is un-coincidentally occurring with the sale of Turner Field, Tanya noted, and hints at a larger project of making over the Peoplestown neighborhood. This may not be problematic, except that it is happening at the expense of long-time black homeowners and for the benefit of wealthier white homeowners. The force of gentrification is heavily suggested by the fact that most of the pro-park advocates in City Hall were white, and at least in their immediate dress, white-collared, while the displaced residents have been older, black, and medium to low income. The City’s legal takeover of the Peoplestown block is a dangerous precedent in Atlanta, where resident-displacements in other neighborhoods, such as Vine City, are foreseeable and looming.    

Park development without displacement in Peoplestown is not only possible, but has been recommended. At the beginning of the building process, the Department of Watershed had nearly twenty-two site options to choose from when deciding a location. Building on some of these site locations would not have required resident-displacement at all. Nonetheless, the City advanced with building on the 100 Atlanta Avenue block, more or less evicting the majority of its residents. Even now, in the final stages of the block takeover, displacement need not continue. Housing Justice organizer Tim Franzen noted that developers already plan to build around resident Mattie Jackson’s home, which sits in the middle of the block. If this is possible, Franzen noted, it is also possible to build around the block-corner homes of the Dardens and Tanya Washington. Even amidst the City’s relentless displacements and subsequent public defacing, it is possible for the City to maintain dignity—by not displacing the Dardens and Tanya. 

After the public testimonies, residents and Housing Justice members walked to Mayor Kasim Reed’s office in an attempt to meet with the Mayor and request his intervention in the eminent domain proceedings. His office doors were locked, however, even though Reed was visibly present in the mayor’s room. For half-an-hour, Housing Justice remained outside the office calling for the Mayor. But the Mayor’s Office denied communication, and Kasim Reed did not speak with residents.

The eminent domain proceedings will be taken to court in the coming weeks, and Tanya Washington has promised a strong resistance. “These displacements are being fueled by a project of economic development rather than public safety,” she noted, “and will likely benefit private developers among others. Somebody is receiving large sums of money from this process, and it’s not the residents.” As Peoplestown residents continue fighting against displacement, the Housing Justice League remains relentlessly by their side. Testimonies and actions will continue as long as necessary to keep the Dardens and Tanya Washington in their homes.  


Friday, November 18, 2016

Peoplestown Residents Stand Up to Mayor Reed's Use of Eminent Domain

On Thursday, Nov. 17th, a group of Peoplestown residents and the Housing Justice League rallied together at the house of resident Tanya Washington, bringing attention to the eminent domain proceedings brought against Washington and her neighbors. In front of reporters and cameras from various television stations, Washington led the charge in explaining the issue at hand.

The city of Atlanta is using “eminent domain” as a legal maneuver to redevelop a block in Peoplestown. The City cites street flooding as a primary reason for neighborhood redevelopment-- but it is simply a rouse. In the areas of Peoplestown hit hardest by flooding, notably the Turner Field stadium parking lots, the City has chosen to NOT redevelop. Early drafts by engineering consultants suggested a park and pond be built besides the stadium and AWAY from the neighborhoods. But, the City has avoided this, and chosen instead to forcefully displace Peoplestown residents so they may build atop their homes.

Commenting on this situation, Washington noted, “We have lawyered up, and are ready to take on the City. If the city wins this fight, they can set a dangerous precedent of taking over neighborhoods via eminent domain. It’s important that we win this legal battle and show that neighborhoods can defend themselves. We have a good legal and advocacy team, so I am confident in our abilities. Get ready.”
Alongside Washington, residents and allies held signs that read “Stop displacement,” “Mayor Reed, do the right thing,” and “Our homes are not for sale.” The rally echoed actions in the past, when housing justice members called Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to prioritize neighborhood residents over profit, and not displace people in the name of city beautification. Actions in this campaign once again will be directed towards City Hall and the Mayor’s Office, urging for policy that creates an Atlanta for all.

Longtime Peoplestown resident Mrs. Darden was perhaps the rally’s energy source. With a loud and resonating voice, she led the group in civil-rights era chants and declarations. Gathering the crowd together and pushing their spirits forward, Mrs. Darden (and her husband Mr. Darden) represent the best of the Peoplestown neighborhood, and who exactly is at stake in this fight against displacement. Despite the enormity of the task ahead, Mrs. Darden spoke with only strength and certainty. “We will stay in our homes,” she said repeatedly. “And we will not be moved.”

Action continue on Monday, Nov. 21st. Residents and housing justice members will testify and protest against councilmembers who voted to put residents outside their homes-- including Councilperson Carla Smith who introduced the ordinance authorizing eminent domain in Peoplestown. This will be followed by a sit-in at the Mayor’s office to demand that he stop litigation and use his executive authority to keep residents in their homes. The Housing Justice League invites supporters to attend these events, and get out the word to friends, family and colleagues, in person, through phone, and via social media.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Residents Call Out Beltline's Affordable Housing Failures

The Atlanta Beltline, which oversees the development of a 22-mile loop through the city, says that it hopes to raise $7.5 million to encourage affordable housing development. But the recent announcement of $7.5 million from TAD bonds will likely support fewer than 200 affordable units out of ABI’s obligation to 5,600. When compared to the need, current funding is a drop in the bucket. As the economy comes back to life, and the city accelerates, meeting these obligations is increasingly urgent. It is clear the city of Atlanta has made little effort to hold Beltline developers accountable.

On Thursday, Nov. 3rd at 4 pm, the Housing Justice League held the Beltline accountable. We organized a protest outside the Equitable Building on 100 Peachtree Street, home to the Atlanta Beltline Office, drawing public attention and criticism to Beltline President Paul Morris. The protest began with Housing Justice League organizer, and Stanton Oak tenant association president, Sherise Brown delivering a notification flyer to Paul Morris’s office. The flyer called attention to the lack of affordable housing on the Atlanta Beltline, and committed to hold Paul Morris and the entire Beltline Corporation accountable to their promise of 5,600 affordable units. Over the course of the next half-an-hour, protestors marched around the Building, registering their discontent with Paul Morris and the Beltline Corporation. Many of the protestors included university faculty, who were part of a Georgia State University-based conference on the housing crisis in Atlanta.

The Housing Justice League is committed to keeping pressure on Paul Morris and his partner developers to build affordable housing on the Beltline. Up to this point, Beltline developers have built exclusively luxury housing units, creating a period of unbridled wealth extraction from communities that have only recently begun strong economic development. It is unacceptable for the Beltline to develop without accountability, and without profiting its surrounding neighborhoods. We demand that the Beltline be a project that benefits not just some, but all.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Atlanta Residents and GSU Students Demand Input in the Turner Field purchase

On noon, Tuesday, October 4th at Hurt Park, GSU students and NPU-V residents joined the Housing Justice League to deliver a petition to GSU President Mark Becker’s office. The direct action was geared towards securing a legally-binding Community-Benefits Agreement (CBA) that ensures residents of Turner Field neighborhoods benefit from positive development around their homes.

The rally began in a sunlit Hurt Park at noon, with joint cadres of Georgia State University students and NPU-V residents. Many held signs that read, “Stop displacement on our dime,” “Students and residents march together,” and “Gentrification State University.” Half-past the hour, student organizer Patricio Cambias Rojas rallied students and gave an overview of the action. Co-organizer Christopher Hollis took lead in giving chants, and marching students and residents towards Becker’s office.

Students and Residence deliver petition to President Becker

In the building of Centennial Hall, marchers learned that President Becker was “out” for the day-- his absence has not been confirmed by independent sources-- and that they would not be allowed into his office. Housing Justice League organizer Sherise Brown and GSU organizer Asma Elhuni delivered a petition to Becker’s secretary in lieu of Becker, and restated the demand that Becker meet with marchers to discuss a CBA clause within GSU’s purchase package. Brown noted, “We are following up on our last march to your office, and we wish to meet with President Becker. Please let him know that we are sincere, and want to discuss the mutual benefits of a CBA.” As of now, Becker’s office has given no response.

Students and residents initiated a sit-in during which many shared personal stories, ranging from oral histories of the Turner Field neighborhoods to student activism at GSU. Longtime resident May Helen Johnson recounted how Turner Field neighborhoods have long fell victim to the economic priorities of others. “Churches have been demolished in place of contaminated housing units, and empty parking lots have replaced long-time houses.”  Johnson, along with other residents, expressed hope that the combined efforts of students and residents would impress urgency behind the call for a CBA. This new wave of action, Johnson noted, “can bring positive development back to an area once filled with it.”   
Students and residents hold a sit-in

The Turner Field Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) is a valuable opportunity to reorganize administrative priorities and change the neglect of Turner Field. This legally-binding agreement has driven by local residents and the over 40 community organizations that make up the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition.

A CBA would mean tremendous change for all involved in the Turner Field neighborhoods. A well implemented CBA could alleviate flooding, improve transportation, provide jobs for residents, and include educational training for people of all ages. It could prevent displacement of existing residents, create housing for people of all incomes, provide the neighborhood with places to shop, and make streets and communities safer and cleaner.
Long term residents hold a banner iutside President Beckers office

The Housing Justice League, NPU-V residents, and GSU students are committed to demonstrating the power of a Community Benefits Agreement for our communities. On Tuesday, October 4th, we showed this commitment by rallying to Mark Becker’s office and delivering our petition. And we will continue pushing, and escalating, to create a more affordable, better serviced Atlanta.

Please SIGN and SHARE the online petition.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Atlanta Residents March on Fulton County, Challenge Cruel Eviction Process

Residents Take to the streets
 Yesterday members of the Housing Justice League took the streets of downtown Atlanta and Marched to the Fulton County Courthouse and the County Commissioners office. The march will be led by Atlanta residents who have experienced or in the process of experiencing the eviction in Fulton County.

Residents Sopke about their experience with eviction process

Carver Highschool Band helped keep the spirits up
Atlanta has been declared to be in a renter’s state of emergency. Right now in Fulton County the number of evictions has dramatically spiked to 500 a week! Many of those evictions are as a result of arbitrary rent increases that often come with no changes in tenant amenities. The eviction process in Fulton County is not only cruel, its decades behind the rest of the country. During eviction court in Fulton, which happens twice a week, Judges sign off on an average of one eviction per minute. A whole sickening economy has developed around the eviction process in our county with over ten 3rd party eviction corporations thriving off the crisis.
We call on the Fulton County Commission to take immediate action to change the eviction process in Fulton County. The following recommendations are working in other parts of the country, they are not revolutionary proposals but they would make the eviction process more humane and less difficult to bounce back for tenants in hardship. These changes are but a step in the right direction.
Residents Hold Space Outside Fulton County Courthouse

1.       Scheduled Evictions

Many counties and states around the country schedule evictions. We already know that evictors have to schedule eviction with moving companies, why not schedule evictions with the resident. As things stand now residents are subject to a knock on the door at any hour. Scheduled evictions allow residents the final reminder of the coming crisis at hand and gives them a last chance to secure their own belongings.

2.       No evictions after hours

After hours evictions can leave families with nowhere to go, no truck to rent, no storage facility to move things into. We know after hours evictions have been facilitated in DeKalb County. This is a cruel practice that no family should be subjected to. We ask that you commit to making evictions outside the hours of 9am-4pm against DeKalb County policy

3.       No evictions during extreme weather

Going through the evictions process means immediate homelessness for some, it also means all of your life belongings are put out on the street in the elements. Many counties will not do evictions in freezing, raining, or 100 degree weather.

4.       Costs paid by the evictor or a cap of public spending

Evictions can bring an enormous cost the county. The banks and private equity groups that do most of the evicting make an enormous profit. In many counties the evictor pays for the process, in some cases counties put a cap on what they will pay for.

5.       Relocation and 30 days storage for belongings

One of the most dehumanizing parts of the eviction process is having your things dumped in the front yard. Not only are families immediately faced with the prospect of having nowhere to go, they also have to protect their belongings. Furthermore this process is bad for the whole community, effecting the financial and spiritual value of the neighborhood. Many counties, and some states, require the evictor to pay property to be moved to a storage facility for at 30 days.

6.       Handle belongings with care

Often times peoples belongings are destroyed or stolen during the eviction process. We hope that as Sheriff you are able to facilitate stringer accountability for your constituent’s belongings during the eviction process.

7.       Referrals for housing services

Many facing evictions have now where to go. As a point of policy it would be fairly simple to provide those being evicted with a comprehensive list of service providers in the area. Often time’s people are given assistance finding temporary shelter for their animal but no assistance finding temporary shelter for themselves, this should change immediately.
Residents posted "Final Notice" with demands on the Fulton County Government Building and the County Courthouse

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Residents and Students Unite to Ensure GSU Does Right by Community

 On Wednesday, September 7th at noon on Georgia State University’s Library Plaza, the Housing Justice League joined forces with the Turner FieldCommunity Benefits Coalition(TFCBC) and Georgia State University students to demand conversation about the University’s purchase of Turner Field stadium. Current action has engaged thousands of Turner Field residents in developing a draft Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that ensures new development benefits long-time residents. The Wednesday noon action advanced local talks to GSU’s doorstep, and initiated conversation with Pres. Becker and power brokers on campus. 

                The Library Plaza March included a large, intergenerational crowd of GSU students and local Turner Field residents. Solidarity and community was strong between the two groups. As part of the opening statements, Turner Field resident Jane Ridley noted that conversation with GSU was necessary to ensure the NPU-V community did not face further gentrification. “We’ve faced problems with the Braves Stadium, and it looks like we might have more with this one… we need conversation to protect ourselves. The neighborhood can’t face further evictions.” Her words echoed the Liveable Centers Initiative, that any future development in Turner Field remain transparent and inclusive to the community.

                Students and residents marched together to President Becker’s office, chanting songs like “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Us Around.” The crowd swelled along the way as more students and school staffers joining the rally. Marchers congregated in front of Centennial Hall to determine appropriate steps forward. Movement eventually continued peacefully into the building, and to the Administrative Office on the fifth floor.  

At President Becker’s Office, State Senator Vincent Fort, joined demands that the GSU president make time for community members and students, and meet residents face-to-face. “He’s not too busy for us,” Fort retorted, “and if he is, then he isn’t doing his job.” Organizer and resident Sherise Brown headed conversation with President Becker’s secretary, passing along the letter demanding conversation with the president. The crowd of students and residents stood firm to rejection and backed Sherise’s negotiation. Though no meeting was confirmed, Sherise exchanged information with Becker’s secretary and pressured for more communication. The delivered gave president Becker 7 days to respond to the request.

The CBA Proposal the resident led TFCBC wishes to discuss with President Becker keeps the community’s needs front and center, and offers a sure path to accountability and development without displacement. The Coalition consulted a wide range of experts, community members, and both local and national institutions to develop a comprehensive Community Benefits Agreement Proposal. The CBA provides opportunities for GSU to both fulfill its general Strategic Plan and incorporate recommendations from the LCI Study which was completed last month. The Housing Justice League stands ready to work with TFCBC and GSU to turn the CBA Proposal into a full-fledged agreement that ensures success and does not leave impacted communities behind.

We encourage folks to sign andshare the online petition encouraging president Becker to meet with community members who will be impacted by the purchase of Turner Field and to insure they have a seat at the table as plans are being made that are sure to have a deep impact on their community and their lives.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Atlanta Declared a Renter's State of Emergency

Atlanta is in a renter’s state of emergency. How many of us have engaged in or overheard conversations with folks in our city about the rising rents and rapidly changing face of our city? Development doesn’t have to be a bad word, but what we are seeing in Atlanta right now is the kind of development and wealth extraction that will leave Atlanta totally unaffordable for low and moderate income people.

 On Tuesday July 12th at 11am on the Trinity side of Atlanta City Hall the Housing Justice League released our, “Renter's State of Emergency” report and declared Atlanta a state of emergency for renters and low income homeowners. After the press conference we presented the report to City Council members. 

Some of the report’s findings include:

*Since 2012 Atlanta has lost 5% of its affordable housing every year
*95% of Apartments built since 2012 have been considered luxury
* 72% of Atlanta neighborhoods are considered gentrified or gentrifying
* More than 53% of all renters in the city pay more than 30% of their income on housing, yet many landlords require proof that tenant income exceeds 3x rent

The Rally and Press Conference kicked off with welcoming and introduction to the report from Deborah Arnold. Senator Fort then spoke declaring that "We need to build an Atlanta for everyone." Senator Fort was then followed by stories from those who have been most affected by Atlanta's Renter's State of Emergency.

Autumn Rivers, Atlanta Native and a college student a Bard College, spoke about her experiences growing up in Atlanta, being evicted, and hoping to move back to Atlanta after College, but not being sure if she will be able to afford to. 

Avery Jackson said, "There are systemic intersections of how black people and low income folks are not prioritized in this city." and declared "it is a renter crisis in the city of Atlanta."

Nashia Clemons and Rosalind Hemphill, work and make $7.25 an hour and are both homeless.  Rosalind Hemphill said, "I sleep outside. I can't afford anything. I've been here for 20 years." With Atlanta's current rent prices, it makes it difficult for hard working people to afford rent, especially if they are working for minimum wage. 

Z.Bediako, a third generation Atlantan, spoke about her families experiences living in Atlanta, as well as her own. "We are here today to demand that housing is a human right. When you walk up and down downtown and you see people on the side of the road, thats not a representation of bad luck, thats not a representation of misfortune, that is a representation of oppression, systematic oppression."  

David Waid, a Marta worker,  who can no longer afford to live in the city he works in said "What our reality is, we can work here, but we can't live here". 

The last speaker was Vera Web. Web lives in a senior facility and  spends 60% of her income on her rent because her rent has continued to increase each year. "My rent increased by $85 a month this year, not because the place got fixed up, simply because they felt they could charge more despite the fact that we are seniors who are mostly on a fixed income"

After the Rally finished, members of the Housing Justice League went into City Hall to deliver the report to the Community Development and Human Resources Committee. Sherise Brown and Alison Johnson gave public commentary about the reports findings and delivered the report to City Council members. 

On July 19th, at 6:30pm in the City Council Chambers at City Hall (55 Trinity Ave SW) there will be a public hearingwhere people struggling to afford Atlanta can testify and share their housing story with local and state lawmakers. This hearing is the opportunity for law makers to hear stories of those experiencing an affordable housing crisis. The hearing will be presided by Councilman Dickens, Councilwoman Moore, Rep Park Cannon, Senator Fort, and others. 

Please sigand share the online petition to Georgia law makers!

To read the full Renter's State of Emergency Report click here!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

City View @ Rosa Burney Tenant Association Anniversary

City View @ Rosa Burney's Tenant Association celebrated it's one year anniversary with a 2 day event celebration. In one year, the City View at Rosa Burney Tenant Association has brought together tenants, allies, and the Mechanicsville Community. The tenant association organized to keep City Views at Rosa Burney affordable by getting a HUD contract for 7 years. A very eventful and successful year! 

The celebration kicked off last Wednesday at 4pm with Bingo with Councilman Andre Dickens. Tenants gathered for numerous rounds of competitive Bingo with Andre Dickens calling out the lucky numbers. A great time was had by all!

The anniversary celebration continued into Thursday. Tenants and allies gathered at the Dunbar Center for the Anniversary Party. The agenda was facilitated by the Tenant Association President, Deborah Arnold. There was space for tenants to discuss housing and community issues, followed by guest speakers. Becky Rafter, from Georgia WAND, spoke about Voter Registration. Maggie Kinnear, from Atlanta Legal Aid, spoke about what tenant's legal rights and what to do if they are being violated. After speakers we all had the opportunity to get to know each other and enjoy some anniversary cake. 

Congratulations to City View @ Rosa Burney's Tenant Association for building community power for over a year! We can't wait to see what the upcoming years hold for City View @ Rosa Burney's Tenant Association!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Will the Chinese Be Evicted From DC Chinatown?

Bush Company’s Plans to Build More Luxury Condos Would Displace Hundreds and Mark the End of DC Chinatown

Tenant leaders from across the US joined Museum Square Tenants today to support tenants at Museum Square in DC’s Chinatown facing displacement to make way for luxury condos. Over 100 tenants came together for the rally, which was held outside the DC Chinatown complex.

Approximately half of Chinatown’s remaining Chinese population lives in the 302-¬unit Museum Square building. Most tenants are Chinese immigrants; the rest are African¬American. The owner plans to tear down Museum Square to build 850 high rise luxury condos.

Are the Chinese being evicted from DC Chinatown? That is the question and the concerned shared by many long term residents of the community. “I don’t call it Chinatown anymore I call it downtown; I don’t know why they have Chinese letters on all the buildings. I remember when we used to be able to walk down H street to get rice, vegetables, and everything else we need. Now most Chinese business has been priced out” stated Museum Square tenant leader Jenny Tang.

Last October, the owner declined to renew the federal subsidy contract that kept the building affordable for low income tenants Under federal law, tenants were issued “Enhanced Vouchers” by HUD which provide them a legal Right to Remain in their homes.

Initially, the owner refused to accept the vouchers, but relented under pressure from Museum Square tenants and their allies. Although the owner now accepts vouchers, both the owner and the DC Housing Authority continue to encourage tenants to move.

HUD officials on Monday refused to change their policy which recognizes a tenant's right to remain but requires the tenants to personally enforce that right. This forces low-¬income tenants to contend with well financed real estate developers and owners.

11 yr old Tenant Leader Jasmine Tang
“Just because the owner says ‘you have to move’ does not mean you have to move. Right now, in my heart, it means ‘work as a team and fight,’” said Jasmine Tang, a ten year old tenant leader who lives in Museum Square. “The owner does not know how many people and children he can hurt by just demolishing the building.”


"The struggle of Museum Square tenants has put a spotlight on the issues faced by low income tenants and communities of color across the nation,” commented NAHT President Ed Lucas.  
An on-line petition was created to build pressure to stop the displacement of the Museum Square tenant:

Friday, June 3, 2016

Fulton County Drops Case Against Tim Franzen

Almost four years ago Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, now rebranded as the Housing Justice League, launched an ambitious campaign to liberate vacant homes in Atlanta. The first campaign we launched was led by Michelene Meusa, Renika Wheeler, and their two amazing children Dillon and Jahla.

After occupying the house for seven days M&T bank flew down executives from New York and worked with Atlanta Police to evict the family despite community support. Renika and Michelene refused to leave and several other supporters, including myself, refused to leave as well. We knew that arrests were very likely but we also knew that half of the homes in the neighborhood were bank owned vacants that had been sitting empty for years while the Atlanta homeless populations was multiplying. It was a time for drastic measures. 

In the end four of us were arrested but we managed to bring a lot of media attention to Michelene and Renika's struggle and the housing crisis facing thousands of Atlantans. I'm happy to report that many people in the movement stepped up to support Michelene and Renika and they have been living in a home with their children, totally self sufficent, for years.

After that campaign we quickly won our next two home liberations and we started to see more people around the country use that model.

The four of us arrested were charged with criminal trespass. Eventually everyone's charges, except mine, were dropped. Over the years I've had countless court dates related to this charge, some of which I showed up to and no judge was present. There have been two separate occasions in which I was arrested on a failure to appear warrant, both times were extremely suspicious as they were right in the middle of protests or organizing meetings. Another time I was detained for over an hour after being followed by police after an organizing meeting. The officer claimed I didn't appear at a court proceeding related to the charge, thankfully I was able to call my lawyer and a friend from the back seat of the officers car before they attempted to book me.

Today I had to go to court, it was time to set a trail date. It's rare that I get any kind of pleasant surprise from the state but today I did; they decided to drop the case all together! In the paper work they cited: " An assessment has been made by the prosecutor and it's determined that in the best interest of justice the prosecution should be terminated"

I have no doubt that a major factor in this outcome is the fact the cities best movement lawyer, Mawuli Mel Davis of the Davis/Bozeman lawfirm represented me.

Despite the difficulties this specific arrest has brought me over the years I want to be clear that it was 100% worth all the trouble. Doing the right thing can never be wrong and the positive outcomes radically outweigh the personal issues I have endured. That being said I'm grateful to close the book on this one. Thanks to everyone that supported me through the process!

Love and Service,

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Youth Summer of Social Justice Kick-off BBQ in Peoplestown

As the Summer temps heating up so did social justice fun with the youth in Peoplestown. At 4:00pm the grill was fired up at the McDevitt Youth Center on Crews Street. The center is the meeting space for the monthly Housing Justice League meeting. As the food began to cook and the park started to smell like a great Atlanta Summer day the youth started to fill-in. It was not long after that plates were served and the park was full of the neighborhoods youngsters. Food was grilled and served for free to all the youth with hungry stomachs. At the end of the day we served nearly 50 youth and collected contact information for 50 young people in the neighborhood. All of which were invited and reminded to join our new and growing youth space at the monthly meetings. The BBQ was the first step to a Summer of Social Justice for Atlanta’s youth!

The next Housing Justice League mass meeting, which will include a youth break out, will be held Tuesday June 21st, click here for details!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

AFSC Position on Trans Pacific Partnership

Five Quaker organizations from Europe and the United States have expressed concern about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the controversial ‘mega’ trade deal being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. 
It is the first time that Quaker organisations, working on both sides of the Atlantic, have spoken out together about such a trade treaty.

American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Quaker Council for European Affairs, Quaker United Nations Office and Quaker Peace & Social Witness, have sent a statement to Prime Minister David Cameron, government representatives and trade officials. They say that TTIP negotiations are prioritising the prospect of short-term economic gain over the longer-term factors necessary to human wellbeing and protection of the Earth.

The statement comes in the context of building opposition to TTIP, as controversial, confidential negotiation documents were leaked into the public domain and the French government has warned that it is considering blocking the deal.

The Quakers say that TTIP will almost certainly hamper international commitments to tackle climate change and global poverty, including the recently agreed Paris Agreement on Climate change and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Quakers are calling for a fundamental rethinking of global trade rules and for future trade deals to be aligned with the demands of these commitments. 

The Quakers also assert mechanisms such as the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism or Investment Court System hand too much power to large companies, making them “fundamentally antidemocratic in nature and therefore unacceptable.”

“Protections for investors included in TTIP, such as the Investor State Dispute Settlement Mechanism, threaten members’ ability to enact policies to protect people and the environment,” said Kathryn Johnson, representative of the American Friends Service Committee. “This alone is reason enough to reject TTIP as we’ve seen how these mechanisms have been used to undermine environmental, health and other policies and extract billions of dollars from tax payers.”

The Quaker statement also highlighted concerns about the lack of transparency around the deal, the negotiations for which remain largely secret. “It is impossible for civil society groups to get meaningful information about the negotiations,” said Andrew Lane, Representative at the Quaker Council for European Affairs based in Brussels. “Even more disconcerting is the uncertainty about whether or not the national parliaments of EU countries will have adequate opportunity to scrutinise the deal.  If TTIP negotiations continue it’s vital that elected representatives have proper access to information and a genuine opportunity to reject the deal if they consider it to threaten the well-being of people, or the planet.”

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

Notes to editors
·         Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.
·         Trade for well-being, not just for profit: A shared Quaker statement on TTIP and free trade agreements can be read in full at 
·         The Quaker Council for European Affairs brings a Quaker vision of just relationships to the European Union and the Council of Europe. QCEA has worked on trade issues and TTIP since 2013, advocating for trade deals to prioritise the well-being of people and planet, above profit.
·         The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organisation that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. This work has included decades of grassroots education and advocacy for trade policies that place human dignity, economic justice, and environmental sustainability the heart of the global economy.
·         The Quaker United Nations Office works with the UN, multilateral organisations, government delegations, and non-governmental organisations, to address the interconnections between trade, investment, intellectual property rules and how they relate to poverty, hunger and food insecurity. QUNO engages with all stakeholders from small-scale farmers to trade negotiators, providing safe spaces to explore how the food system could be made to work for the whole of the world’s population.
·         Quaker Peace & Social Witness works with and on behalf of British Quakers to turn faith into action. It is a department of Quakers in Britain, whose representative body discussed TTIP in July and December 2015 concluding that it had “deep concerns about the impact of the proposed agreement”.
·         The Friends Committee on National Legislation is the nonpartisan Quaker lobby in the public interest, and works with the United States Congress to change government policies that perpetuate all forms of injustice. FCNL has worked within interfaith and multi-sectoral coalitions to highlight to elected officials the major environmental, human rights, and labour concerns with the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), TTIP, and other free trade agreements
·         Over 3 million people across Europe have already called on the EU and US governments to stop negotiating TTIP