Dawn Butler might have been evicted but Occupy Our Homes D.C. (OOH-DC) vows to continue its culture of mass resistance. On June 5th, U.S. Marshals arrived at 917 Maryland Avenue NE at 8:50 a.m., a little before their scheduled time. Typically, marshals are hired by a landlord to carry out actual evictions. In Dawn's case, Chase bank asked U.S. Marshals to proceed in removing all of Ms. Butler's belongings into the streets.
But June 5th was a not-so-typical day for U.S. Marshals. As they arrived to Dawn Butlers residence, Marshals were greeted by 50 revolutionaries linking arms to nonviolently protect Dawn's home. Neighbors and activists rose to challenge a powerful global force that day. Marshals were introduced to people power and collective resistance.
Reluctant to evict, U.S. Marshals waited and waited, hoping the people on Dawn's lawn would eventually get bored and leave. OOH-DC organizers thought the same of the Marshals. The Chase representative eventually showed up and ordered the U.S. Marshals to quickly move on with the eviction process. They made their move.
U.S. Marshals, with their assault rifles, knocked down Dawn's door, shoved and threw members of the community to the floor and proceeded with the eviction. Movers came out to put the furniture into the streets. Although the eviction was carried out, such actions bought time for other tenants and homeowners that were also scheduled for eviction, nine were canceled for the day.
Outraged with what just happened, several OOH-DC organizers, including Dawn, sat on the stairs of her now-stolen home. While tears filled their eyes they asked themselves, "What just happened? Did we just lose? Where do we go from here?"
As evictions continue to rise, as houses are boarded up, and as more and more working class families are displaced, the struggle around housing becomes more than just fighting for an immediate need. It is about developing a collective analysis and understanding what made the fight crucial in the first place. It is about breaking through the normal oppressive activity greed brings, a questioning of a historically unjust global economic system and of capitalism, and the collective imagining of creating a different world, none of which come easy.
We are not only fighting financial institutions that steal people's homes, but an oppressive power structure with various systems that work against us. In a country with 18.6 million abandoned homes and 3.5 million people facing homelessness, housing has become a privilege and not a right. Every neighborhood has a story like Dawn.
Our work is not always going to be fun, flashy or even "winnable," but continuing a culture of eviction resistance will help change the political discourse around housing and the conditions of our neighborhoods and our lives.
Yes, we are deeply saddened that we were unable to keep Ms. Butler in her home, but we also realize it was an incredible learning moment in many ways. In 2011, we witnessed thousands of people take to the streets, from Tunisia to Wisconsin, from Yemen to Washington, D.C., and we learned just how powerful people can be. We came together across differences of race, class and all sorts of different privileges. We were brought together by our passion for social justice and the belief that our collective consciousness and solidarity is key for liberation.
OOH-DC started not by organizing and telling tenants, homeowners, squatters and the homeless what to do. Rather, organizers listen and talk with those directly affected, learn from them and take their lead. While OOH-DC helps to provide a framework, share knowledge learned from Take Back The Land and City Life/Vida Urbana, and encourage a critical political analysis in organizing, those who are actively changing and organizing in their communities are those directly affected by evictions. They're the ones taking the lead.
By unlocking our imagination, we challenge banks, address systemic injustices and create alternatives that support our theories. We also develop strategies that advance collective liberation by connecting the housing struggle with multiple social justice struggles, linking between movements such as a free Palestine and the struggles for justice throughout the world.
Despite the challenges, we will continue liberating homes that have been occupied by banks. United by passion, our collective organizing and resistance will work to build immediate and long-term transformative change.
Look how far we have already come: We are organizing, we are growing and our resistance is expanding. Progress has already been made. We're already winning! So let's not mourn. Let's organize!
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