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By Eric Sheptock

Forty people from across the country met in New York City on January 28-29, to organize a nationwide takeover of vacant properties during the month of May. The meeting was organized by Take Back the Land, an organization successful in acquiring vacant property for homeless people and also preventing evictions in Miami, FL. Other organizers included people from Picture the Homeless of New York City, the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP).

We began our meeting discussing the work from our respective locales. The conversation quickly turned into an exchange of philosophies and paradigms, including a discussion on styles and approaches — radical vs. diplomatic. There was a diverse mix of people in the room. We decided all ideas, styles and approaches were pertinent, each one having its proper time, place and usage. Our differences didn’t divide us. They made us stronger.
Ongoing actions of this coalition are intended to antagonize, aggravate and speak truth to the powers that be, while agitating the masses and calling them to action. Take Back the Land, based in Miami has lent its name to this national effort. However, they do no local organizing outside of Miami. Local organizers in other cities need to organize themselves to know local laws, politics and problems and to plan accordingly.

The approaches we discussed can be categorized in 3 ways: legal, illegal and political.
Legal: Organizations like NLCHP and NESRI continue to draft legislation, whose aim is to make housing a human right. Other legal efforts include making people aware of their legal rights to receive or remain in housing, legal defense services for those arrested during housing takeovers and providing legal observers during takeover actions.
Illegal (only by definition of private property law): We discussed the basics of vacant property takeovers: how to find vacant properties, surveying the property, gaining entry, having people occupy large numbers of vacant apartments, condos and houses and drawing media attention to a select number of takeover properties.

Throughout the meeting people emphasized that, “No positive change has ever been brought about without people willing to take risks.” However, those who choose to break unjust laws should bear in mind that in spite of the apparent morality of their actions, they can still go to jail for them. Total unity of commitment and action is a necessity.
Political: It is the illegal actions — not diplomacy — that draw media attention. This helps shine a national spotlight on these kinds of noble efforts to usher in the desired systemic changes. Television images of people being arrested for seeking to meet their basic human needs garners the moral and political support of others for the cause. Such support can eventually translate into large numbers of concerned citizens joining the effort, which is the short-term goal of our struggle to increase the number of people who are politically conscious and willing to take a stand.

Finally, no direct political action is complete without a “general line” — a rallying war cry. For Take Back the Land, it is that housing should be treated as a necessity — guaranteed to everyone — not a commodity that goes to the highest bidder.  In lieu of recent housing market woes, this is a cause that all except those who profit from the commodification of housing can appreciate. This article is a call to action for all people of conscience to join this fight. There is something for everyone to do. What will you do?


Opening march at US Social Forum in Atlanta, GA, June 27, 2007
By James Bish            

As June 2010 fast approaches, the importance of the U. S. Social Forum, which will be held in Detroit, Mich. from June 22-28, is becoming clear. The editorial entitled “American Politics Begins To Polarize” (October 2009 issue of People’s Tribune) is certainly right on time.

The two poles are well represented by the U.S. Social Forum, which has as its theme, “Another World is Possible, Another U.S. is necessary,” and the “Tea Party” movement, which held its first convention the weekend of February 5-7, railing against big government, taxes, government health care, immigrants, etc., all said to be the causes of the economic and social hardships facing the working class.

The Tea Party movement rank and file is made up mostly of working class folks who have not yet identified the real “elephant in the room” as being capitalism. The movement and convention are being bankrolled by the capitalists. You can rest assured there will be no discussion about the role of capitalism and capitalists in creating the economic disaster facing us. Such a discussion would lead to a discussion of maintaining private property for the benefit of the capitalist elite vs. public ownership for the benefit of everyone else—us—the working class. Perish the thought.

The U.S. Social Forum, on the other hand, will bring thousands of progressive and revolutionary activists together from across the country and from around the globe who understand the real elephant in the room is capitalism. The theme insures there will be wide ranging discussions and debate of the role of capitalism in creating the myriad of economic and social issues facing us. Herein lies the importance of the U.S. Social Forum. It permits the beginning of a national discussion around the issue of “defining” the central problem and what to do about it. I want to be involved in that discussion.

for Brisenia Flores, murdered by anti-immigrant vigilantes in Arivaca, Arizona and ali Kanani, murdered by Blackwater mercenaries at the Nisour Square Massacre, Iraq

nine year old ali kanani died from a bullet
bite to the head
in the nisour square massacre
meanwhile the sun went red/ red/ red
and the mercenaries
unfurled their fists with tenderness
or drew/ sweet/ three-legged cows/ for their children
or a little gasp or bird/ flew from ali’s little mouth like a bullet
fired at death/ that lovely lady
oh little bird that flew and ate and gouged little ali!
oh little bird that drank/ flew away/ little ali!
and this happens everyday
it happens like that
the blood of children falls
like blood of children

nine year old brisenia flores died
from a vigilante’s kiss to the forehead
and her smile went red red red
blood smiles from brisenia’s bullet wounds
and this happens everyday
the sun goes red red red
the warmth of children smiles/ spills/ evaporates brisenia
your bullet wounds or little suns glow red red red
in your tender skull ali

blood of children glows/ red red red
little brisenia goes red/ evaporates/ falls
is swept away/ by brooms or sand
and this happens everyday
this happens everyday
it happens like that

the bullet bites/ kisses the skull
splinters the children’s sleep/ and nothing will come from there
no nothing/ no little bird
no poetry or three legged cows
and this happens everyday
it happens like that

~Lauro Vasquez


This article originated in the People's Tribune
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