Eviction defense is a tactic with a long history. As long as there have been landlords who try to throw people out of their homes, people have taken action together to defend the human right to housing.
In the 1800s, tenants in upstate New York fought a war against feudalistic landlords who prevented them from leaving, working them into deeper and deeper debt. In the 1930s, communists organized tenants organizations across the country, fighting back against the landlords stooges from carrying out evictions, and replacing furniture when it was carried out to the street. Hundreds of people would fill the streets to prevent the police from carrying out evictions. Around the same time in Ireland, the Revolutionary Workers Groups organized against the agents of absentee English landlords who exploited tenants. Entire villages united to put furniture back in homes and guard against future evictions.
These aren’t just historical examples.
Just last month in Lynn, Massachusetts an undocumented person complained about unsanitary and dangerous conditions at his apartment building, and his landlord threatened to have him deported. It only took a few days for ICE to show up. The local community of friends, neighbors and banded together and surrounded the vehicle the ICE agents’ vehicle and demanded his release. And they won.
The tenant struggle is always connected with other struggles, against colonialism, against racism, against the exploitation of workers. THAW stands with undocumented tenants against racist retaliation, we stand with Black tenants against police violence, and we stand with Queer tenants against resources being controlled by the people who discriminate against us.
By building tenant unions in every building, we create the infrastructure for people power on every block. When we borrow a cup of sugar from our neighbor, that’s mutual aid, and when we do mutual aid we are building the networks of eviction defense. When we do eviction defense, we are learning how to take care of one another without the capitalists or the state. Talk to your neighbors (and not the cops), join a tenants union and lets stop evictions.
Originally published October 31st, 2020