Since the initial formation of Take Back the Land Movement in September of 2009, Local Action Groups (LAG) affiliated with the Take Back the Land Movement (TBLM) have made significant headway in setting the groundwork for a substantial fight-back against foreclosures, forced evictions, the destruction of public housing, and the exponential increase of homelessness and displacement across the United States. Take Back the Land Movement has also begun developing relationships with grassroots organizations that focus on land-based struggle from around the world, including the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil and the Shack Dwellers or Abahlali Movement in South Africa to combat the global dilemma of finance driven displacement and habitat loss.
A concrete step taken by the Take Back the Land Movement was the offensive of May 2010 Month of Action. This was done to assert the fundamental human right to housing and community control over land. Participating organizations, communities and families asserted this right in two ways: by “liberating” government, foreclosed and warehoused homes, making them available for families with nowhere else to live; and by protecting families and neighbors from foreclosure related evictions from houses, apartments and condos, as well as forced evictions from public housing.
• In Madison Wisconsin, Take Back the Land – Madison helped Desiree Wilson, a 24-year old mother, move into a home that was vacant due to foreclosure.
• In Toledo, Ohio, Take Back the Land Movement worked with Toledo Foreclosure Defense League on an eviction blockade for Keith Sadler. Mr. Sadler was a factory worker who lost his home of 20 years at a foreclosure sale for $33,000. Sadler and 6 friends barricaded the house to resist the eviction. After 5 days, the local SWAT team raided the house and all 7 were arrested on misdemeanor charges and released.
• In Atlanta, Take Back the Land - Atlanta protested the auction of family homes on the steps of the county courthouse.
• In Portland, Oregon, Take Back the Land Movement worked with Right 2 Survive and seized control of vacant land in front of an abandoned school in order to work towards meeting the needs of Portland’s un-housed population.
• In Chicago, Illinois, Land and Housing Action Group member The Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign marched to protect a family from eviction.
• Individuals in Orlando inspired by Take Back the Land Movement, self-liberated a home and occupied it for several weeks before being removed by the police.
Beyond the month of May, Take Back the Land Movement continued to forged ahead with actions raising consciousness about Housing as a Human Right along with the right of displaced people to return.
• In July, Take Back the Land Movement affiliate ONE DC liberated land in the Nation’s Capital. A Tent City was constructed on Parcel 42 advocating for truly affordable housing.
• In New Orleans this past August, Take Back the Land Local Action Group Survivors Village held a community rally in the St. Bernard Community to “educate” President Obama about how new developments like Columbia Parc have worked to purge impoverished Black people from public housing projects on the 5th commemorative anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
• Survivors Village was also successful in getting charges dropped against Sharon Jasper, member of Survivors Village and former resident of the St. Bernard Community. They were also successful in winning Ms. Jasper a Section 8 voucher that was revoked due to her being a presence at protest.
• In December, Take Back the Land- Rochester began liberating homes in Rochester, New York and moving people without homes into them.
Foreclosures are soaring and some housing experts say that there were close to 4 million foreclosures in 2010. In 2009 over 3.4 million homes received foreclosure notices, were repossessed by banks, or sold at auction. It is believed that nearly 6,000 homes get foreclosed on every day. Take Back the Land Movement is fully aware of these developments and is working diligently to help build a movement of oppressed and exploited people actively engaged in struggle to transform the conditions around them.
Housing as a human right is recognized by a number of international human rights laws and treaties. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights advocates that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of an individual and one’s family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care, necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or lack of livelihood. The Take Back the Land Movement works vigorously to actualize these fundamental human rights in the United States.
In this vein, Take Back the Land Movement has arrived at some basic conclusions about the state of social dynamics since September 2009, including:
• That despite decreased coverage in the mainstream media the foreclosure and eviction crisis is in fact deepening, resulting in ever increasing homelessness, both hidden and visible.
• That the Banks, transnational corporations, and both major political parties are intent on advancing, rather than retreating from, neo-liberal strategies and policies, like PETRA, to resolve the housing crisis in favor of the interests of finance capital over and above those of the working class and the poor who are being displaced and dispossessed by the crisis.
• That despite the lack of media coverage, there has been a tremendous amount of resistance against displacement, including non-compliance with foreclosure and eviction notices, quite squats, land reclamations for community gardens and local food security, and protest initiatives against new measures to destroy public housing, however the bulk of these resistance measures remain individualized and scattered.
Resolved to deepen the reach and impact of the Take Back the Land Movement to address the crisis and realize our human rights, the Land and Housing Action Group is focusing on executing the following measures to consolidate, strengthen, and advance the movement:
• To expand the Land and Housing Action Group
• To create a broader movement Coordinating Committee, composed of Local Action Groups, Strategic Partners, Allied Organizations, and individuals committed to the principles of the Take Back the Land Movement to strengthen communication and collaboration
• To create several national working committees to strengthen overall coordination
• To pursue funding to support a national coordinator, movement trainings in various areas (direct action, demand development, human rights, monitoring, etc.), and base building initiatives in several strategic cities and/or regions
• To produce a comprehensive set of movement demands and policy recommendations
• To produce several training and tools and resources to expand the base of knowledge within the developing movement
• And to conduct a national speaking tour to spread the message of the movement and inspire more families, communities and forces of resistance to engage in transformative action
We believe that little by little, and step by step we are playing a part in building the transformative movement this country so desperately needs and which its oppressed, exploited and excluded peoples so rightly deserve. But, we have a long way to go. We invite all progressive forces to join us in building this movement during the next phase of struggle by joining our 2011 offensive initiatives, which you can support by organizing a teach-in, speaking event, or fundraiser for the LHAG in your community. Or better yet, you can form a Take Back the Land inspired local action initiative of your own to address the housing needs in your own community.
In order to make any of the above happen, the Take Back the Land Movement needs resources to support more outreach, training, investigative research, and base building organizing. Donations to the LHAG/TBLM can be made to the US Human Rights Network c/o LHAG and mailed to 250 Georgia Ave. Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312. Donations can also be made via paypal at www.ushrnetwork.org.
For more information on the Land and Housing Action Group and the Take Back the Land Movement email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ushrnetwork.org or www.takebacktheland.org.
Land and Housing Action Group
Thursday, January 13, 2011