Homeless people rising: Solidarity with Oakland’s homeless movement, The Village

Alliance Against Displacement extends solidarity to The Village, a self-organized homeless camp in East Oakland (Ohlone territory) that is facing an eviction today. Their story is all too familiar to homeless people and their allies in British Columbia: Namegans Nation in the Greater Victoria Region was evicted five times this fall, while Discontent City in Nanaimo is currently being prison-campified in the lead-up to eviction. The eviction in Oakland comes as the result of a broken promise from the city government. Having offered The Village a piece of land in fall 2017, the City of Oakland is now calling on the Oakland Police Department to displace them from it, forcing them to relocate to another site.

Familiar too are the tactics that the state employs to harass and divert homeless people once they organize and politicize their struggles: the City of Oakland has cut off water to the tent city, enforced impossible regulations, and leveraged a Crisis Ordinance in order to displace homeless encampments. At the end of October, the City approved using $8.6 million in state emergency funding to provide garden sheds for homeless people to live in – dubbed by Village residents “Tuff Shed Torture Camps” because of the deep inadequacy of this response, and because the sheds will be subject to intense monitoring and tyrannical rules. This is the same tactic being used by the City of Nanaimo to displace Discontent City: by promising 170 units of work camp style housing – used Atco trailers split into rooms the size (and feel) of a prison cell – the City of Nanaimo won a court injunction to displace the 300-plus residents of Discontent City. A press release issued by The Village in September sums up this tactic perfectly: “these are programs more for camp suppression and eviction than providing entry to housing, herding our unhoused neighbors more out of sight away from services or driving them into a few now unsafe, filthy ‘mega-camps’ that these evictions are creating.”

But also familiar to us is the power and political determination of organized homeless people. Refusing to wait for permission from the state, unhoused people of Oakland have built houses on public lands, creating spaces of safety, community, and resistance. Even when temporarily defeated, they take site after site. Their determination resonates with the struggles of homeless leaders at Anita Place, Discontent City, Namegans Nation, and all across BC.

The organization and direct action of homeless people constitutes a frontline in an international struggle against capitalism. In the Bay Area and Vancouver, we see skyrocketing wealth inequality and gentrification, alongside the state’s disinterest in housing poor and working class people. Municipalities all over Turtle Island are attempting to invisibilize the global housing crisis by directly attacking homeless communities, but their efforts are not enough to hem in a growing movement led by homeless people, whose determination to survive and thrive radically intervenes in a society founded on profit, property, genocide, slavery, and displacement. The right to homes for all, and the power to defend them, must be won through asserting relationships to land against the logic of property.

With The Village’s call for “Public Land for Public Good,” Alliance Against Displacement raises ours: “Land Relations Not Property Rights!” We are moved, outraged, and inspired by what our comrades in Oakland are experiencing, and pledge to build cross-regional and international ties of solidarity to strengthen the struggle against homelessness, displacement, and gentrification.

If you are also moved, outraged, and inspired, you can donate to support the work of The Village via Paypal