Resist Evictions and Foreclosures

How to Stop Eviction — End Eviction

            COVID-19 has created the ideal medium for a summer of continuous protest.

Political protest demonstrations used to be weekend affairs in which angry leftists shouted at empty government offices before shuffling home Sunday afternoon to gear up for the workweek. With one out of four workers having filed for unemployment and many more working from home, tens of millions of Americans have free time to march in the streets. Sporting events, movie theaters, retail stores and even houses of worship are closed due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The usual distractions of a leap year are absent; the summer Olympics are canceled and presidential campaigning is so close to nonexistent as to be irrelevant. Politics is no longer about the politicians. Politics is in the street, where there’s nothing to do but gather, chant and dodge teargas cannisters.

            The vacuum created by the lockdown and the impotence of a political class that no longer pretends to lead during a staggering medico-economic crisis has been filled by Black Lives Matter following the murder of George Floyd. BLM has won important symbolic victories like the toppling of Confederate statues and a renewed push to remove the Stars and Bars from the Mississippi state flag. As the movement against police brutality and institutional racism continues, look for more substantive systemic reforms in policing.

            What comes next? The eviction and foreclosure resistance movement.

Thanks to Congress’ reluctance to pass another big stimulus package, protests in general will continue into the foreseeable future. But they won’t all be against evil cops. A looming eviction and foreclosure crisis could broaden the struggle from one centered around racial grievances into a class-based fight for economic justice.

            Courts are about to get flooded by eviction hearings. 30% of Americans missed their June housing payment. Supplemental $600-per-week unemployment checks expire July 31st.

“I think we will enter into a severe renter crisis and very quickly,” Columbia Law professor Emily Benfer, a housing expert who tracks eviction policies, told The New York Times May 30th. Without government action, she warned, “we will have an avalanche of evictions across the country.”

            There is no sign that the government will lift a finger to help people who lost their jobs and will soon face homelessness. Even Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the most progressive members of the U.S. Senate, refuse to consider a rent or mortgage payment holiday. They support a tepid “moratorium,” not a rent freeze. Under a moratorium back rent would pile up and all come due at once later on. Millions of people would be kicked outside this winter during a possible “second wave” of COVID-19. That’s the best scenario. Odds are, there won’t even be a moratorium. Congress will do little to nothing to help struggling tenants and homeowners.

            Millions of homeowners and renters displaced from their homes during the 2008-09 subprime mortgage meltdown received zero assistance from the government. There were no protests worth mentioning. This time will be different.

            First, there’s safety in numbers. The scale of this eviction crisis is much bigger. Three times more people have lost their jobs than during the Great Recession, during a much shorter period of time. Members of an eviction resistance movement can help one another block county sheriffs from kicking them out. Among those who are still working, the tenuous nature of the labor market has everyone in there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I mode. We are in this together.

            Second, this economic cataclysm wasn’t some act of God. People were ordered to shelter in place by the government. That’s why they lost their jobs, not a seemingly random stock market fluctuation. Targets of eviction and foreclosure won’t internalize any shame. They know they haven’t done anything wrong. They social distanced as asked; why should they sleep on the streets now because public health officials required them to go without income?

            Third, Black Lives Matter has demonstrated the efficacy of street protests and of grassroots solidarity. Cops are currently about as popular as an STD. How enthusiastically will police respond to a landlord’s request to fight their way through an angry crowd to throw a family onto the street? It depends on the municipality. Things will quickly turn ugly.

            Finally, memories of how the big banks squandered their Bush-Obama bailouts on exorbitant CEO salaries and renovating luxurious executive washrooms are still fresh. Even on the right, it will be tough to garner political support for banks trying to remove homeowners whose only crime was following stay-at-home orders.

            There is a long but now largely forgotten history of tenant resistance movements in this country, mostly led by the communist Left. Each 1st of the month between now and this fall brings us closer to a new radical struggle between people who ask nothing more than to keep a roof over their heads and a system that prioritizes the right to own and control property over the most basic of human needs.

            That movement will bring us closer to revolution.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.

12 thoughts on “Resist Evictions and Foreclosures

  1. I agree that Black Lives Matter has won some important symbolic victories. However, the movement’s problems are significant, limiting, and probably self-defeating.
    They have no stated ideology or agenda. They have no centralized authority. Their actions, so far, have been cathartic, but of very little real impact. Hurray! Aunt Jemima’s off the box. That just leaves thousands of schools, parks, statues, bridges, and tunnels named after racists. And let’s not forget all the geographic names, the currency, stamps, and coins, and the sports logos and mascots. Oh, and the decades of questionable TV programs. Did I mention the sexism and homophobia in rap music? Or are we just going to ignore the black women and the gay black men?
    Take that, Auntie J!
    BLM can probably count on another two months of viability — I hope I’m wrong, but I’m seeing them following the same path and the same mistakes as all the other “this time it’ll change” groups.
    The upcoming election is really the only chance they’ve got to consolidate power. The leaders (if they existed) should be telling all the BLMers and their supporters (meaning everyone who has been shafted — the unemployed, the evicted, everyone) to register to vote and to vote for Bernie Sanders in the general election. You want to see the dems suddenly get to stepping on issues? The only thing left is to Chappaquiddick Biden’s campaign (I mean, c’mon, he’s not gonna win, anyway.)

    • With Biden and a slight majority in congress
      you will get some green legislation
      Some rights reforms
      better picks for judges
      The do nothing orders will taken off the regulators, the EPA and other agencies will get back to pre Trump normal

      Bernie will do all that and push for more but without a progressive congress backing Bernie, he will spend a lot time hitting the wall.

      A run of the mill congress is always thinking about donors and the next election. Shifting the economy to help workers or any other major changes will be blocked by corporate Democrats and Republicans.

    • Just finished watching the documentary “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”(available on PBS until 7/2). Once you are able to organize effectively, the FBI will go after you. COINTELPRO was able to insert infiltrators to sow dissent. Once Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver were in conflict, the wedge weakened the Panthers and the FBI could walk away and let things spiral down. Not to mention when violence and guns are in the equation that gives the cops an excuse to raid headquarters and arrest leaders(and they are stuck in the legal system for a few years). Ill. state Panthers leader Fred Hampton was organizing to unite with poor whites and Latinos and the power structure could not bear that.

  2. Members of an eviction resistance movement can help one another block county sheriffs from kicking them out.

    Can’t but wonder, Ted, in the event such events are televised and come to the attenion of Nancy Patricia Pelosi, will she regard them, as she did the riots in Hong Kong as «a beautiful sight to behold» ?…

    Henri

  3. Henri,
    I wonder if anyone has information about whether people who are victims of evictions vote. “Here I am on a street corner, having lost literally every single thing I own, haven’t had a shower in two days, oh, I must remember to vote for the democrats. I know that Joe, um, Biden will fix all this.”

    Each day, I become more certain that the dems are going to lose by a remarkably narrow margin. It won’t just be that Biden is uninspiring. It will also be that the Republicans were better at suppressing the vote, that blacks didn’t come out and vote in large enough numbers to win Biden those states, that many evicted people simply didn’t bother (or couldn’t get to) the polls, that the court challenges to any irregularities will go in the favor of the Republicans, etc.

    Bloomberg posted an article in August 2019 (bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-16/election-security-in-2020-comes-down-to-money-and-states-aren-t-ready) about Florida and Illinois being at risk. That article also admits that pretty much all 50 states are targets of hackers, so how many states are at risk? How long is a piece of string? What happens when Trump accurately accuses the election results of being defective in two or three states (like Florida, Illinois, and Georgia)? His people will never accept a House vote that hands the preznitcy to Biden.

    Of course, seeing how 2020 is going, I think what might happen is that it goes to a contested election, then Biden drops out/dead before January, leaving Trump and his side arguing that you can’t vote for a dead man. Off to the Supreme Court we go for another peek at exactly how elections really are decided.

    • «… leaving Trump and his side arguing that you can’t vote for a dead man»Of course, you can, Alex – and as recently as 2000, a mere twenty years ago…. 😉

      The US Constitution is quite explicit about the requirements for anyone aspiring (?) to the office of US president :

      No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

      Not a word about being alive or dead…. 😉

      Henri

      • Ah, but we’re now parsing the difference between a state-level election and the presidential one. At the state level, aren’t people actually voting for their candidate of choice, vs. participating in an election in which Electors cast their Electoral College votes for the candidate in a presidential one?
        Remember, it doesn’t have to be a compelling argument that Trump’s side produces. It just have to be good enough to convince them that they’re being cheated somehow.
        If Biden dies, then the party picks the nominee, right? The number two winner was Bernie Sanders. Will they pick him? What if Hillary orders them to pick her?

  4. Well of course they’re being «cheated» if they don’t get the outcome they like, Alex, per definitionem, so to speak. But as noted above, the US Constitution does not require a candidate for the office of US president to be alive ; presumably one could vote for George Washington – that George Washington – if one were of such a mind….

    But its interesting to speculate what would happen were Joseph Robinette to leave for a better world prior to 3 November ; would his running mate – if one had been picked – automatically become the Democratic Party’s official candidate for the office of president ? Or would it be a whole new ball game ? (Personally, I don’t think Ms Clinton will run again, but rather a somewhat less shopworn example of the breed….)

    Henri

  5. Yes, tenants need to organize now. There is no excuse now, organize to resist evictions, that is the only way to fight the out of control eviction plague. Even before this crisis, this was a huge problem(see Matthew Desmond’s work). Americans need to learn to work together to defeat these unjust structures. We have become too individualistic and look how that has played out during the pandemic in general.

  6. Speaking of evicted tenants …
    If (and it’s a word that, come November, will put Kipling to shame as an underestimator) Trump loses, the question of not just how he loses (he’ll shriek voting irregularities) but the manner he loses (if Biden drops dead before taking office, Trump’s people will assert that Trump won, even if it’s after the election). The Republicans will proclaim that Biden’s is a fraudulent administration and block every single thing — if Pelosi tries to put Reagan on the dime, the Republicans will block it.
    But here’s the big problem I see with a tenant eviction crisis. See, the tenants could win this thing. How? Pretty much no landlord evicts and then replaces with new tenants on the same day. There’s almost always an interim. Once you’re evicted, the property’s not your problem anymore. If someone gets in three days later and pours concrete into the toilet and all the sinks? Punctures the coolant ring on the freezer? Pries up a couple floorboards and puts a soon-to-be-not-so-fresh haddock in there?
    That’s the landlord’s problem.
    And you know what all these suckers will say? Even while the sheriff’s people are throwing the boxes containing the evictees’ children’s baby photos and the high school yearbook onto the curb during a light rain (and believe me, if you could check, those cops will be sporting erections)?
    I don’t know either, but it certainly won’t be something about revenge or burning shit down or blowing things up. It will be the sad, plaintiff passivity of the victim class. And, count on it, it will be said in a polite indoor voice.

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