S.F. Anti-Gentrification Activist Arrested, House Searched
Although some claim that it is futile to resist gentrification and almost impossible to go against the force of the market economy, many groups have formed to resist rising rents, especially in San Francisco’s Mission district. Groups like the Eviction Defense Network (E.D.N.), Mission Agenda, and Mission Artists Gentrification Insurrection Coalition (M.A.G.I.C.), are still fighting. One group, the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project (M.Y.E.P.), has been on the forefront of resistance by creating propaganda, through a poster campaign that probes the outer boundaries of conventional decorum, and calling for direct action, in the hopes of dissuading yuppies from settling in the Mission.
Recently, the person accused of being Nestor Makhno, the MYEP spokesperson, was arrested and held incommunicado, chained to a bench at the Mission police station for over 12 hours while being jeered at by police complaining about damage to their Jeep Cherokees. A felony, “making terrorist threats”, and misdemeanor “malicious mischief” and vandalism charges have since been dropped. But his girlfriend had to hustle $1,060 dollars (which they aren’t getting back) to get him out on bail, over 24 hours later, from the 850 Bryant police station.
While he was in custody, his house was raided by six S.F.P.D. gang members. His computer, house keys, phone-address book, writings, radical literature, posters, documents, a Coup hip-hop tape (with an song called Kill My Landlord), and a nearly complete 16mm film project were all confiscated. They also wanted to grab a bag of what they mistakenly presumed was fertilizer but, as his girlfriend pointed out to them, was just a bag of organic black beans! Apparently they were really out to bust ‘Nestor’ and tried to blame an unsolved landlord arson on him. Thought crime is punishable in this society in which private property is more sacred than people’s lives. The pen is a formidable weapon, indeed.
Rents have never been higher in the city. According to the May issue of the New Mission News, because of the passing of Proposition G, owner move in evictions are now down to about 60 a month; as compared to the 180 OMI evictions a month, last year. However, Ellis evictions, in which the landlord withdraws rental units from the market, have increased to about 20 evictions a month. Local newspapers also claimed that there were about 168 homeless deaths in the city streets in 1998, one of the highest rates since they’ve been supposedly keeping count.
Individuals like ‘Nestor’ need our full support even if you don’t 100% agree with ‘his’ provocative posters. At least someone is making a stink! Most people are evicted and quietly pushed out without a fight or fuss. A local illegal move-in eviction, by the Cort family, who had previously white-washed a huge mural on 17th and Harrison St., was exposed by the posters. The Corts got a little too greedy. In 1996, they evicted, among others, residents who were in their 70′s and who had been living there for 20-30 years. The house, at 3257 20th St., is still unoccupied.
The Mission Yuppie Eradication Project posters have definitely sparked debate and discussions about the issue of gentrification. Complaints about the posters are not coming from Latino residents on the verge of eviction (the last posters were also translated into Spanish) but mostly from new white residents who, although they claim they are not yuppies, can still afford expensive cars and high rents.
The real issue is clear. We have to decide which side we are on: with those who want to perpetuate this destructive, oppressive status quo, or with those who want to make positive social change for all, towards a society where at least the basics, such as housing and food are free to all.