The Occupation Movement: Take Back The Land Call To Action For Mayday 2010

The USHRN Land and Housing Action Group is calling for a month of direct actions throughout the country, commencing on May Day 2010 (May 1st, 2010) to reclaim our homes and communities from the banks, speculators, and gentrifiers. Join us by organizing actions in your city and region, designed to meet your own local conditions and needs. We also ask everyone who supports this initiative to spread the word and help the campaign reach the critical mass necessary to effect change.

Building a Movement

A severe housing crisis exists in the United States. All across the country, despite courageous struggles against divestment, land speculation and gentrification, public housing communities are being permanently displaced as developments are razed to the ground. Millions of families have been dispossessed of their homes, wrongly evicted and displaced from their communities by the escalating foreclosure crisis. Homelessness is escalating to levels unseen since the 1930’s as a direct result of the various forces of displacement stated above and economic dislocation from increased automation, deindustrialization, and the globalization of production.

Historically oppressed peoples and women are bearing the brunt of the housing crisis. Working class African Americans in particular are being devastated by the destruction of public housing, evictions from foreclosures, the record loss of home equity, and spiraling homelessness.

The government’s promotion of discriminatory politics and policies lies at the heart of the housing crisis. It’s support of redlining, predatory lending, gentrification, hyper-inflated speculation and a near exclusive system of private homeownership and land tenure privileges wealthy elites and exploits the working class and the poor. The government’s unwillingness to change these discriminatory policies and practices constitutes a gross violation of its obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to adequate housing for the individuals and peoples under its jurisdiction.

The Human Right to Housing

Housing is a fundamental human right protected by Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR), and Article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), amongst others.

To realize the right to housing, and solve the housing crisis, we need a national “Take Back the Land” movement. To build this movement the Land and Housing Action Group of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN) – composed of the Coalition to Defend Public Housing, Picture the Homeless, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Survivors Village, and Take Back the Land – is launching a national “Take Back the Land” campaign.

Principles

The Take Back the Land campaign is rooted in the following principles:

1. Housing as a Human Right. Land and adequate housing should not be commodities to enrich the elite but instead, like air, should be protected as a common good.

2. Local Community Control over Housing.

3. Leadership by Impacted Communities, particularly low-income Black women.

4. Direct Action.

Call to Action

The campaign will focus on the following:

Foreclosure Related Evictions. In the context of the millions of families across the country homeless and under-housed, continued foreclosure and demolition related evictions, of owners or renters in houses, apartments or public housing, is counter productive. We must put an end to foreclosure related evictions through campaigns of community and home defenses.

Foreclosed Homes. After a vicious cycle of gentrification, which escalated housing prices and forced the removal of entire historical communities in the name of development, the foreclosure crisis has reached epidemic proportions. Perfectly good homes sit vacant, for years on end, the property of banks that already have been paid for them by the federal bailout. These homes must be filled with families in need of housing.

Vacant Buildings. As the homeless sleep in the streets, cars and parks, vacant buildings, owned by banks and local governments, dot the urban skyline and shock the moral conscience. These structures must be put to use for the benefit of people in need of housing.

Vacant Land. During the housing “boom,” local governments made publicly owned land available to politically connected developers at fire sale prices. Now that boom times are over, vacant land must now be returned to use for public housing and other public goods.

Public Housing. Even as the housing crisis intensifies, municipalities across the country are shedding public housing units through demolition, deliberate vacancy and privatization. In this time of great need, we cannot afford to loose one inch low-income housing. Public housing must be put to its intended use and controlled by residents and local communities.

Right to Return. Whether through gentrification, public housing demolition or the combination of natural disasters and government actions, large numbers of people have been forced to leave their long time communities in order to make room for wealthier, often whiter, people. We must have the right to return to our historic communities and rebuild them for the benefit of all.

Take Back the Land is a comprehensive campaign initiative, which includes a direct action campaign and the grassroots initiative to build alternative institutions, such as land trusts, co-operatives, and other collective ownership and management vehicles to exercise direct community control over land and housing. Take Back the Land’s objective is to realize the human right to housing by opening vacant housing and transforming land use for the benefit of oppressed and low-income communities. We are calling on all those who have been displaced, dispossessed and discarded from their homes and communities, and all those believe in human rights, to join us in this campaign.

For more information, email housingrights@ushrnetwork.org or call 404.588.9761.

For a copy of this call to action in flyer form, click here.

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