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(en) US, Alt. Media, Landlords Beware: Boston Angry Tenants are Coming for You!

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 31 Jul 2004 09:16:41 +0200 (CEST)

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About goddamn time someone made the streets run red with the
blood of those capitalist pigs, I thought. The flyer, posted on the
anarchist Web site Infoshop.org by a group calling themselves
the Boston Angry Tenants Union (BATU)*, said that
“housing is a right,” promised that BATU would “act
militantly and collectively in order to change the state of housing
in Boston” and derided “dirty politicians” for not
acting as vigorous allies in the fight for fair housing. Toss in a
few additional charges of general evildoing and gluttonous greed
on the part of Boston's landlords, and it seemed as if we were
only moments away from a cabal of black-clad madmen
wreaking havoc on the city's ruling class, right?

According to Angry Tenant Dominic DeSiato, who presumably
took some time off from sharpening his machete to speak to the
Dig, the union “started with a handful of tenants and friends
who came together to start an organization to deal with the
problems we face as tenants in Boston: the high cost of living,
landlord issues, unfair eviction, discrimination. We wanted to
help push the housing movement in Boston.”

DeSiato explains that the Angry Tenants are an egalitarian union
of 40-50 disgruntled Boston residents who are “still at a point
of building our membership.” Unlike their fiat-wielding
antagonists, the Angry Tenants make decisions by consensus.
“We're inherently different from a CDC [community
development corporation],” DeSiato says. “We have
different goals and strategies. Everyone in the union has the
power to affect our activities, and every member is empowered.
It's not hierarchical.”

So everyone in the group is empowered to slit some
property-owning throats, right?

“We're not necessarily out there fighting landlords in the
streets,” DeSiato claims. “Direct action tactics include
withholding rent, engaging in directly democratic organizing. We
have our own idea of how housing should be, and we won't
compromise our goals. We believe in social housing.
Landlordism is an inherent social problem, because people don't
control the housing they live in.”

DeSiato adds that the closest the Angry Tenants have come to
living out The Coup's classic (and angry!) hip-hop manifesto
“Kill My Landlord” has been the group's “Dunk the
Landlord” dunk tank at Jamaica Plain's yearly Wake Up the
Earth Festival.

“We believe in our strategy, in the tactics that we use,”
he says.” We try to be very modest and keep open the avenue
of struggle. We're a very new organization, and we're trying to
build our organization through real work. We're realistic about
our power and where we're at right now.”

How does the Boston Tenant Coalition [BTC] feel about these
gas-bomb-hurling rabble-rousers organizing Allston's

“Sometimes organizations think we're too radical; sometimes
they think we're not radical enough,” said the BTC's
Roxanne McKinnon of her comrades in the struggle for housing.
“There are many, many types of organizations in our
coalition.” As a matter of fact, BATU conducts most of its
public campaigns in cooperation with its coalition members in
the BTC.

“They're a really interesting organization, and I have a lot of
respect for them,” McKinnon says. “The perspective and
strength that they bring is evident. Instead of constantly reacting,
they've had a chance to really help envision what housing should

Thus far, the Angry Tenants have focused on coalition building
and expanding their organization. “We've been empowering
tenants” to stand up to their class enemies, DeSiato explains.
“We haven't had too many public campaigns. We're open for
participation from everyone. Our membership has many
immigrants - Brazilians, Asians. There are a number of anarchist
types, who were already involved in other types of activism, but
that's not the overwhelming characteristic of the organization.
The overwhelming characteristic is immigrant: They have the
most problems. Many of them are discriminated against because
of their immigrant status - they don't receive repairs, their rent is
increased, their concerns are ignored. They're told that they have
no legal rights, but they do have rights.”

To see how the Angry Tenants' implacable fury is playing with
the propertied class, the Dig phoned Lenore Schloming,
president of the Small
Property Owner's Association, a group the Angry Tenants have
described in this way: “This seemingly helpful group is really
just a front-group for rich landlords who want to keep rent
control from being reinstated ... SPOA's evils must be exposed to
as many people as possible.”

“Well, they described my home as an estate, which makes
them less than credible; I live in a 10-unit apartment
building!” Schloming chuckled. “I don't think they're
accomplishing too much. They flyered my neighborhood. My
tenants thought that was funny. They have a right to do their
marches, but I don't think they're much of a threat at this

“Could you mention that we're having a tenant BBQ on
August 15 at Ringer Park in Allston?” DeSiato responded.
“We want to meet new people, talk about tenant issues and

Sure thing, buddy. Just wipe that scowl off your face.

For more information on the BATU, e-mail

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Copied from:

Fédération des Communistes Libertaires du Nord-Est
Northeastern Federation of Anarchist Communists
* [Ed. Note: Antiauthoritarian anticapitalist initiative]

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