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(en) US, NYC, RAT* #2 - Casa Del Sol Torched; Resistance Grows

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 4 Jan 2005 09:12:30 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
News about and of interest to anarchists
http://ainfos.ca/ http://ainfos.ca/index24.html

Thanks to artists like KRS-One,
Afrika Bambaataa and Grand-
master Flash, the South Bronx
is best known the world over as
the birthplace of hip-hop - not to
mention Tito Puente and salsa,
and the former home of luminar-
ies like Mark Twain and Edgar
Allen Poe. However, this cultur-
ally rich neighborhood is also in
the city's poorest and most down-
trodden borough, with almost a
third of the population living
below the poverty line. Inhabited
mostly by people of color, the
South Bronx is a site of stagger-
ing environmental injustice, with
asthma rates fourteen times the
national average, and the lowest
ratio of greenspace to buildings in
the city. Even in the past month,
assaults on the South Bronx's
health, well-being, and power as
a community continue.
Recently, the City of New York
decided to evict and sell three
community-created and -oper-
ated gardens located in the South
Bronx. Gardeners and activists
affiliated with South Bronx Unit-
ed Gardeners, Green Thumb,
and the More Gardens Coalition
sued, rallied, and planned possi-
ble defense via occupations and
lockdowns. Unfortunately, they
were forced to accept a compro-
mise, moving the trees, plants, and equipment they could
salvage into another garden and vacant lot - an exchange in
space in which 28,000 feet of greenspace was lost. Fourteen
more community gardens remain imperiled in the South Bronx.

In other disheartening news, the longstanding squat Casa
del Sol, underway to being converted into a functional
community center, has been evicted by the NYPD. On November
30, riot police cleared Casa del Sol of its thirty residents
(who are now homeless), pursuant to a highly contentious
court order transferring the deed to ACORN, a corrupt
"non-profit" notorious for union-busting its own workers,
whom it refuses to pay a living wage, and which has been
investigated for vote fraud. A leading ACORN director,
Bertha Lewis, has also made numerous public statements
indicating a personal vendetta against longtime Casa
resident Rafael Bueno.

ACORN maintained that they planned to transform the building
into "low to mid income housing," despite the abundance of
other suitable empty buildings in the area. However, their
real motivations became apparent several hours
after the eviction; as evening fell, a suspicious fire consumed
half the building and sent fourteen firefighters to the hospital.
Casa del Sol has been held on grounds of adverse possession
since the mid-80s. A recent group of volunteers who
arrived over the summer around the RNC protests had
already put in many hours cleaning and renovating the
structure. Casa Del Sol's most recent projects included
a silkscreen shop, a community garden, an after school
program, the Adverse Possession art gallery, and weekly
concerts. Casa Del Sol also hosted an annual street fair
and Halloween party, and housed the offices of the Cher-
ry Tree Association and the Mutual Aid Project, which
produces the New York City Free Events Calendar.

What is happening in the South Bronx is an outright
assault on the people that live there. While there is
obviously enough room for gardens, community centers
and affordable housing to co-exist, the collusion of the
city government with greedy developers and unethical
NGOs has repeatedly undermined community efforts
to deal with local issues in ways that are empowering
or desirable. The result is continuing environmental and
social decline.

However, there is still hope in the South Bronx. The fact
that a variety of activists successfully allied themselves
with local residents was only the beginning. Together we
will fight against gentrification and eviction and create
more gardens, community spaces, and social justice!

> Casa Del Sol fights back!

In response to the hostile eviction
and subsequent torching of former
squat and community center Casa
Del Sol, a rally and march was held
in the South Bronx on Sunday, De-
cember 12th. About fifty protest-
ers, including many former Casa
residents, who are currently home-
less, followed the Rude Mechani-
cal Orchestra through the streets
to assemble in front of the newly
boarded-up building. The crowd
erupted in cheers as a banner ex-
claiming, "ACORN, Tell the Truth
About the Fire!" unfurled from
the roof. Residents of surround-
ing building complexes leaned out
their windows in support, yelling,
"Give them their house back!"
After rousing the ineffective
ACORN security guard who had
been posted inside the building,
police entered in pursuit of the
banner droppers. As the crowd
marched around the block, po-
lice charged, beating people and
violently arresting four. A camera
was snatched by undercovers who
deleted specific photos, and other
cameras were smashed by cops
during the arrests. Throughout the
melee, protesters defiantly stood
their ground, courageously de-
fending themselves and each other
from the police onslaught. In all,
there were seven arrests and mul-
tiple injuries.

Although the arrests were dis-
heartening, this action succeeded
in sending a strong message to
the NYPD, ACORN, and the sur-
rounding community that the the
corrupt policies and acts of ag-
gression that traditionally target
the residents of the South Bronx
will not be passively accepted or
obeyed. They may have arrested
some of us today, but the struggle
against police brutality and evic-
tions continues, drawing strength
from an unbridled passion and in-
destructible spirit that the cops can
neither crush nor understand.

> Casa Del Fuego by Jonathan

Ever since I moved to Casa Del Sol, rumors had been
circulating around town that were being evicted or
raided or something, and yesterday, those rumors fi-
nally came true. At about 10:30 AM, over fifty cops in
riot gear busted open the front gate and removed the
twenty or so people living there, arresting Bueno and
this other guy, Rick. We only got one chance to take
out a few handfuls of personal belongings, and then
welders and movers went into the building to begin dis-
mantling, sealing, destroying, and removing everything
we'd worked so hard on in the last several months, not
to mention the work of two decades of other residents.
Shitty day, right?

I got word a few hours later that Casa was on fire. By
the time I made it up to the South Bronx, the fire was out
(about 6:30), and fire officials were packing up their shit.
Half of the building was totally destroyed-- the office,
our artspace/afterschool program room, and my coffee
pot were among the notable casualties. Also, fifteen
firefighters were hospitalized and the roof collapsed. At
present, most of the Casa kids are staying at a sketchy
fucking motel for a few nights, paid for by the Red Cross
Disaster Relief Fund. State-funded disaster, state-fund-
ed relief-- makes sense, right?

So for starters, there are probably not gonna be any
more shows at Casa. Thanks so much to everyone who
helped out and supported and came and played over the
past three months-- you all mean the world to me and
everyone who lived there.

I could go on to thank specific people and bands who
particularly put their heart and soul into that place,
came out to every show and bent over backwards to
make the building more stable and vibrant-- but all that
crap is something you save for the end, and this isn't
really the end. After all, we managed to get the sound
system out before the blaze, so what's to stop us from
putting on more shows?
You can expect to hear more from us!
* The RAT is a new general New York anarchist journal
produced by the Black Rat collective.

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