By: Juan Miguel Martinez
The day after the city of Milwaukee declared a snow emergency, the Milwaukee Autonomous Tenant’s Union organized a picket of S2 properties, the third biggest owner of real estate in the city. There is a much bigger emergency, a public health crisis if you will, taking place in our communities. Families are being evicted at an alarming rate, all during a pandemic and an economic crisis. MATU was joined by various activist groups from around the city, including the Party for socialism and liberation (PSL), The People’s revolution (TPR), Democratic socialists of America (DSA) and the Milwaukee chapter of the Brown Berets.
“People are being displaced from their homes and have very little legal recourse. Sam Stair is responsible for these evictions and we are here to let him know that tenants have rights”, states Robert Penner, who spearheaded the project with Hayden Harwood and other members of MATU. Most of these evictions are taking place in black and brown communities, where undocumented people live. The moratorium implemented by the last administration doesn’t apply to them, and is still difficult to call on. A landlord or management company is not allowed to evict. That task is carried out by the sheriff’s department, and no one else. If the tenant is able to provide in court that they lost income primarily due to COVID, then the moratorium applies and they cannot be displaced.
The picket took place in front of S2 properties at 2900 W Lincoln Ave and continued for two hours. Chants like “Tenant’s rights are people’s rights” and “Stop the mortgages / Stop the evictions were shouted and cars honked their horns in solidarity. The sidewalk was narrow due to the snow being piled up so the people marched up and down the block so as to not stop and be considered to be trespassing by S2 or the neighboring businesses. Media outlets were presented and begged the question, are there grants for landlords to pay their mortgage? This is a question with an answer that remains to be seen. Owning properties is like owning a business, sometimes you take a hit and sometimes you make profit. The simple fact of the matter is that the business they run deals in human lives. People deserve a home, and to not be put out during the pandemic when money cannot be made to make all ends meet. Any money that can be given to people should be given to tenants and marginalized communities first.
Demonstrating and pulling off actions in Wisconsin, particularly under the conditions that we face from November to April, are a testament to the people. It is a time where we show our mettle, and are sometimes characterized by it. The folks that organize these actions do not belong to any particular party, but are servants for the greater good. The Biden administration is under heavy scrutiny by our type of people, because we are the ones that organized the heavy voter turnout in November. The Trump administration couldn’t believe that so many people had come out to vote. He was beaten in a fair and free election, and it was because of grassroots community organization.