On the 19th of April, some of DC’s gentrifying developers held a “space finding” bus tour of Anacostia looking for convenient places to displace local people and build new settlements for the wealthy. Like the settlers who came before them, they found they were not welcomed by those they seek to evict from their homes. Protesters from Empower DC and Black Lives Matter blocked the streets and forced them to turn back. Cops ordered the bus driver to reverse out of the trap, then arrested one of the activists to retaliate for driving off the condo builders and their bus.
The Washington Business Journal reported that the gentrifiers found their bus getting a pounding from outside while one activst tried to board it.That was not visible in the first 8 minutes of the video posted to a Black Lives Matter Facebook account, but that was all I was able to download (over Tor using a dedicated machine) due to the size of the half hour video. Thus I cannot confirm or deny whether anyone actually tried to board the bus or pounded on it. Google Busses in San Franciso have received such treatment, due to their use in allowing Google’s upscale workforce to bid up rents in distant neighborhoods.
From the video it is clear that there was great fury that developers would have the nerve to enter Anacostia with an eye towards planting their upscale settlements in one of the last places in DC where people of limited income can live. As the confrontation continued, police were unable to get the protesters to abandon their blockade, and more and more bystanders started building up. Police claimed they needed to get “emergency vehicles” through but they ALWAYS say that in a street blockade. Perhaps they wanted reinforcements but more cops could not get there through the traffic? Certainly any use of police force against the activists blocking the street could have driven bystanders to intervene, thus sparking a larger confrontation.
The bus tour charged developers $85 apiece for seats on the bus. Some of those blocking the bus reported feeling like they were the subject and targets of a safari. One commentor went so far as say “we are people not pelts!” Chants as the bus was blocked and pounded included “This is not a zoo. We are not a safari” as well as “Stop this gentrification bus” and “Get out of our community.”Activists held the bus for about half an hour before police ordered the bus to drive out in reverse, abandoning that target area.
The declared targets of the bus tour were listed in developer’s neighborhood names as The Wharf, DC United Stadium,Former USCG HQ redevelopment, Sheridan Station,2010 MLK Ave redevelopment / Busboys & Poets, 11th Street Bridge Park, Hill East / Reservation 13, Capitol Riverfront, and The Yards.
Things are getting rough: on the one hand police are hunting African-American youth over riding dirt bikes, on the other hand the condo builders are lusting for the homes of Anacostia residents. Of this sort of thing are long hot summers and urban uprisings born.