POWERFUL BEYOND WORDS
“Powerful beyond words” is how Rosario Cervantes described the experience of witnessing San Francisco teacher, Nancy Obregon speaking truth boldly to Maximus representatives, with each phrase enthusiastically echoed by some 350+ community voices in the room.
I am a teacher. Born and raised in San Francisco. I’ve been teaching for 21 years. I’ve affected over a thousand children’s lives. And I can not afford to live in the community that I helped change! So you tell me how Maximus is going to help me!
Deborah Gatiss reported, “afterward I thanked her . . . and I told her I was pretty sure she just changed everything.” [from people.power.media].
The extraordinary moment—one in a series of so many extraordinary moments on the evening of March 4th at the Laborers Local 261 Union Hall—was caught on video by [people.power.media] and had already logged more than 12,000 views on Facebook just two days later, when this post was published. Our community’s message was heard crystal clear that night, and has been reaching far and wide ever since.
“Powerful beyond words” is actually a perfect description for the entire evening that we spent picketing, chanting, singing, and echoing each other’s voices, directed squarely at Maximus Real Estate Partners—but also at our elected officials and decision makers in City Hall. Maximus was there to present details on a community benefits package for their proposed project for 1979 Mission, best known as the Monster in the Mission. We were there to reject their towers of predominately luxury-priced units and to demand 100% affordable housing for the Mission District until the community’s affordable needs are met. And yes, there was indeed the palpable sense in the room that we just might be turning the tide. That together, we were changing everything.
The Occupy-style “human microphone”—beginning about every five minutes throughout Maximus’ presentation, with a Mic check! Mic check! or ¡Atención! ¡Atención!—was used to great effect to counter Maximus’ untrue claims that their luxury project could actually bring benefit to the existing community. (Note: some Plaza 16 folks are working on a point by point written response to Maximus’ benefits package. Watch for that here soon.)
This “mic check,” led by Chirag Bhakta of Mission SRO Collaborative, is guaranteed to give you chills.
We wrapped up our very vocal public statement that we refuse to be pushed out our community, with a spirited chant of “Hell no! We won’t go!” and countless choruses of “Hit the road MAX! And don’tcha come back no more, no more, no more, no more!” (Anyone have clips of that for posterity’s sake?)
Before entering the meeting, we held a non-confrontational picket out front, striking against Maximus (certainly not against laborers!), and a rousing rally with an even bigger crew of some 400 community folks strong (a significant portion of our crew was not allowed to enter the hall for the meeting as it was filled to capacity). Here’s a clip from Tommi Avicolli Mecca’s speech explaining how Maximus’s proposed project would drive displacement in a neighborhood already suffering a severe crisis. More clips of more speeches to come. The marvelously diverse crowd filled the sidewalk and spilled onto the street, as a near full moon rose over the scene.
The massive rally and the takeover of the meeting were a marvelous display of beautiful and inspiring people power. And this is only going to grow. If you weren’t able to be there on March 4th, make certain you don’t miss the next big action!
Our action received loads of media coverage. Below is NBC BayArea’s report including a quote from Cynthia Crenshaw from Mission SRO Collaborative, “I’m worried about them wanting to tear down my building and put up more condos.” One correction for NBC: it did not “get ugly” at all, inside the meeting, as stated at the beginning of the clip. Rather, it is was utterly beautiful and inspiring!
Tim Remond of 48Hills thought the community voices were strong enough that we might truly be able to shut down Maximus.
“When projects are shut down altogether – when developers realize, for example, that no project at 16th and Mission in 2015 is going to go forward with the normal return on investment and profit that’s expected from market-rate housing in the city – it sends a message.”
“I don’t know if there’s any commercial housing project that the community will accept today at 16th and Mission. But I can say that what we saw tonight was a first offer, and it was soundly rejected.
Mission Local had a pretty in-depth play by play of the evening, including quotes from several of the speakers at the rally including Cynthia Crenshaw, Marilyn Duran, and Tommi Avicolli-Mecca.
“If Maximus builds these condos on 16th and Mission, there will be massive gentrification in this neighborhood,” housing activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca told a gathering crowd. “New people who move in will call the police to get rid of the poor people”
ABC 7 got some good shots of the “ruckus demonstration” outside, and the energy inside, but they also got a few things wrong. Plaza 16, for example, was not confrontational with laborers. We are in solidarity with our labor sisters and brothers, and have a strong labor presence within our coalition including SEIU 1021 and Jobs with Justice. Also ABC 7 failed to question the erroneous 31% affordable figure (it’s actually 24%) that the Maximus spokespeople kept inexplicably repeating. Cory Weinberg of the San Francisco Business Times called out Maximus on their chronically incorrect math.
Incidentally, the spreading of misinformation is becoming a pattern for Maximus. A week prior to our March 4th action Weinberg reported on Maximus’ erroneous listing of Supervisor Campos as a “co-sponsor” of the March 4th meeting—what he called the “latest tactical error by Maximus after months of street protests against the project.” Campos publicly rebuked the developer for the misinformation. “I’m very upset with the fact that the flier claims I am co-sponsoring the meeting,” he said. “. . . Frankly I think it raises questions about the developer.”
Curbed SF, the real estate blog, caught a quote from Buck Bagot of ACCE. “Market-rate housing is never going to trickle down to middle-income people like me, let alone poor and working class people,” said Bagot.
KGO radio had a short and sweet report with a quote from Carmen Simon of Plaza 16 member organizations, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club and Eviction Free San Francisco.
Telemundo did a preview in the morning for which they definitely get extra props for publishing our Plaza 16 Greedzilla tweet along with their report. In the evening they ran this short clip with some nice footage outside the venue.
Please let us know what news stories we might have missed!