AUSTIN: Protest and Combative Action Carried out Against Gentrification

By Ed Dalton

Yesterday, revolutionary community organization Defend Our Hoodz (DOH) carried out a confrontational demonstration against nonprofit Austin Creative Alliance (ACA), which has been collaborating with developer Presidium Group, by protesting a gallery exhibit of artist Jean-Pierre Verdijo.

Protesters filled the small space at ACA headquarters, condemning sell-out artists like Verdijo and far outnumbering those attending the event.

“There is no peace between developers and the people they are trying to evict and get rid of,” yelled one woman protester.

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Verdijo remained seated on the floor during the protest, drinking pineapple cider manufactured by Austin Eastciders, which is a gentrifier business in East Austin. When asked directly by protesters why he was collaborating with ACA, he admitted to refusing to sign onto the boycott called by DOH against the Riverside Arts district because ACA had offered him gallery space.

ACA’s facilitation of this art show, supposedly about gentrification, attempts to sanitize its own crimes against the people, including the fact that its headquarters is located in the E Cesar Chavez area where working class people have been and continue to be displaced.

Verdijo’s exhibit was an objective failure in terms of creating a “dialogue” about gentrification. The conversation was one-sided: Verdijo unable to contend with the collective anger of community members and revolutionary organizers being threatened by displacement.

The protest made a powerful statement about what happens when the boycott is violated and they stated clearly that they had already discussed the picket of Austin Creative Alliance with Verdijo prior to confronting his opening.

Later that night hours after the protest, unknown militants carried out a direct action by making their own art out of the building where ACA hosted Verdijo. Windows were smashed and red spray paint covered much of the exterior.

“Art washing,” a term referring to real estate and development companies sanitizing gentrification through the arts, was painted in large letters across the front of the building alongside the slogan “Sell-outs fuck off.” This action was not claimed by any group.

Happy to ignore the legal protest action earlier in the evening, the bourgeois media was quick to jump on the redecoration which they have the nerve to call “vandalism.”

Bourgeois journalist and gentrification advocate Michael King at the Austin Chronicle wasted no time incriminating DOH.

“Early Friday morning, about 3am, a small group of people – apparently connected to ‘Defend Our Hoodz’ – vandalized the offices of Jim Hightower on San Marcos St. They threw rocks through two windows and spray-painted slogans on the front wall,” King writes.

True to serving the interest of the ruling class, King also writes that DOH members assaulted a man at another action, although there is hard evidence which contradicts this and the case has not been tried. Notably, King did not even attempt to reach out to DOH for an interview before publishing the article.

Readers of the Chronicle were taken aback by King’s obvious bias. “Yo, Michael King, you did not even reach out to DOH for a comment before publishing! It wasn’t them! Why not reach out for a comment?” one commenter wrote. “Come on as a beat reporter you need to exhaustively seek comments and verification.”

The man referenced in King’s article claiming to have been assaulted is Larry Sunderland, a local reactionary with the Friends of Riverside Association which acts as a PR group for the police as well as a snitch network. Sunderland has a reputation in the community for stalking protesters, filming them, and confronting them.

Local bourgeois news station KXAN interviewed the CEO of ACA John Riedie on the protest and combative action. Riedie called the anti-gentrification activists “radical terrorists.”

Only in the distorted views of the ruling class does a little broken glass and spray paint count as “radical terrorism” and the mass displacement of whole neighborhoods, increased homelessness, and hardship doesn’t even rank.

In an effort to hide his crimes behind marginalized identities Riedie went on to claim without any evidence that the anti-gentrification movement had been targeting “trans people and people of color” which is an absolute fabrication.

“While the mainstream media continues to be the lap dogs of capitalist gentrifiers, we’ll continue to do the work to defend Riverside from the luxury abomination threatening to evict 4,000 people and raise the rents for everyone else,” a DOH spokesperson told Incendiary. “The media will eagerly accuse us of every action the community takes. We applaud the hood for defending itself from greedy sellouts.”

While King reports unverified libel and Riedie relies on made up targeted identities, DOH continues its fight against the Riverside Arts District undeterred. That is why they will be victorious. Incendiary encourages our readers to sign onto the DOH boycott and extends our respect and salutations to the militant artists who improved ACA’s headquarters with rocks and paint in the dead of night.