It’s all fun and games until the socialists show up at your front door.
On Wednesday night, August 22 a group of over 60 protesters, led by the Democratic Socialists of America, Los Angeles (DSA-LA), showed up at the Glassell Park home of City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell. The action was coordinated in support of the rent-striking Burlington tenants, 200+ Latinx constituents of O’Farrell’s district who are facing mass eviction in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Westlake. About 20 of the tenants themselves were present, in addition to supporters from the Los Angeles Tenants Union (LATU) and the homeless-women advocacy group SheDoes.
To those in attendance, the protest represented a powerful linking of some of the more militant organizations in LA, and demonstrated the continuing momentum of both the Burlington struggle itself and the tenants’ movement more broadly.
The tenants, LATU organizers, and now DSA-LA all accuse O’Farrell of siding with the ultra-rich landlord Lisa Ehrlich over his own constituents, evidenced by a recent letter he sent to the tenants that signaled the end of his involvement in the matter and that repeated several lies being pushed by Lisa Ehrlich, the landlord. They also point to his refusal to support expanding rent control.
“It seems pretty clear to me where Mitch’s loyalties lie — with developers and the real estate industry,” said Arielle Sallai, of DSA, in an interview. “He loves that these neighborhoods are gentrifying and becoming ‘trendy,’ even though that includes the mass displacement of low-income Latinx communities. He’s not going to support any struggle, no matter how just, that gets in the way of rising property values.”
The demonstration began with a rowdy march up O’Farrell’s street as the protesters were chanting and banging pots and pans. Upon reaching O’Farrell’s house, the chants were interspersed with short speeches on the megaphone from representatives from the various groups and the tenants themselves. (Livestream of the event here and here.)
“We had to occupy your office just to get a 15-minute meeting, and now you tell us there’s nothing you can do. We know you don’t care about us, Mitch,” said Alba, a Burlington resident.
Several speakers also accused O’Farrell of demonstrating a pattern of anti-immigrant politics, most recently evidenced by his anti-street vendor actions.
Members of DSA set up tents and were planning on spending the night, but decided against it after police threatened them with arrest. Protesters were also passing out fliers to his neighbors and placing them on their cars (pictured below).
“We compared the letter Mitch sent the tenants to a recent press release from Lisa Ehrlich’s camp, and the similarities were absolutely striking,” Trinidad Ruiz, a LATU organizer, told me. “He’s siding with her and peddling her lies, plain and simple. We think all the money he gets from real estate has something to do with this.”
A recent analysis by LATU showed that real estate interests accounted for a full 31% of donations in O’Farrell’s first official filing for his 2017 campaign, and over 80% of these donations were the maximum legal amount. Donors include the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, the California Association of Realtors, billionaire developer Rick Caruso, and notorious mass-evictor Brad Cox.
“Mitch’s term isn’t up until 2022. He’ll either change his tune on tenants’ issues, or deal with us for the next 4 years,” said Jed Parriott of DSA.