Renters Day of Action – Denver, Colorado
Last Thursday, during the National Renters Day of Action, residents from Denver, Aurora, Arvada, Westminster, Thornton, Commerce City and grassroots organizations such as 9to5 Colorado, FRESC: Good Jobs, Strong Communities, We Organize Westminster, Cultivando, Westwood Unidos, Growing Home and others gathered in solidarity with one another to launch the demand rent control and to declare a Housing State of Emergency. Currently rent control is illegal in the state of Colorado, a limitation that has led to countless evictions, displacement, gentrification and of course, skyrocketing rents.
Residents and grassroots groups gathered at the Denver City and County building to launch the action. Thantabantu Iverson kicked-off the action with powerful words, “We are standing up today with our brothers and sisters, families and communities in more than 40 cities around the country to declare that adequate housing must no longer be seen as a commodity.”
Demonstrators marched through Civic Center Park in downtown Denver, making their way to the Colorado State Capitol. Signs declaring ‘Housing is a Human Right’, ‘Your luxuries = Our Displacement’ and ‘We Demand Rent Control’ flooded the streets of Denver while chants of solidarity and power echoed through the city. As residents gathered around the capitol steps, candles were lit to commemorate the families that have already been displaced, evicted, forced into homelessness, and left no choice but to leave their homes, schools and families due to the housing crisis in Colorado. Community leaders from varying neighborhoods testified and shared their heartfelt housing stories.
Guadalupe Villalobos, a community connector at Cultivando and father of five living in Thornton shared, “My family lives in anguish because we know that there are no policies that protect us against landlords who have the ability to evict us at any moment. This is something that can be very traumatizing for my children. Without a stable home, they cannot have a healthy life.”
Another speaker, Maria Ceballos, lived in the Belmont mobile home park in Westwood with her two daughters and one son before the owners of the park sold the land to developers. She recalled, “When I found out about this, personally, I was very sad, I lived happily there, the school of my youngest and oldest daughters were close by, the stores were close by. I was taking English classes only 10 minutes away from my house.” After a long and uncomfortable relocation process, she moved to Arvada with her family and is stressed with longer commute times to her children’s schools and inaccessibility to the English classes she was taking
Despite the numerous struggles community members shared, many, like Alma Hernandez, felt the growing power in the Renters Rights movement. As a mother of three living with her oldest daughter, son-in-law, and youngest daughter, and whose only son was deported four years ago, Alma affirmed, “Now I know that I have rights and responsibilities as a renter and I feel much more safe that now I’m not alone and that there a lot of other people like me that are supporting us. We need to learn how we can support each other in this community and make changes so that together we can benefit from these movements.” Westminster, CO community leader and mother of three young children, Claudia Vasquez shared her family’s experience living with bedbugs, roaches, rats and contaminated water, along with skyrocketing rents and stagnant wages. “We are surviving–we are not living,” stated Claudia as she powerfully testified and told her housing experience.
After adults and children shared their housing experiences, Aztec dancers closed the action with a healing ceremony to bring peace to the families who have experienced forced displacement, but also to fuel the power of the residents in our communities.
Some tenants get just seven days notice on a rent increase, and other reasons they’re marching on the Capitol
Group Aims to Give Renters Protection in Tight Housing Market CBS Denver 9/22/2016
Demonstrators call for the repeal of Colorado’s rent control ban Carter, Eliza Colorado Independent 9/23/2016
Coverage of Local and Regional Public Affairs and News Myers, Hannah Leigh KGNU 9/23/2016 http://www.kgnu.org/morningmag/9/23/2016