Me and POOR Magazine’s Co-editor and Manilatown son Tony Robles were there, sitting in her humble living room with Judge Judy quietly adjudicating on the old school Panasonic in the background, trying desperately to “save” Miss Nan, from the vicious crime of eviction for profit.
As she spoke, telling her story and the stories of her two disabled neighbors, one of whom had just been rushed to the hospital because he was so traumatized by receiving an Ellis Act eviction notice, her voice remained deep and strong, holding back over 50 years of rent and bills paid, jobs tirelessly labored, unions joined, children born, families raised, elders cared for, mamas transitioned. “I have nowhere to go, she repeated.
I was thrown back to the trauma of nine years ago, when me and my mama were given an Ellis Act eviction notice — the last straw, she said, after an already too long-life of poverty and suffering, and the reason she became very sick and soon-after transitioned. I remembered the family of Gerry Ambrose, a four generation working-class family dismantled by Ellis Act eviction and eventual displacement to a trailer park in West Sacramento from the predatory impact of the first dot-com boom, my own eviction in 2010 under Ellis Act of Mamahouse — a home for poor single parents like myself — that I started in 2007. And now Miss Nan, and Benito Santiago, and the entire block just Ellis Acted last month in North Beach, and dozens more we at POOR Magazine have gotten calls from every week for the last eight months and literally thousands more across the state of California, people being evicted for profit of the few.
As a care-giver for elders, an advocate for all poor peoples who, like myself and my family, have struggled to survive in the inhuman system they call capitalism, and a good indigenous daughter that has always practiced eldership, I decided that these evictions under the Ellis Act, causing the suffering of so many are an actual crime, a crime of elder abuse.
“We need to put an end to the Ellis Act and other laws like it which cause more poverty and homelessness,” Luis Rodriguez, Green Party Candidate for Governor of California, said at the press conference that proceeded our attempt to file charges.
“I’m sorry, we can’t take this complaint, you will need to go downstairs to the police window.” When we first presented the detailed complaints of 12 disabled elders ranging in age from 62 to 95 years old, whose lives have been dismantled by the abuse of an Ellis Act eviction, the DA tried to give us what us Po’ folks call the “welfare shuffle” — sorry we can’t help you, you need to go somewhere else.
But this time, for one of the few times in our un-protected and system abused lives, someone stood up for our fight for the most unprotected in our society.
“Actually, no, this is the right place for us to be,” Tony Prince, a lawyer who showed up for us and is also action at campaign manager for Rodriguez. “Due to the enormity and seriousness of these charges, they have the right to go directly to the district attorney.”
And then suddenly, almost as quickly as the “no” came out of her mouth, the DA’s representative agreed to go to the back and consult with other attorneys. When she came back she agreed to take our first seven complaints and make an appointment to sit down with us to discuss investigating them further. (There’s a video of the event here.)
The reception was not unexpected. Us poor and profiled folks of color have been told “no” more than we would care to count. Our lives and the lives of our young black and brown people are constantly arrested, cited, incarcerated and harassed for less than what these landlords and speculators have gotten away with. We are constantly called criminals and thugs and perpetrators and dangerous, and yet: Who among us is abusing the most vulnerable, who among us is creating sit-lie, stop and frisk and gang injunction laws to keep our poor bodies constantly under threat and attack?
“We will be investigating any clear acts of elder abuse,” DA George Gascon said to reporters who questioned him on our complaints.
The ultimate irony of capitalist-defined crimes is who are considered the good, honest, working people and who are considered the dangerous criminals. It is not our houseless peoples, or black and brown young people, that are throwing 95-year-old elders on the street in the cold with nowhere to go. It is the people who have stolen this indigenous land and charged us rent for it and used papers and lawyers to destroy us – they are the real criminals, the dangerous ones.
This Friday, Feb 14th, at noon, elders, families and advocates will come back to 850 Bryant St. to hold a press conference on the front steps of the Hall of Justice and then meet with the District Attorney to pursue these charges of Elder Abuse. Come join us.