On Thursday, Nov. 17th, a group of Peoplestown residents and the Housing Justice League rallied together at the house of resident Tanya Washington, bringing attention to the eminent domain proceedings brought against Washington and her neighbors. In front of reporters and cameras from various television stations, Washington led the charge in explaining the issue at hand.
The city of Atlanta is using “eminent domain” as a legal maneuver to redevelop a block in Peoplestown. The City cites street flooding as a primary reason for neighborhood redevelopment-- but it is simply a rouse. In the areas of Peoplestown hit hardest by flooding, notably the Turner Field stadium parking lots, the City has chosen to NOT redevelop. Early drafts by engineering consultants suggested a park and pond be built besides the stadium and AWAY from the neighborhoods. But, the City has avoided this, and chosen instead to forcefully displace Peoplestown residents so they may build atop their homes.
Commenting on this situation, Washington noted, “We have lawyered up, and are ready to take on the City. If the city wins this fight, they can set a dangerous precedent of taking over neighborhoods via eminent domain. It’s important that we win this legal battle and show that neighborhoods can defend themselves. We have a good legal and advocacy team, so I am confident in our abilities. Get ready.”
Alongside Washington, residents and allies held signs that read “Stop displacement,” “Mayor Reed, do the right thing,” and “Our homes are not for sale.” The rally echoed actions in the past, when housing justice members called Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to prioritize neighborhood residents over profit, and not displace people in the name of city beautification. Actions in this campaign once again will be directed towards City Hall and the Mayor’s Office, urging for policy that creates an Atlanta for all.
Longtime Peoplestown resident Mrs. Darden was perhaps the rally’s energy source. With a loud and resonating voice, she led the group in civil-rights era chants and declarations. Gathering the crowd together and pushing their spirits forward, Mrs. Darden (and her husband Mr. Darden) represent the best of the Peoplestown neighborhood, and who exactly is at stake in this fight against displacement. Despite the enormity of the task ahead, Mrs. Darden spoke with only strength and certainty. “We will stay in our homes,” she said repeatedly. “And we will not be moved.”
Action continue on Monday, Nov. 21st. Residents and housing justice members will testify and protest against councilmembers who voted to put residents outside their homes-- including Councilperson Carla Smith who introduced the ordinance authorizing eminent domain in Peoplestown. This will be followed by a sit-in at the Mayor’s office to demand that he stop litigation and use his executive authority to keep residents in their homes. The Housing Justice League invites supporters to attend these events, and get out the word to friends, family and colleagues, in person, through phone, and via social media.