Armed Security Forces Terrorize Brookland Manor Community

Developer Mid-City Financial's hired, armed security forces continue to escalate harassment and intimidation at Brookland Manor in Northeast Washington, DC, where Mid-City is attempting to install a luxury redevelopment plan at the expense of hundreds of working class black families and residents. Last month, on October 14, security guards toting guns disrupted public order when they forced their way into Ms. Ada Harris's apartment, without a warrant, and assaulted her guest Mr. Shawn Robinson, a member of the community who was born and raised at Brookland Manor.

Mr. Robinson was forced outside, handcuffed, and maced twice in the face, in front of MPD officers who were also on the scene. Security guards claimed that Mr. Robinson had a "barring notice" against him. Upon looking at his ID, it became clear that Mr. Robinson did not in fact have any barring notice against him. He was released without explanation from the offending officers.


Mr. Shawn Robinson, during the assault by armed security, in the presence of MPD officers at Brookland Manor.


Brookland Manor tenant whose unit was entered without notice or permission, Ms. Ada Harris, has repeatedly requested a report on the incident from property management. To-date, Ms. Harris has received no report explaining why her privacy was violated, nor has she received any formal, written apology. When interviewed about the incident, Ms. Harris said, "I'm asking them what's going on, me as being the tenant, and they didn't respond to me...I have a hole in my wall, and the lock was broken on my door."

Ms. Harris went on to say, "I feel like our rights have totally been violated. Totally. Because it makes it seem like we're in jail, we're in prison - like we have no rights. And it's sad, because some of the older people come out just to get some fresh air and stuff, and they're saying stuff to them...talking to us like we're animals, like we're dogs or something."

When I interviewed Mr. Robinson about the incident, he explained, "They came into the apartment without knocking, and and they maced me and had me in handcuffs...I couldn't understand what was their protocol...to come into somebody's house and just terrorize the house like they are a swat team."

I asked Mr. Robinson if he had received a formal apology or any kind of paperwork, and he responded, "I didn't get anything. And I asked for the paperwork that day. They acted like it never happened. And then two or three days after it, they put the same guy on the site that maced me. So I didn't understand that whole situation...it feels like a prison...To be humiliated like that, with handcuffs, with mace in my face for over half an hour...it feels like I was being raped, like who I am I?...It's not right for them to dictate who visits tenants...They're telling your own mother, 'get off the front, get off the gate'...that's why I'm coming to you, we need help, we need to explore this situation."


Mr. Shawn Robinson during an interview outside of the building at Brookland Manor, where he was assaulted by armed security.


As a ONE DC housing organizer working with tenants at Brookland Manor, I have been harassed on three different occasions by private security, including two days ago, on Tuesday, November 14th, when I was approached by three armed security guards while talking to tenants and their children on Saratoga avenue. We were told that we are not allowed to "congregate." I explained that we were well within our rights, in accordance with the tenants right to organize law, and additionally, we were not blocking passage on the sidewalk, and are therefore allowed to stand and talk outside.

One of the officers, who had a mask on her face, aggressively demanded to see my ID, and insisted that we were blocking passage, though it was clear to all who were present, that we were not in fact blocking passage. I refused to show my ID, and the masked officer had to be subdued by her fellow officers.

At the time, Michael Meers, executive at Mid-City Financial, happened to be walking in the neighborhood, and I openly brought to his attention the violation of the officers. The aggressive officer walked away, and the two remaining officers approached me and offered an apology and assurance that it would not happen again. Michael Meers stated, "not everyone that's here is peaceful," in an attempt to justify the security's conduct. Just a few minutes later, I witnessed the same three armed officers harassing a woman standing alone at the bus stop, because her arm was on the fence.

Additionally, security officers at Brookland Manor have an SUV that they are jumping out of to enforce the "community rules," which include not leaning on the fence. Their behavior has repeatedly been described by tenants as terrorizing and enforcing prison-like conditions on the community.

We thank our members and supporters for your ongoing solidarity with tenants at Brookland Manor, as they continue to be subjected to shocking assaults by the security arm that does the bidding of Mid-City Financial, relentlessly carrying out a displacement campaign. This displacement campaign is a continuation of what has been previously documented by the Washington Post, and by the Neighborhood Legal Services Program, in order to make way for Mid-City's planned luxury redevelopment.

We ask that the DC community continue to stand with residents and families at Brookland Manor who are fighting displacement, and fighting to live in peace in their community. You can express your continued support by forwarding this update to Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie at kmcduffie@dccouncil.us, or by calling him at 202-724-8028 to demand that he immediately end his support for predatory developer Mid-City Financial, and express public support for the reasonable and viable demands of the Brookland Manor Residents Association:

  1. The Preservation of the 535 units of affordable housing that currently exist on site at the current bedroom sizes and current subsidy levels;
  2. The right of tenants to remain on the property during the process of redevelopment (redevelopment in phases to prevent any displacement) i.e.: build first;
  3. The right for tenants to access employment opportunities through the rebuilding of their own community, which they have a fundamental right to be a part of.

Yasmina Mrabet
Housing Organizer, ONE DC

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Historically Black DC Paper Publishes Article Supporting Displacement of Black Families

Historically Black DC paper, the Washington Informer, has published an article that supports a plan for gentrification, and the displacement of hundreds of Black families from Northeast Washington, DC.

The article is co-written by Thaddeus James and Kim Edwards, both of whom reside at Brookland Manor. James and Edwards are actively working with wealthy developer Mid-City Financial to support a redevelopment plan that will require the mass displacement of long-time, working class Black DC residents from our community in the name of profit. If you question the profit motive, look no further than this WAMU interview with daughter of Mid-City CEO Eugene Ford Jr, Maddie Ford, also Mid-City's director of legal affairs, who stated, “The smaller the unit size, the more people you can have there, the more money you can get per unit...The smaller your units are, the more profitable they are.”

In the article, Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie is hailed as a supporter of the community, when in fact, he has demonstrated quite the opposite. McDuffie stands with developer Mid-City Financial, supporting their plan to profit from the displacement of his own constituents. In a recent mock people's trial, McDuffie was found guilty of crimes against our community, the evidence of which is documented in this 7-minute video presentation.

Mid-City's plan to move forward with the reduction of affordable housing units is sanctioned by city officials like McDuffie, and the DC Zoning Commission, in the midst of an affordable housing crisis and skyrocketing rents in the nation's capital.

To facilitate their plan, Mid-City has egregiously engaged in a brutal eviction campaign that is ongoing. Previously, the Washington Post, along with many other media outlets, have exposed Mid-City's ongoing actions. The Neighborhood Legal Services Program, in a letter submitted to the zoning commission, documented Mid-City's ongoing eviction campaign.

Currently, Mid-City is engaging in aggressive attempts to harass and intimidate residents of Brookland Manor. Shockingly, Mid-City is issuing notices of infraction as a basis for evicting tenants for sitting outside in our own community. One resident, Ms. Jennifer Sewell, faces ongoing harassment and intimidation by Mid-City for sitting outside. Here is a photo example from recent infraction she was issued, showing her "violation."


Mid-City is now using these infractions as grounds to attempt to evict Ms. Sewell from her home. We have assisted Ms. Sewell in securing an attorney to represent her in this matter.

Recently, Mid-City issued letters to us that restrict access to community spaces. We understand this move to be a part of their ongoing attempts to interfere with our right to organize. We ask the wider DC community to continue to stand with the families fighting Mid-City's predatory redevelopment plan, by increasing public exposure of, and pressure on, council member Kenyan McDuffie for his role in our suffering.


We, the tenants at Brookland Manor that are fighting to save affordable housing and family housing in our community, will continue to expose Mid-City's attempts to "divide and conquer" our community, and we will continue to fight the attempts by Mid-City to intimidate and harass us.

Minnie Elliott
President, Brookland Manor Residents Association

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Tenant-Led Accountability Action at the Wilson Building

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Tenants from Brookland Manor, Dahlgreen Courts and Congress Heights came together on Tuesday, June 20th for an action at City Hall where they got Ward 5 and Ward 8 council members Kenyan McDuffie and Trayon White on the public record with regard to underhanded displacement tactics and slum conditions tenants face at the hands of wealthy developers.

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Click here to view a video of the tenant association presidents from each property giving their summary of the action and what it means moving forward.

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Outrageous Report Claims Mid-City Not Gentrifying

Mid-City Financial, the developer that owns the Brookland Manor property in Northeast Washington, D.C. has hired RCLCO Real Estate Advisors, a consulting company that is becoming the "go-to" for developers looking to justify the tearing down of affordable housing in order to build luxury apartments and condos. RCLCO has written an outrageous report, submitted to the D.C. Zoning Commission, claiming that Mid-City will not be gentrifying if it goes through with its redevelopment plan at Brookland Manor, because gentrification in Ward 5 is "an established trend." On its face, this is a preposterous claim.

While the report in its entirety is nonsensical, there are two particularly egregious quotes that are telling of Mid-City's intentions at Brookland Manor in particular, and in Ward 5 in general:

1. RCLCO used a quote in their report from a Slate article to justify Mid-City's redevelopment plan for Brookland Manor. The quote reads: "When you have enough construction, you get filtering rather than gentrification. Lower-income people move into dwellings that used to house rich people but that aren't shiny and new any more and don't have the most up-to-date fashions. When you don't have enough construction, you get rich people moving into poor people's houses and installing granite countertops." This is a shocking statement as we witness brand new luxury developments in D.C. pushing working class Black people into sub-prime markets run by slumlords, like we've seen with Sanford Capital at properties like Congress Heights.

2. RCLCO used a second quote in their report by "liberal economist" Paul Krugman to justify Mid-City's redevelopment plan for Brookland Manor. The quote reads: "Rising demand for urban living by the elite could be met largely by increasing supply. There's still room to build, even in New York, especially upward. Yet while there is something of a building boom in the city, it's far smaller than the soaring prices warrant, mainly because land use restrictions are in the way." This shocking quote very clearly states who Mid-City is building for. They boldly and blatantly state that the supply of housing they offer is to meet the demand for "urban living by the elite."

Consulting companies like RCLCO are acting as facilitators of predatory redevelopments that seek to profit at the expense of working class communities of color.

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Mid-City Financial plans to eliminate all 4 and 5 bedroom units, and most 3 bedroom units,
effectively displacing hundreds of working class black families from Brookland Manor.

Recently, Mid-City has pushed the narrative through media outlets that if they were able to build higher density at Brookland Manor, there would have been an appropriate amount of affordable housing. However, even in Mid-City's original plans which would have quadrupled density (as opposed to current plans which propose to triple density), they never planned to replace the 535 units of affordable housing currently on the property, and they always planned to eliminate family-sized units.

Segregation and inequality are the obvious manifestations of arguments like the recent one pushed by the Editorial Board at the Washington Post. Privately-owned land and private money does not abdicate a private company’s responsibility to the public. Previous investigative reports by the Washington Post expose public problems perpetuated by Mid-City Financial, including the loss of family housing at Brookland Manor. Mid-City's eviction campaign has also been documented by groups like the Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP). At ONE DC, we believe we have a communal responsibility to ensure equitable development without displacement. Additionally, there are rules in place that require plans like those of private company Mid-City at Brookland Manor to gain PUD approval through the government zoning process. This process is designed to ensure that plans like Mid-City’s protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community. Clearly, a plan that eliminates affordable housing while tripling density on the 20 acre site, and one that eliminates family housing in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, does not promote the health, safety, and welfare of the community, and therefore should not be approved by the D.C. Zoning Commission. This is the legal standard that Mid-City must be judged by.

Tenants at Brookland Manor propose that Mid-City be allowed to redevelop and triple density only if they include the 535 units of affordable housing that currently exist on site at their existing subsidy levels and bedroom sizes. Furthermore, tenants ask for the right to access employment opportunities through the rebuilding of their own community, which they have a fundamental right to be a part of. Working class residents of color who are affected by the affordable housing crisis have a right to seek to preserve affordable housing at every turn, whether it be through private redevelopment plans that require zoning approval, or through the preservation and expansion of high quality, high functioning public housing. The government to this point has completely failed in that respect.

The Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association has repeatedly offered to partner with Mid-City and with Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie to access money through the Housing Production Trust Fund in order to finance a true one-for-one replacement of existing affordable units at the redeveloped property. To this point, neither Mid-City nor Kenyan McDuffie has taken the Residents Association up on their offer to work together to preserve the existing affordable housing at Brookland Manor as a part of redevelopment plans moving forward. What is happening at Brookland Manor illustrates why Washington, D.C. is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis that is only getting worse. Sadly, city government officials like Kenyan McDuffie continue to refuse to act in the interests of their constituents, and instead work to increase the profit margins of private companies like Mid-City.

Brookland Manor tenants continue to lead a fight to preserve affordable, family-accessible units at Brookland Manor, and it is critical that we continue to keep up widespread public pressure on a system that puts the interests of profiteers before those of the people, and one that continues to develop by way of displacement. We expect the D.C. Zoning Commission to finally make a decision on Monday, May 22, as to whether Mid-City can move forward with its planned displacement of working class Black residents from Brookland Manor to make way for a redevelopment that will build over 1,750 luxury apartments. On that day, once again, we will come out in big numbers to demonstrate our continued solidarity with tenant-led struggles to save affordable housing and family housing in the District of Columbia, and to demonstrate our continued commitment to working class black communities under attack by private developers and city officials who do their bidding.

Please join us on May 22nd. We will rally outside of 441 4th St NW at 5:00PM, and then move into the building starting at 6:00PM to pack the zoning hearing, which will begin at 6:30PM.

RSVP here: Final Action Rally! Support Brookland Manor!

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Zoning Decision Rally for Brookland Manor! Fight Displacement!

ONE DC tenant members and residents at Brookland Manor request your support on Monday, April 24, 2017 at a 5:00 PM rally followed by a public Zoning Commission meeting at 6:30 PM. Click here to RSVP

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The Zoning Commission is expected to publicly discuss and announce their decision as to whether or not to continue to allow Mid-City Financial to move forward with their plan to eliminate affordable housing in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, and to cut out desperately needed family sized units at Brookland Manor in Northeast Washington, D.C. Mid-City's plan is particularly egregious when one considers the fact that they are calling to cut family housing and affordable housing while simultaneously tripling density.

It is CRUCIAL that the public show up to demonstrate opposition to a plan that would displace families from the city, keep them warehoused in shelters, or forgotten in the streets. Working class Black communities are under attack across the city by wealthy developers, and the politicians who do their bidding. It is IMPERATIVE that the public hold the Zoning Commission accountable and stand in solidarity with the tenants of Brookland Manor who have led and continue to lead this struggle to preserve their right to the city.

The location is 441 4th St NW and the closest metro station is Judiciary Sq (red line).

RSVP on our website and please share and invite friends, family, and neighbors on Facebook.

Here are three other things you can do to support the movement for our human right to housing:

1. Sign up to phone bank for the upcoming rally by emailing Claire at ccook@onedconline.org
2. Support ONE DC's fundraising goals by becoming a sustaining donor

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Background on Brookland Manor

Currently, Brookland Manor houses 535 affordable units, including 3, 4 and 5 bedroom units that accommodate families. Mid-City’s redevelopment plan proposes to eliminate all 4 and 5 bedroom units, and most 3 bedroom units. It also proposes to reduce the overall number of affordable units from 535 to 373 while restricting 200 of those units to seniors only (aged 62 and older). Mid-City plans to simultaneously triple density by building over 1,750 units of luxury apartments at Brookland Manor.

Latest Updates on Brookland Manor Zoning Hearings

Mid City’s plan to redevelop Brookland Manor must be approved by the DC Zoning Commission. Zoning Commission approval occurs in multiple stages.
At the first stage zoning hearing on Brookland Manor back in 2016, representatives of Mid-City suggested that due to “natural attrition,” some tenants would leave Brookland Manor, and that their absence from the property would help to justify Mid-City’s plans to build luxury apartments in place of deeply affordable housing. Rather than “natural attrition,” what residents at Brookland Manor have been subjected to is a calculated and planned displacement campaign. Mid-City has 1) divided and evicted dozens of families; 2) erected fences that physically divide the community and hinder freedom of movement 3) hired armed security guards to patrol the property and serve tenants with notices of infraction for breaking “community rules,” which include transgressions such as having a plant in the hallway, standing on the grass, and standing outside.

However, Mid-City’s plan to intimidate and harass tenants has not worked. In fact, their heavy handed tactics have galvanized the both the tenants at Brookland Manor and the surrounding community.

At the most recent Zoning Commission hearing, which took place over two days (February 23, 2017 and March 16, 2017), Mid-City’s attorney attempted to use loopholes in order to avoid discussion on the key issues of their plan with respect to affordable housing and displacement, and instead attempted to focus the meeting on the color of the bricks and the kind of shrubs that would be planted as part of their planned redevelopment. The Tenants goal was to ensure that the Zoning Commission recognize that Mid-City’s redevelopment plan denies Brookland Manor residents their right to live in the redeveloped property and that Mid-City has engaged in an extensive campaign of planned displacement (A video of the hearing can be found HERE).

Throughout the night, resident stories of how private security targeted them by serving arbitrary infractions for leaning on fences or waiting for the bus with their children clearly troubled members of the Zoning Commission. Residents explained how when they began to organize to protect their community Mid-City’s private, armed security harassed and threatened local organizers with arrest. Organizers also recounted stories of being barred from attending meetings organized by Mid-City, despite the fact that the Residents Association requested their presence. It was clear to many in attendance that Mid-City’s actions demonstrate that they desire nothing more than sweep the Brookland Manor residents out of the community.

At the close of the hearing, the Chairman of the Zoning Commission put out a call for a “trust meeting” between Mid-City Financial and the Brookland Manor residents. Ms. Minnie Elliott, president of the Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association reiterated that Brookland Manor residents have always been willing to work with Mid-City Financial, and that in fact, Mid-City Financial has refused to work with the community to accomplish their extremely reasonable and viable demands. To be clear, the tenants do not oppose the overall redevelopment project. However for the tenants, any such redevelopment must include:

  1. The Preservation of the 535 units of affordable housing that currently exist on site at the current bedroom sizes and current subsidy levels;
  2. The right of tenants to remain on the property during the process of redevelopment (redevelopment in phases to prevent any displacement) i.e.: build first;
  3. The right for tenants to access employment opportunities through the rebuilding of their own community, which they have a fundamental right to be a part of.

In conclusion when discussing Mid City’s current proposal, ONE DC organizer Delonte Wilkins summed their plan perfectly, “If you consider us human, then there’s no question. Displacement is not acceptable. This development has no legitimacy.”

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Mid-City Financial Attempts to Hide Numbers on Brookland Manor

Mid-City Financial, the corporation responsible for pushing forth a redevelopment plan that has resulted in mass evictions and displacement of working class Black residents from the Brookland Manor community in Northeast DC, attempted to hide numbers from the DC Zoning Commission to cover up their plan to eliminate over 360 units of affordable family-accessible housing in the midst of a housing crisis in Washington, D.C. If the redevelopment goes through as planned, Mid-City will build over 1,750 units of mostly luxury apartments, reducing overall affordable units from 535 units currently on the property to a mere 373 units, while also restricting 200 out of the 373 units for seniors only, aged 62 and older. In addition to slashing affordability and restricting eligibility of existing residents to live in the affordable units, the redevelopment will eliminate all 4 and 5 bedroom family sized units, and most 3 bedroom units, rendering the property almost completely void of large families.

At the first part of the second stage zoning hearing on February 23, 2017 (second part to take place this Thursday, March 16, 2017), Mid-City Financial executives and attorneys refused to discuss the displacement of existing residents at Brookland Manor. Mid-City has repeatedly claimed that “qualified tenants” and tenants “in good standing” will be eligible to return to the property after the redevelopment. However, they refuse to define the criterion of a “qualified tenant”. Will Merrifield, Brookland Manor's/Brentwood Village Residents Association attorney, analyzes Mid-City’s numbers in his testimony, which you can read here. Watch his cross-examination of Mid-City, which starts at 1 hour 20 minutes and 52 seconds, and you will see how they attempt to hide the numbers by refusing to talk about them: http://view.earthchannel.com/PlayerController.aspx?PGD=dczoning&iID=4324.

Mid-City is attempting to mislead the DC Zoning Commission, Ward 5 residents and the wider public, and most egregiously, Brookland Manor tenants. In their feeble attempt to “prove” to the DC Zoning Commission that tenants “support” their plan to eliminate family housing, Mid-City submitted this letter to the zoning record. Ironically, the letter details the conditions of a tenant living in a one-bedroom with four children – a family that will be at imminent risk of displacement as a part of the new redevelopment. This is just one of many underhanded ways that Mid-City is attempting to sell a project that they cannot defend – a project that will push working class Black families into the streets and out of the city. While Mid-City’s attorneys discussed shrubs and the color of building bricks, they tried to use procedural loopholes to avoid a discussion on displacement. The good news is that Mid-City is so transparent in their cover up that their plan has backfired and shifted momentum to the side of tenants. We are in a position to win this fight and we need the whole community to stand behind us. It may not be quick, but with sustained community support, we can win the fight against developers that displace in Washington, D.C. Development without displacement is what Brookland Manor tenants demand.

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Meanwhile, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, while tweeting about the need for family units, remains silent on Brookland Manor. It was only after repeated requests by his constituents at the property did he agree to a 30 minute meeting with tenants earlier last month. McDuffie has not reached out to tenants since then regarding the redevelopment, and to-date has in no way committed to help save affordable family housing at Brookland Manor. Last week, reports showed McDuffie introducing a bill to encourage the production of family units through the use of the Housing Production Trust Fund in the future. Not only do we have no idea if the bill will pass or be implemented, but it is also perplexing that McDuffie is willing to introduce bills but seemingly unwilling to take concrete action by standing with Brookland Manor families and signing onto their tenant resolutions. To reiterate, the tenant resolutions oppose Mid-City’s redevelopment plan that would eliminate large bedrooms, and hundreds of units of affordable housing for families in the midst of a city-wide housing crisis. If Councilman McDuffie is serious about protecting families, he should demonstrate it by supporting families in his own backyard at Brookland Manor. Again, McDuffie acknowledges that the city needs family units, so why isn’t he supporting Brookland Manor tenants who are fighting to preserve family units? Tell McDuffie to ACT – Stand with Brookland Manor, and support development WITHOUT displacement.

Here are ways you can help Brookland Manor tenants in the fight against violent displacement:

1. Show up to pack the hearing room this Thursday, March 16, 6:30pm, part two of the second stage of the Brookland Manor zoning hearing (441 4th St. NW Suite 200). RSVP here: http://www.onedconline.org/events.

2. Submit written testimony or sign up to give oral testimony at the zoning hearing this Thursday, March 16 in support of Brookland Manor tenant demands. Email Yasmina Mrabet at ymrabet@onedconline.org if you can support Brookland Manor tenants with a testimony.

3. Call or email Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie at 202-724-8028 or kmcduffie@dccouncil.us and ask him to stand with his constituents at Brookland Manor who are fighting to protect their homes and families. He can support them by opposing Mid-City’s redevelopment plan until or unless it preserves 535 units of affordable housing, at the same bedroom size and subsidy levels currently at the property. McDuffie can also help by signing onto the Brookland Manor tenant resolutions, and opposing any and all redevelopment plans that propose the elimination of family sized units and affordable housing.

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Say No to Displacement!

On February 23, ONE DC members stood with Brookland Manor residents in their struggle against displacement at the hands of Mid-City Financial and the District of Columbia. We were joined, in force, by SURJ-DC, IWW DC, Metro DC DSA, the Black Workers Center Chorus, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Housing Advocacy Team, GW Young Progressives Demanding Action, Black Lives Matter DC, API Resistance, DC Jobs with Justice, Fair Budget Coalition, DC for Reasonable Development, Americans for Transit, Georgetown Solidarity Committee, Justice First, DC Right to Housing Initiative, MLOV, the Washington Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, UFCW Local 400, and many more partners and supporters. Simply put, our presence was undeniable. Before we could even begin, security mandated we move a paltry distance from where we had set up to the red brick sidewalk behind us (even though much of our comrades were already occupying it). Separated by the empty space of the courtyard nothing was more clear: The power of the people terrifies the capitalist class.

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  Pictured Brookland Manor residents Dorothy Davis & Serita El Amin

 

Black Workers Center Chorus members Luci Murphy, Ma Krstn, and Eric Sheptock opened the rally by leading the group in song. Brookland Manor residents Yvonne Johnson, Dorothy Davis, Neeka Sullivan, Cheryl Brunson, Valarie Scott, and Serita El-Amin shared stories of their vibrant community. They were joined by spoken word poet Nkechi Feaster and activist-organizers Linda Leaks, Eugene Puryear, and Yasmina Mrabet. "Brookland Manor is a place where families become families," Cheryl Brunson explained, "It's our home." Ms. Dorothy Davis reminisced about raising her children in Brookland Manor and how she now has the joy of helping raise her grandchildren there as well. Transforming a space in which one merely dwells into a community that one lives takes decades of support and compassion; a labor of love that goes beyond the pull of self-interest. Ms. Cheryl Brunson humbly recounted how, during a tumultuous time in her life, it was her neighbors in Brookland Manor who served as a vital support system for her and her family.

In addition, residents provided a deft critique of the repressive measures taken by Mid-City Financial in the struggle for Brookland Manor. For those unaware, Mid-City Financial has fenced off the courtyard, blocking an essential element in maintaining their communal life. "We can't even stand outside and watch our kids," Neeka Sullivan explained. Similarly, Mid-City Financial has hired new security guards whose only purpose is to harass residents and produce an endless proliferation of infractions. These tactics, as well as the overall struggle, are dramatically affecting the quality of life of the residents of Brookland Manor. Painfully, Yvonne Johnson observed that in her 20 years there she hasn’t come across this level of depression. Children are weighed down by the possibility that one day they may no longer have a home to come back to.

Despite these realities the residents of Brookland Manor are undeterred. "We haven't seen a gathering like this in a long time," Linda Leaks shouted, passionate yet focused, "We are not going to move and we are going to win." Indeed, the line for those who showed up to support the Brookland Manor residents nearly wrapped around the building and we easily filled the overflow room.

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The line to enter the hearing stretched down the block

Once inside, Mid-City Financial undertook what appeared to be a rather bizarre testimony. Over an hour long, they fixated on minute details concerning the types of shrubbery they wanted to plant and the hue and crispness of their brick selection. Mid-City Financial is just as comfortable prioritizing aesthetics over the concerns of their residents as they are putting their profits before the community. Here, we are reminded of Walter Benjamin's warning about the dangers inherent in introducing "aesthetics into political life" and the displacement it brings (See the epilogue in Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction). Yet, despite the absurd performance, the tactic was deliberate. The zoning commission proceeding only allows the cross examiner to question the Defendant based on the testimony given. Presumably, if the testimony is filled with vapid details and dead-ends the cross examiner will be barred from initiating a meaningful line of questioning.

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Video Highlights from Say No! to Displacement Rally

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Letter to Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie

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7 Ways to Support the Fight at Brookland Manor

On Thursday, February 23rdBrookland Manor residents and ONE DC members need your support at the 2nd Stage Zoning Commission Hearing. At this hearing, the tenants and their legal team will be arguing for the preservation of affordable housing, including family-sized units, so that no residents will be displaced from their community and face homelessness. Here are 7 simple ways you can support the fight at Brookland Manor!

1. RSVP on Facebook for the Rally & Hearing and invite 10 friends, family, or neighbors to join you. Click here for website RSVP.

Brookland Manor Zoning Hearing poster 

 2. If you are a Ward 5 resident, sign the petition to Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie expressing your support for the Brookland Manor residents. Click here to sign. And don't forget to share with your Ward 5 neighbors! 

3. Join for us for sign-making on Tuesday, February 21 anytime between 5:30 and 7:30 PM at the ONE DC office - 614 S St NW (rear Carriage House). We will have snacks & drinks. We will provide materials, but feel free to bring extras, such as paint, canvas, posterboard, or markers!

4. If you are a member of a community group, civic association, educational, labor, or faith-based institution, or any other kind of organization, please send an email to Yasmina Mrabet - ymrabet@onedconline.org to add your organization's endorsement to the Brookland Manor residents' letter to Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. Click here to view the letter.

5. Submit your testimony to the Zoning Commission. Click here to view instructionson how to submit testimony in support of Brookland Manor. If you plan to testify, please send an email to Yasmina at ymrabet@onedconline.org so we can keep track of the number of people testifying in support.

6. Sign up for phone banking! Send an email to Claire at ccook@onedconline.orgif you can make 25-30 calls anytime between February 10 and February 21 to ONE DC members & supporters inviting them to the rally & hearing. We will provide a list and a script. You can make calls from home or come in any afternoon or evening to make calls from the ONE DC office.

7. Become a member of ONE DC or sustain the movement by making a monthly donation.

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