By Nora Charles & Kelly Iradukunda
On the evening of May 22, around 150 people from across D.C., Maryland, and Virginia attended a town hall in Columbia Heights to voice their concerns about the impact that having Amazon headquartered in D.C. would have on our communities. The DMV is a top choice for Amazon’s “HQ2,” or second headquarters. The company, run by Jeff Bezos, has a net worth that is about 50 times the District’s annual budget. Although DC government, as well as the state governments of Maryland and Virginia, have signed non-disclosure agreements that hide what they are offering Amazon to draw it to the area, we do know millions of dollars and public land are being offered up. As Stop Police Terror Project-DC organizer Eugene Puryear said at the town hall, "if the city is hiding it from us, we know it can't be good."
Amazon's plan to build its second headquarters in DC would bring more harm than good to long-time DC residents. We have seen it in the past -- technology-oriented companies bring a rise in the cost of living, resulting in displacement of long-time working class DC residents. Another disconcerting detail is that the incentives that Mayor Bowser is putting on the line to entice Amazon's HQ2 to the District remain unknown to the public. During her second budget engagement forum, a small group of people disrupted her speech with signs that said “ Fund Communities Not Amazon.” They were shouting “Money for Schools!” “Money for Housing!” “What are the incentives Mayor Bowser?” and “Why did you sign a non-disclosure agreement with Amazon?”
Essentially, our D.C. tax dollars will subsidize a company that is already worth $700 billion dollars and pays as little in taxes as it can get away with. The secret deal D.C. is dying to make is doubly scandalous because the District is currently working with a budget that has exacerbated the affordable housing crisis, displacing families and leaving people homeless. The company’s move would only offer high income jobs and not enough of them to cover the costs of increased rent that would come with the move. It is clear that D.C. can not afford to host Amazon and that making the DMV a tech hub will make it even more uninhabitable to low-income residents and those who have been here for generations.
If you are interested in continuing this fight, you are in luck! Organizers have put together a “toolkit” to help residents of the communities that would be affected by this potential move to host house parties to educate their friends and neighbors about the issue and share stories and concerns. Organizers are also hosting a training on June 2nd for people who want to learn direct action tactics.