Activist Isaura Flores, of the Pilsen Alliance, said she knows firsthand about gentrification since her family was displaced from Wicker Park several years ago and were forced to move to the suburbs.
A march on Saturday, August 5th, in Pilsen sponsored by The Resurrection Project (TRP) met with a counter protest sponsored by activists who criticized the local alderman’s role in the gentrification of Pilsen.
“Love Pilsen”, a march sponsored by TRP, began on 17th and Newberry but was confronted by a counter march as it passed the ex Casa Aztlán building on South Racine Avenue.
Raul Raymundo, corporate executive officer of TRP, told El BeiSMan the march was in support of “A balanced development of the community” and not in support of gentrification.
“The march was an effort to organize the residents of the community who want a balanced development of Pilsen,” said Raymundo. When asked whether Ald. Danny Solís had asked TRP to organize the march, Raymundo answered no.
However, the community leader added that Ald. Solís deserves credit for imposing a 21 percent set aside for low income units on all housing developments in Pilsen.
This march organized by TRP consisted of a group of young people riding atop a pick-up truck as it moved west on 18th Street.
When the march made a detour on South Racine Avenue, the counter demonstration confronted it in front of the ex Casa Aztlan building, which is now closed and being rehabbed to create luxury condos.
The counter protest, sponsored by the Pilsen Alliance and activists from other organizations, then followed the TRP march with a large banner that read “Danny Solís Is Selling Out Pilsen.”
“We are having evictions on top of evictions,” said Magda Ramírez-Castañeda, a member of the board of directors of the Pilsen Alliance, “We are defending those who cannot defend themselves, we need to stop gentrification.”
Members of Castañeda’s group heavily attacked Ald. Solís, whom the activists blame for the displacement of at least ten thousands residents, mostly Mexicans.
Activists claim at least five thousand of the displaced residents were victims of forced evictions; either through the courts or by threats of having their rents raised twice as much as they used to pay.
“Ten thousand people displaced don’t feel the love,” said an activist named Ruth Maciulis, who also said Pilsen needs a rent control ordinance.
A law in Springfield, passed in 1997, prevents city and state legislators from introducing rent control measures. The law, passed under Governor Jim Edgar, is called the Rent Control Preemption Act.
A march by the Resurrection Project cruised the neighborhood with several youths aboard.
State Representative Bill Guzzardi, from the 39th District, has introduced a proposal to repeal that law.
The counter demonstrators followed the “Love Pilsen” marchers all the way past 18th Street and Blue Island Avenue where the TRP march ended and its participants entered a yard in a nearby house where apparently a celebration was taking place.
The counter demonstrators remained outside about two buildings away and remained near the entrance to an alley and just in front of a Subway restaurant.
Counter protesters said Ald. Solís was going to speak at the “Love Pilsen” celebration but after the counter protesters began a series of anti-gentrification speeches, he apparently left.
Activist Miguel Jiménez, who spoke outside, said evictions are a form of silent violence waged against the poor.
“You don’t love Pilsen when ten thousand of your own people have been displaced,” said Jiménez in reference to Solís keeping a low profile on the problem of gentrification, “Evictions are not love, evictions are hate.”
The activists with the counter protest chanted slogans in English and in Spanish such as “No Justice, No Peace, Replace Solís”; “Your Luxury is Our Displacement” and “10 Mil Desplazados y Solís Callado!”
As the counter protesters gathered near the “Love Pilsen” protesters, Pilsen Alliance activist Isaura Flores told the crowd how her Latino family was displaced from Wicker Park in years past.
“Gentrification is real, our family was forced out of Wicker Park and we had to move to the suburbs, it was shit, so we moved back to the city,” said Flores.
Community leader Magda Ramírez Castañeda, of the Pilsen Alliance, addresses the crowd during last Saturday’s anti-gentrification protest.
Antonio Zavala is a freelance writer who lives in Chicago and writes about the people and neighborhoods of Chicago.