By Mike Talavera
On Tuesday, what was supposed to be the start of a celebratory welcome for new tenants at Ballpark apartments in southeast Austin quickly spiraled into a nightmare for property management when a group of tenants and their supporters accosted manager Logan Stansell for his abusive practices.
In the morning, this group of protesters spotted Stansell walking on the grounds preparing for the apartment-wide move-in day, and cut him off as he beelined for the safety of an office.
In view of tenants who were moving in, the group surrounded Stansell and yelled chants like “Logan Stansell go to hell!” As he had done before to deal with angry tenants, Stansell called the police who showed up promptly and detained the protesters, arresting two. Stansell took refuge in a police car and drove away with his defenders, not to be seen again that day.
In the course of their organizing, one of the protesters said they had learned the extent of the tenants’ resentment towards Stansell. In addition to calling the cops on tenants for trying to organize themselves, Stansell has also trashed a tenant’s furniture while they were volunteering for disaster relief, neglected maintenance repairs, and escalated towing practices.
Even while being detained, the protesters defiantly continued their chants and read a list of demands, including a demand for Stansell to be fired immediately.
Later that day, Defend Our Hoodz – Defiende El Barrio Austin, an anti-gentrification mass organization who helped start organizing at Ballpark, discovered old tweets made by Stansell and his friends that reveal his racism towards Chicanos and Mexican-Americans.
After being released, the protesters continued to agitate around Ballpark and the Riverside area, talking to tenants and collecting more grievances about management’s hostility. As they were walking around, they noticed a truck that had been vandalized with the spray-painted words “Scum Mngr.” They later learned the truck was Stansell’s.
In the afternoon, the protesters learned that Ballpark management had been directing tenants who had complaints after moving in to go to their east office. “They essentially centralized all the angry people for us,” a spokesperson told Incendiary News.
These tenants were upset that their new apartments were in poor condition and that basic amenities like air conditioning were not working. Even before the protesters got in touch, these tenants had already started organizing themselves around their shared grievances.
Defend Our Hoodz initially got involved when they found out earlier this year that developers led by Nimes Capital and Presidium Group had plans to turn Ballpark and Town Lake apartments into a luxury mixed development of shops and condos by filing a rezoning application with the city.
The protests this Tuesday followed the lead of militant actions taken by Defend Our Hoodz in their campaign to protect Riverside against a new wave of gentrification. When the developer’s lawyer Michael Whelan held a preliminary meeting in April on the rezoning for homeowners in the area (Ballpark and Town Lake tenants were not invited), Defend Our Hoodz led a disruption that culminated in the crowd yelling the developers in attendance out of the building.
More recently, Defend Our Hoodz members stormed city offices last month and confronted case manager Scott Grantham, calling out his complicity in the processing of the rezoning application.
The spokesperson for the protesters sees the direct action this Tuesday as the first of many. Tenants are organizing to do more than just stop the redevelopment of Ballpark and Town Lake.
“We aim not only to improve the living conditions at Ballpark, but also will fight to ensure that luxury shopping does not replace Ballpark or any other space on Riverside,” the spokesperson said. “We will fight against any other gentrifier projects that try to move into East Riverside. We will militantly defend our neighborhood against developers to keep the area affordable.”