By Lisa Edison
Yesterday, a contingent of community members and revolutionaries led by Defend Our Hoodz – Defiende el Barrio – Austin (DOH) marched to the site of the now-abandoned gentrifying Blue Cat Café.
The march was a celebratory funeral procession to commemorate the end of the infamous business with the dishonor it deserved. Four years ago this month, property owners F&F Real Estate Ventures violently demolished the Jumpolin piñata store, provoking a community boycott against the property. Blue Cat owner Rebecca Gray ignored the boycott when she decided to open her restaurant animal shelter October of that year on the ruins of Jumpolin.
This procession, headed by a mock minister, pall bearers and the Santa Muerte (Holy Death) chanted, “Gentry got the hell out, Becky got the hell out!” and “No más té, no más gatos, nueve vidas se acabaron!” (No more tea, no more cats, [their] nine lives are up.) A coffin containing a Blue Cat piñata was placed in front of the café’s patio where picketers had stood many times before.
The minister and Santa Muerte gave speeches, explaining the last four years of struggle at the location between gentrifiers and the masses. They recounted the history of F&F and their illegal demolition of Jumpolin, Rebecca Gray’s refusal to respect the boycott, her tantrums during DOH protests, and the Neo-Nazi attack on a DOH picket staged by Rebecca’s brother Paul, which left a Nazi with a cracked skull.
Unlike nonprofits and bourgeois politicians, DOH has refused at every step to negotiate a compromise with class enemies. Instead, they have always opposed gentrification with militancy and a revolutionary ideology.
DOH made it clear that this is exactly why the boycott was successful. “When DOH began to picket [Rebecca Gray’s] business shortly after [she refused to respect the boycott], she thought the community resistance was a minor nuisance she could wait out. Gentrifiers had weathered upset neighborhoods like this before. Blue Cat, she thought, would be no different. What Becky didn’t understand was that DOH is more than a response to the demolition of Jumpolin,” the protester dressed as Santa Muerte said. “The revolutionaries, activists, and community members that have taken up this fight are participating in a bigger and longer war against capitalism that has been waged by the working class and its allies around the world. We fight for each other, we fight for our hoods, but more than anything we fight for our class, the proletariat.”
Midway through the funeral ceremony, the coffin began shaking. The minister screamed, “Oh my god! Blue Cat is trying to come back to life! It must have heard some Nazis and Alex Jones started a gofundme for it!”
A zombified blue cat piñata emerged, and a community member beat it back into its coffin. Another protester hammered it shut. The crowd chanted, “No more lives, for Blue Cat! Gofundme won’t save your ass!”
The ceremony continued with Santa Muerte describing the weakness of the capitalist class. “The reactionary coalition that coalesced to defend [Blue Cat Cafe] might have appeared strong at first, but the basis of their unity was weak. Capitalists and their friends may join together in the pursuit of profit, but they will just as quickly stab each other in the back and cut each other’s throats,” she said.
The protest concluded with speakers reiterating DOH’s commitment to the boycott against F&F. A few protesters threw cat litter over Blue Cat’s symbolic coffin, while the crowd chanted, “¿Que tenemos? ¡Nada! ¿Que queremos? ¡Todo!” followed by “No we don’t back down! Gentrifiers get shut down!” and “Nazis, Trump voters, KKK, they all loved Blue Cat Cafe!”
Several passersby noticed the funeral early on. They joined in cheering along with the protesters at the calls against gentrification, against reformism, and for proletarian revolution. They stayed for the whole ceremony, clearly impressed and empowered by the display of power by Defend Our Hoodz. Even with Blue Cat gone, the rich history of struggle against the horrific business continues to push the masses to the side of revolutionaries.
DOH now mainly focuses on the struggle against developer Presidium Group’s plans for gentrification on Riverside and the corrupt management of the Ballpark Apartments. So far, that struggle is shaping up to be just as successful as their struggle against F&F and Blue Cat Cafe. As revolutionaries, they have learned from their successes and their mistakes over the last four years, and the anti-gentrification movement in Austin is stronger than ever.