By Walter Villarreal
On Thursday, Austin city council voted to approve the second reading of the “Domain on Riverside” rezoning application, moving one step closer to full approval. That morning, there was a banner drop over city hall reading, “City Council for sale: $63,000. No Domain on Riverside, workers of Austin unite, combat gentrification!”
The “asking price” of $63,000 is the sum of donations made on behalf of developer interests pushing for the rezoning, which would result in the destruction of working-class and student housing in Southeast Austin. Again, the city retaliated against the anti-gentrification movement when police detained multiple activists who were in the area after the banner was dropped, handcuffing one. The banner was removed in another act of silencing those who would oppose the city and developers’ agenda.
The day before, community members from Riverside, led by revolutionary organization Defend Our Hoodz-Defiende El Barrio (DOH), interrupted the Austin Downtown Alliance meeting on homelessness, with one protester shouting at Mayor Steve Adler, “You make people homeless by tearing down affordable housing, and pushing luxury developments.”
Adler mocked the protesters as Sheriff’s deputies escorted them out of the room, joking, “I love this city, there is more community involvement in Austin… than any other city I know of.”
One protester responded that the city’s reaction to the community was to, “call the police, repress, and brutalize them.”
The city’s process is a sham, and DOH continues to combat and reveal the blatant corruption lurking behind the facade of so-called “democracy.” The organization posted a response to the vote on Thursday, stating, “This is the reality of our city – it is a democracy for the wealthy, for the capitalists, for the developers – and a farce for the working class, oppressed nations, and all others without the power or money to make their voice count.”
Over the past year and a half, DOH has disrupted and stalled the rezoning process which developers had hoped to finish a year ago. The resistance has not come without a cost: a total of 24 have been arrested over the course of the struggle.
“When you fight back against the state, the state retaliates. This is a basic law. If the state is cooperating with you, or you cooperate with the state, your fight is not a protest, it is theater,” the DOH statement continues. “For us, Austin’s government has sought to criminalize even the most basic protest. We must understand that they have revoked basic democratic rights for our organization because we reject collaboration with the ruling class.”
The battle will resume on September 19 at the third and final reading of the rezoning proposal. Unlike the zoning’s first reading which passed 9-2, council split their vote Thursday night 6-5. No matter how city council votes, their pockets will still be stuffed with developer interest donations, and the defenders of Riverside will not relent in fighting back.