By Felipe Vera
On September 7, revolutionary anti-gentrification organization Defend Boyle Heights (DBH) led militant activists in disrupting the reopening of the Nicodim art gallery at its new location in downtown Los Angeles.
Nicodim was originally located in Boyle Heights, before being driven out after a two-year long anti-gentrification resistance led by activists and community members. Although representatives of Nicodim say the protests had no effect on their decision to leave, the gallery was a site of repeated anti-gentrification attacks, such as the “Fuck White Art” graffiti left on the front entrance of the gallery in 2016.
After anti-gentrification activists and community members repeatedly targeted the gallery, Nicodim collaborated with the murderous Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and sell-out City Councilmember Jose Huizar. LAPD opened an investigation into the “Fuck White Art” attack as a hate crime. But most of the community dismissed the ludicrous accusation and no one was ever charged.
Although the gallery is no longer in Boyle Heights, it still represents the wave of gentrification creeping its way into working class oppressed Chicano nation neighborhoods throughout the city.
The art galleries in Boyle Heights concentrated on or near Anderson Street and Mission Road have been used by developers, landlords, and the city, in turning the area into a trendy “arts district” to draw in more capital investment and wealthier patrons to relocate to Boyle Heights. DBH has been a leading force in combating this trend in Boyle Heights, and has been successful in driving some of these gentrifying forces out.
Activists and masked revolutionaries gathered on the sidewalk and carried signs and banners, two of the banners read “Nicodim Close Your Doors” and “Fight Gentrification from Oxnard to Los Angeles.” Some activists gave speeches about why they were there and what Nicodim represents. One activist reminded everyone that Nicodim collaborated with LAPD after the gallery was vandalized with the “Fuck White Art” graffiti.
One activist from Oxnard spoke out, “City and developers are attempting to ‘rebrand’ the area as a hub for the arts, giving more reasons for the police to incarcerate and displace the poor and working class!”
Riled up and energized, the activists and masked revolutionaries marched towards the gallery and took over the street, chanting “Shut down Nicodim!”
As the group of activists and masked revolutionaries entered the building, attendees appeared startled, unsure of what to do. Several scuffles broke out between masked revolutionaries and gentrifiers, and activists realized that there were multiple galleries inside the building. Undeterred, they kept going deeper until they reached Nicodim. The attendees blocked the doors as much as possible and more scuffles between masked revolutionaries, activists, and gentrifiers broke out while the activists plastered posters across the walls, one with the image of Jesse Romero, a Boyle Heights teenager killed by LAPD, and another reading “Abajo Con Nicodim” (Down With Nicodim!).
Although the activists did not succeed in entering the gallery, a bottle was smashed on the ground of Nicodim’s entrance as they left. While leaving the premises, activists also put up posters outside. After having left the gallery and with police sirens approaching in the near distance, activists gave some final words before dispersing. “Look how they were scared of us! We will come back, better and stronger!” The revolutionaries of Boyle Heights made it clear to gentrifiers that their galleries, breweries, and artisan coffee shops are not welcome and will be run out by any means necessary.