LOS ANGELES: Anti-Gentrification Activists March in Highland Park Christmas Parade

Photo: Activists hold banner which reads “Our Community is Not for Sale.”

By Audrey Hellenbrecht

On December 1, activists and supporters of Northeast Los Angeles United (NELA United) and revolutionary organization Defend Boyle Heights (DBH) marched in the 75th Annual Highland Park Christmas Parade, bringing an openly anti-gentrification political message to the city-sponsored event.

NELA Riders, a local community group with a focus on restoring and showcasing classic cars, offered a leading spot as part of their contingent in the parade for masked anti-gentrification activists to march ahead of them. The activists carried a banner reading “Our Community is Not For Sale, Join Us,” along with a phone number for community members to join the struggle. The activists were given a platform thanks to the solidarity of the oppressed masses of Highland Park.

The Highland Park Christmas Parade is an annual event that takes place on the first Sunday of December, and usually includes various community groups, schools, and local businesses amongst others. The event is hosted by the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce and the City of Los Angeles.

Highland Park is part of District 14, which is represented by Councilman Jose Huizar, who is currently under investigation by the FBI for corruption. Huizar has played an active role in pushing gentrifying development projects in the area and been the target of anti-gentrification activists across the city.

NELA United is an organization has recently been formed in response to Highland Park’s ever intensifying wave of gentrification. The working class Chicano neighborhood has been overtaken by an influx of wealthy transplants and businesses that cater to them. Historic murals of cultural significance to Chicano and working class people are being washed away, local shops have been closing one after another, and residents are worried that they will be displaced as well.

Recently graffiti with an anti-gentrification message has been popping up across the neighborhood, specifically targeting gentrifying forces in the area. At the end of the Christmas Parade route, a large tag read “Fuck Hipsters” on a wall in front of a luxury apartment complex.

‘Hipsters’ is colloquial term for members of the petty bourgeoisie whose arrival is seen as coinciding with the initial wave of gentrification, particularly artists and younger people who landlords and businesses will cater to over the existing working class residents. While they are not the capitalists who control development, these ‘Hipsters’ often align with them and reap the benefits from the ruling class’s plans for displacing the working class.

The small demonstration, and the solidarity of the NELA riders with a growing revolutionary anti-gentrification movement, show that the community in Highland Park recognizes their right to rebel and they are ready to fight class enemies in order to protect their community.