ACT UP/San Francisco Protests Evictions: Housing=Healthcare And Eviction=Death

In celebration of their one year anniversary, the direct action group ACT UP/San Francisco staged a lively, 50 person demonstration last Saturday, April 20th. The event was aimed at drawing attention to the impact of increasing evictions and rental price increases in San Francisco on people living with HIV/AIDS. The group, and a coalition of supporting LGBT and housing rights organizations, began at 16th and Mission Street and worked their way up to Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro. The marchers, who took to the streets chanting ‘Housing is a right, housing is a right, ACT UP!’ and ‘Housing equals healthcare and eviction equals death!’, made multiple stops along the way. Though perhaps small in size, the demonstration made a strong and colorful stand, one that hammered in the point that the increasing rents and waves of evictions hitting San Francisco hurt people living with HIV/AIDS and their supporters. Despite the inclusion of lavish street theater and brightly painted signs, the protest was not all noise. Imbedded in their style, ACT UP offered a pointed critique of San Francisco’s City government, especially District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, a gay man who the group feels has turned a blind eye to evictions in his neighborhood.

Featured speakers called on San Francisco’s elected officials to move towards a moratorium on evictions where just cause is not proven, while looking towards curtailing market rate housing development in order to even out the market. The group also examined sources outside the Bay Area when looking at ongoing issues of affordability. Outside of Wells Fargo, for example, a young man dressed as Robinhood made an impassioned call for a national financial transaction tax after ‘stealing’ the mic from another ACT UP organizer dressed as a real estate agent. The most moving part of the day, however, occurred outside of the home of a man living with AIDS, who is facing displacement from his long-time home of San Francisco if he cannot find affordable housing after he was presented with an Ellis Act eviction. The demonstration ended with a memorialization for the people lost to AIDS over the years and a complimentary call for solidarity for people still living with HIV/AIDS.

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