DSA-LA Statement On Our Action Protesting BJ Turner And The Evictions At Mariachi Plaza

DSA-LA stands and acts in solidarity with the tenants resisting the evictions and unjust rental increases being carried out by BJ Turner at 1815 E 2nd St. in Boyle Heights.  To join the fight alongside the tenants themselves, the Los Angeles Tenant Union (LATU) and Union de Vecinos, among other supporters, we will protest and camp outside of the West L.A. mansion of the property owner BJ Turner on Tuesday, December 12, 2017. This is not the first demonstration at his house, and it will not be the last.

BJ Turner is a gentrifier and is fueling the racialized destruction of the working class, culturally vibrant Boyle Heights community. Last year, he bought the Boyle Heights apartment complex that is home to 25 individuals and families, and then raised the rents for several tenants by 60 to 80 percent. Luis Valdivia, a Mariachi musician, saw his rent hiked by $800.  Gloria Reyes, who has lived in the building for 27 years, saw her rent go up by $500.  These are just some of the lives being uprooted by BJ Turner’s greed.

This was BJ Turner’s plan from the moment he bought the building, as evicting these tenants would allow him to rent to wealthier whiter clients. When tenants tried to negotiate for lower rent increases, BJ Turner sent them eviction notices.  Others in the building immediately organized a rent strike in solidarity. The tenants being evicted are low-income Latinx families, and one third are Mariachis whose livelihoods depend on living close to Mariachi Plaza. While rents continue to be raised in Boyle Heights by landlords and developers, Latinx homelessness has increased by 63% in the last year. These evictions are currently working their way through the courts.

The Mariachi Plaza evictions are a perfect example of “urban colonialism.” BJ Turner is continuing a long history of rich white men profiting from the dispossession and displacement of poor people and people of color, as if their lives have no value. Rents don’t just rise on their own. Gentrification is not a neutral process of neighborhood change -- it is violent, driven by profits, and aided by public policy and the decisions of city officials. We cannot depend on the private market or our politicians to ensure the wellbeing and safety of our communities. We must take action ourselves against gentrification and displacement.

We support the campaign being led by the tenants themselves along with LATU/Union de Vecinos. We refuse to let these evictions and rental increases run smoothly; they are disgusting acts of cruelty and expropriation. If BJ Turner chooses to continue this process of kicking out low-income Latinx families for the sake of lining his pockets, then we will engage in peaceful and legal protest to disrupt his life. We will inform his neighbors that they are living next to a man willing to ruin lives for profit. Ultimately, we will make him famous as the face of gentrification in Los Angeles.

We are not just protesting the actions of this single greedy property owner, but the entire structure of racial capitalism itself. Gentrification and the destruction of low-income communities of color is the product of a capitalist system that treats housing as a commodity to be bought and sold by the highest bidder. We are fighting for a future that puts people over profit and guarantees housing as a human right.