Racial tensions and loud cheers followed a growing crowd of advocates for the Cedarwood Apartments tenants, as they marched through the streets of Isla Vista on Saturday night.
What started with 30 people grew to a crowd of over 200, all of whom chanted and marched in support of the families and residents who received eviction notices in August from the apartment complex’s new owner. The protesters, who were mainly students, began the rally at the apartment building, located at 6626 Picasso Rd., and ended at the I.V. Foot Patrol office.
Despite receiving support from most onlookers, a number of passersby and drivers yelled racial slurs at the group during the course of the two and a half hour march. One provoker said, “Go back across the border.”
“General reaction has been very good, but also there are a certain amount of racial slurs,” former Associated Students president and organizer Cervin Morris said. “No sympathy for the 30 children getting kicked out of school.”
After the rally, organizers threw a party to raise money for the tenants’ mounting legal fees. The party, held on the 6600 block of Del Playa Drive, had a $5 cover fee. Jeronimo Saldana, an organizer of the event, said the group raised over $1,300 at the party.
Morris said the party fundraiser, of which there have been several, targets I.V.’s culture, as well as its wallet.
“They won’t show up to a protest, but they’ll show up to a party,” Morris said of I.V.’s residents. “So we said, ‘Fuck it, we’re throwing a party. A fundraiser party.'”
Of the 55-unit complex, about 22 families and individual tenants have refused to leave the premises. They have filed suit against the limited liability company that owns the Cedarwood Apartments – 6626 Picasso, LLC – saying they will fight the evictions in court on the basis of discrimination. The tenants’ attorneys said the apartment management wants the tenants, who are mostly low-income Latino families, out so that they can lease the apartments to students at a higher rate.
The deed on the apartment complex lists the owner as 6626 Picasso, LLC, which has no listed headquarters, owners or officers. However, the tenants and their supporters point to Conquest Student Housing, owner of Breakpointe Apartments on Abrego Road, as the real owner. They say Conquest formed the LLC to hide behind its actions.
First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal visited Conquest’s headquarters in Los Angeles not long ago to request that the company reconsider its actions. However, he was met not by Conquest’s owners, but by Dennis P. Block, the lawyer who sent the eviction notices to the tenants.
Carbajal drove to Los Angeles after organizers addressed the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors two weeks ago during the public comment section of their meeting. The issue of the evictions will be on the Supervisors’ formal agenda next week, on Oct. 17.
“Last time we only had 20 people. … but this time we’re on the agenda,” Saldana said. “We’re hoping to get at least 30 to 40 really dedicated people.”
Two more rallies are slated for the upcoming weekend, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Hopefully, Morris said, the rallies will gather last-minute support before the Supervisors’ meeting.
Rallies and marches for the Cedarwood tenants have also occurred in Los Angeles over the last month and a half. Morris said these demonstrations, specifically the ones in I.V., have been some of the largest he has seen for tenants’ rights.
“Most of the people [at the rallies] aren’t being directly affected by this issue; this many people never come out for tenant’s issues in I.V.,” Morris said.
Kelly Burns, a member of the I.V. Recreation and Parks District, said she attended the march and party to help the tenants.
“[I am here] to support the families and to show students in the community that they have the right to live here also,” Burns said.
Morris said the crowd should remember that the evicted tenants are members of the I.V. community.
“People should get involved because students interact and work with these people everyday and they should come out and support them,” Morris said.