On Thursday, a group of tenants gathered for a cookout and speakout at Frissinger Park in opposition to a landlord picnic and Kickball game, hosted by the Washtenaw Area Apartment Association. The WA3 organizes landlords and hosts events on topics ranging from “priceless advice on evictions” to “empower[ing] your residents to task simple repairs.” The WA3 also recently created a petition in opposition to the Early Leasing Ordinance in Ann Arbor.
This action represents a growing housing rights movement in the Washtenaw County Area that includes a broad coalition of groups: the Ann Arbor Tenants Union, Washtenaw Camp Outreach, the Washtenaw General Defense Committee, the Graduate Employee Organization at the University of Michigan, UM Central Student Government, Defend Affordable Ypsi, the Huron Valley Democratic Socialists of America, the Inter-Cooperative Council, the Mutual Aid Network of Ypsilanti among others. These groups have worked together to organize marches, occupations, local mutual aid, cookouts, speakouts, and local legislation proposals, building on the historic housing rights movement that includes the 1969 Ann Arbor Rent Strike.
Tenants gathered to disrupt the landlords’ picnic by occupying the field at Frissinger Park and speaking about uninhabitable “living” conditions that included black mold and standing water, evictions that happened during an eviction moratorium, skyrocketing rent, extortionate application fees, and more. Tenants also talked about the relief offered by intentional communities such as cooperatives, and imagined alternative futures in which landlords do not exist! The landlords responded by taking the tenants’ potato chips while the tenants were talking. The tenants got their chips back … which might be surprising to hear for anyone who has ever given a landlord a security deposit.
Tenants occupied the field where landlords had hoped to play kickball while landlords sat on coolers and ate Jimmy John’s subs across the street. After speaking for about an hour, the tenants decided that the landlords should hear what they have to say and marched over to the landlords chanting “You are hated, you’re despised / Be afraid when Tenants rise!” After a period of chanting, the tenants continued their speakout while landlords sat silently in their Kickball uniforms literally labeled “Thing 1” and “Thing 2.”
In an expected move, the landlords called the cops. Surprisingly, the cop initially didn’t care, but did suggest that the tenants also let the landlords speak during the speakout. The scene reminded the cop of a discussion at City Council, which perhaps would’ve been the case if the landlords did get a chance to speak … but that didn’t happen. Three landlords then approached the cops claiming to be scared for their safety and that the tenants were on private property for which they were the property managers. Although the cop unquestioningly took the word of the landlords and asked the tenants to move, at this point the landlords started packing up. Visibly frustrated and upset, the landlords left in defeat with the tenants singing “Nah nah nah, bye bye!”