As the sun set on Wednesday, Dec. 16, a small group of demonstrators from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action formed outside of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s home in Lakewood, CA to ask for his support in canceling rent in LA County due to the financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tenants of all ages held candles and signs as they marched a short distance from the corner of Dashwood St. and Palo Verde Ave to the front of Rendon’s home singing their own version of “Deck the Halls” to reflect the message they came to give.
“Stop evictions and harassment , fa la la la la la la la la….”
“Housing is a human right, fa la la la la la la la la…”
ACCE reached a home in a quiet neighborhood in the middle of the block on Dashwood St., that from the outside looked lifeless. All the lights were off and when one tenant knocked on the door a neighbor from across the street yelled, “Nobody’s home”.
That didn’t stop ACCE and the tenants they support from having a press conference in front of multiple media outlets outside of the Rendon’s home and celebrating La Posada as the action of the night.
Posada can be translated as “inn or lodging” in Spanish. It’s a Pre-Christmas tradition in Latin American cultures, rooted in Catholicism. It celebrates and reenacts the Nativity story where Mary and Joseph search for lodging in Bethlehem so they can give birth to Baby Jesus. Las Posadas are celebrated all across Mexico and festivals can last days. Each night children dress as angels lead a cavalcade throughout town as adults and musicians follow. They visit homes and ask for shelter for two individuals playing the role of Joseph and Mary. Traditionally, the group will be turned down by every home they go to even though residents of the homes may still offer food or refreshments for their journey. At each stop, scripture is read and Christmas carols are sung and there is a feast for everyone to enjoy at the end.
ACCE turned a long Mexican tradition into a local action needed to symbolize the importance of housing, especially during this time of year.
Hassan Zuniga, organizer at ACCE, dressed as Joseph while Victoria Enriquez, a tenant on the verge of homelessness, dressed as Mary. They both held opposite sides of a sign that read “Keep Families Home” in Rendon’s front yard before she told her story.
In Spanish a local resident named Victoria Enriquez, shared their story, “My name is Victoria Enriquez. I’m a street vendor, a single mother, and I also have a grandchild I take care of because their parents aren’t here.”
Victoria went on to say everyday when she goes out to vend she only brings home $10-$15 a day because of the pandemic. Not being able to pay rent in the last 5 months has caused continuous harassment from her landlord and it’s taking a toll on her entire family she takes care of. She was there today to ask Anthony Rendon to lead rent relief by supporting AB-15 and AB-16.
These two bills would extend eviction protections of tenants and ensure COVID-19 debt relief for both tenants and landlords.
After the press conference the group unfolded a small table to place food and refreshments for their small feast and commenced eating. People sat on the front lawn, on the curb, and stood in the street, as they ate oatmeal and tamales with refreshments. It was a wholesome sight. The few children that were there played and ate and the adults laughed and told jokes finishing their meals.
LB LoJo also talked to Kenya Viera, a resident of Los Angeles County that says that not only is her family suffering but so is her landlord. “I’m in fear..”, she said as she mentioned the upcoming expiration of the eviction protections on Jan. 31, 2021.
“If there’s nothing to back that one out, there’s going to be a crisis of homelessness, a tsunami of evictions,” Viera said.
Viera also told the LB LoJo that her residence isn’t owned by a big corporation, just a man that owns that one property, which he also lives on. With the financial crisis caused by the pandemic she says he’s also struggling to maintain.
“There’s landlords, you know, they don’t have an income as well. They’re going through stuff as well as we are going through stuff, we’re all humans”.
For Viera and her family, they were already living paycheck to paycheck before the financial crisis. She stated now, because of COVID-19, things are drastically worse. Understanding her family isn’t the only one going through this exact situation, she was there to ask for the Assembly Speaker’s support on behalf of families everywhere and encourages her two children to always speak their minds and stand up for others as well.
According to The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s Homeless Count results released in June of this year, 66,436 people in Los Angeles County are experiencing homelessness. That’s a 12.7% increase from last year and if AB-15 and AB-16 aren’t passed renters like Victoria and Kenya are afraid that number may skyrocket.
After the food was finished the demonstrators cleaned everything up, thanked everyone for coming to the celebration, and walked back to their cars returning home, undisturbed. The whole time Redon’s neighbors watched in silence and respected what was happening.
Our question leaving the event is, if Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon was home, would he have come out and celebrated with the people that needed him most?