Capitalism is like an invasive species, we ignore its pernicious spread at our own risk. This week we have stories where living without shelter is made illegal, where the city stands up to our local invasive species, Amazon, and where we’re reminded that we live in an all-seeing and oppressive police state. Welcome to the Hellhole
Shut Up and Don’t Sit Down
Much to the chagrin of a not-insignificant portion of the population, a city can’t just make being unhoused illegal and make all of our unhoused neighbors vanish. Without affordable housing and other resources to get out of a desperate situation, people end up spending a lot of time hanging out or sleeping on the sidewalks, a constant visual reminder of our failure to take care of others.
This week, the city of Monroe decided to deal with this by… making it illegal to sit or lie down on public sidewalks. If you’ve spent a long hard day trying to get by and don’t have a safe place to lay your head at night besides a sheltered section of pavement, you’re looking at jail for up to 90 days or fines of up to $1000. Monroe isn’t the first town in Snohomish County to have such a law, either: Marysville has had a similar ordinance for over 20 years.
Do we really need to explain what the problem is here? Once again, cities opt to deal with the “aesthetic” issues of houselessness, the visibility of poverty, by sweeping them under the rug. Real solutions like giving unhoused people houses are treated at ludicrous, impossibly difficult, or deeply unfair to everyone who was able to sell enough of their labor to afford a house. We socialists see it differently: what’s unfair is denying people their right to a home of their own, and until those homes are available, we believe every person deserves to be treated with dignity and care regardless of their living situation. Anything less is barbarism.
Tax Amazon, Save the City
This Tuesday, the Housing for All Coalition in conjunction with Kshama Sawant’s office held a rally at the Amazon Spheres to demand the behemoth company, and others like it in the city, pay their fair share to fund affordable housing and services for the houseless in Seattle.
As speakers from Real Change, Socialist Alternative, USAS, the University of Washington, the Transit Riders Union, and Seattle DSA made clear: we’re at a pivotal point in our city’s history. The progressive revenue task force has recommended a head tax on the largest companies in Seattle to fund $75 million for housing and services. The Housing for All Coalition is calling for $150 million, and there’s no reason that companies like Amazon – who have been the engine behind the city’s skyrocketing living costs – can’t pay for it.
“A different future is possible! Make Bezos Pay! Make Amazon Pay!” -Seattle DSA Local Council member Walé firing up the crowd outside Amazon’s HQ. Read the transcript: https://t.co/75skDwpRlu pic.twitter.com/xHc2U8dPaq
— Seattle DSA🌹 (@SeattleDSA) April 11, 2018
Amazon paid ZERO in federal taxes in 2017, and just booked a $789 million windfall from Trump’s corporate tax giveaway. Instead of paying their fair share in Seattle, they’re busy shaking down other cities for millions for the “honor” of hiring office workers in their zip codes.
Instead of kowtowing to corporate interests or wasting time via the Seattle Process™ only to release woefully inadequate plans, it’s time for our elected officials to hold these companies accountable. We have the opportunity now with the upcoming vote on the task force’s recommendations. Businesses are already in high-whine mode and launching a full-court press against fair taxation, so we have to keep the pressure on.
Another Sort of Travel Ban
It is too easy to become accustomed to injustice, especially for those who aren’t directly targeted. Racial and ethnic profiling in airport security lines went from an outrage to just one more part of the process. Backlash failed to effect change, and settling into the bad paves the way for worse.
Recently, multiple activists of color have noted particular attention paid by immigration officials to their political activities. A persistent fear since the beginning of the Trump administration (and a reasonable caution prior to that as well), the threat of detention or travel bans being handed out as punishment for dissent only adds to the constant, everyday threat of senseless state violence experienced by people of color in the United States.
Restricting the movement of political opponents is nothing new here. Leftist musician and activist Paul Robeson was denied a passport in 1950, after publicly denouncing lynching and racism in the United States. Maybe we ought to just get rid of these pesky borders, since they seem to cause such consternation.
Until then, we can stand with those already fighting. Join us as we welcome Carlos Marentes from El Comité for: “May Day in Praxis: Rallies, Marches, and the Struggle for Immigration Justice,” April 18 at Seattle University – and join the Hellhole team, Seattle DSA, El Comité, and just about everyone else at Judkins Park on May 1 at 2:30pm!
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Hellhole is written by members of the Seattle DSA communications team. Unless expressly stated, Dispatches do not necessarily reflect the views of Seattle DSA as an organization or its leadership.