The fight to save San Francisco’s Gezi Gardens
June 15, 2013
In all the cities we’ve traveled to for our project, we’ve seen so much resistance against the gentrification of low-income communities. But we’ve most recently immersed ourselves in the fight to save San Francisco’s Gezi Gardens, which was once known as Hayes Valley Farm, a three-year permaculture project recently renamed in solidarity with our friends in Turkey.
Gezi Gardens was an autonomous open green space for providing food for the surrounding neighborhood & was recently sold by the city to a private developer, Avalon, to create 180 luxury condominiums. Although the developer has mentioned building low-income housing, investors usually put that money toward shanty housing in other parts of the city to further gentrify neighborhoods & kick out poor people of color to make way for things like trendy beer gardens & upscale boutiques.
Since June 1, dozens of activists occupied Gezi Gardens to fight the privatization of the land & gentrification in San Francisco. Six tree-sitters set up platforms up in the eucalyptus trees as occupiers rebuilt raised beds, set up a library, a free kitchen and a free store. Political ideas & strategies were exchanged throughout the days of the occupation to figure out a way to keep the land that is also home to native birds & hummingbirds, as well as the site of an indigenous sacred burial ground.
The gardens were supposed to host a Liberate our Land festival this weekend, complete with hydroponic workshops, basic gardening teach-ins, local music & food. But in the early hours of Thursday morning, more than a 100 riot cops stormed the farm with batons & guns drawn. Citizen journalists (including us) were threatened with arrest for filming the raid as four occupiers were arrested. The three tree-sitters holding the land after everyone was evacuated were all arrested as well; one even fell from his platform as an officer cut his rope he was holding onto & was later hospitalized. Another activist is still in jail on a lynching charge with a $54,000 bail.
But the resistance continued. Yesterday, Gezi Gardens organizers & supporters marched around the farm, shutting down two intersections during rush hour. The National Park Service was also called to the space after hummingbird carcasses were found, as well as nesting crows in the eucalyptus trees, so the construction & demolishing has been halted (for now)! An archaeologist has also been called to go into the land to confirm that it is a sacred indigenous burial ground.
The struggle to save Gezi Gardens is something many cities are familiar with. As green space in urban areas becomes more & more endangered & low-income communities of color get pushed farther out of cities, resistance becomes necessary. We wanted to share this story with our readers in hopes that this resistance can spread to other cities being threatened with devastating gentrification. Together, we can organize to create a sense of community & a pushback against the capitalist measures that threaten to destroy our neighborhoods.
We’ll continue to update our Facebook & Twitter with times/dates for meetings & the next steps organizers will take. You can also stay updated by visiting HumanBeIn.org. Also keep an eye on our YouTube channel for bunch of videos from the last few days.