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Interview :: Environment
Landlords Beware: Boston Angry Tenants are Coming for You!
30 Jul 2004
A funny (and pretty good) article from this week's 'Weekly Dig'
Landlords Beware:
Boston Angry Tenants are Coming for You!

by Paul McMorrow

About goddamn time someone made the streets run red with the blood of those capitalist pigs, I thought. The flyer, posted on the anarchist Web site by a group calling themselves the Boston Angry Tenants Union (BATU), said that "housing is a right," promised that BATU would "act militantly and collectively in order to change the state of housing in Boston" and derided "dirty politicians" for not acting as vigorous allies in the fight for fair housing. Toss in a few additional charges of general evildoing and gluttonous greed on the part of Boston's landlords, and it seemed as if we were only moments away from a cabal of black-clad madmen wreaking havoc on the city's ruling class, right?

According to Angry Tenant Dominic DeSiato, who presumably took some time off from sharpening his machete to speak to the Dig, the union "started with a handful of tenants and friends who came together to start an organization to deal with the problems we face as tenants in Boston: the high cost of living, landlord issues, unfair eviction, discrimination. We wanted to help push the housing movement in Boston."

DeSiato explains that the Angry Tenants are an egalitarian union of 40-50 disgruntled Boston residents who are "still at a point of building our membership." Unlike their fiat-wielding antagonists, the Angry Tenants make decisions by consensus. "We're inherently different from a CDC [community development corporation]," DeSiato says. "We have different goals and strategies. Everyone in the union has the power to affect our activities, and every member is empowered. It's not hierarchical."

So everyone in the group is empowered to slit some property-owning throats, right?

"We're not necessarily out there fighting landlords in the streets," DeSiato claims. "Direct action tactics include withholding rent, engaging in directly democratic organizing. We have our own idea of how housing should be, and we won't compromise our goals. We believe in social housing. Landlordism is an inherent social problem, because people don't control the housing they live in."

DeSiato adds that the closest the Angry Tenants have come to living out The Coup's classic (and angry!) hip-hop manifesto "Kill My Landlord" has been the group's "Dunk the Landlord" dunk tank at Jamaica Plain's yearly Wake Up the Earth Festival.

"We believe in our strategy, in the tactics that we use," he says. "We try to be very modest and keep open the avenue of struggle. We're a very new organization, and we're trying to build our organization through real work. We're realistic about our power and where we're at right now."

How does the Boston Tenant Coalition [BTC] feel about these gas-bomb-hurling rabble-rousers organizing Allston's anarchists?

"Sometimes organizations think we're too radical; sometimes they think we're not radical enough," said the BTC's Roxanne McKinnon of her comrades in the struggle for housing. "There are many, many types of organizations in our coalition." As a matter of fact, BATU conducts most of its public campaigns in cooperation with its coalition members in the BTC.

"They're a really interesting organization, and I have a lot of respect for them," McKinnon says. "The perspective and strength that they bring is evident. Instead of constantly reacting, they've had a chance to really help envision what housing should be."

Thus far, the Angry Tenants have focused on coalition building and expanding their organization. "We've been empowering tenants" to stand up to their class enemies, DeSiato explains. "We haven't had too many public campaigns. We're open for participation from everyone. Our membership has many immigrants - Brazilians, Asians. There are a number of anarchist types, who were already involved in other types of activism, but that's not the overwhelming characteristic of the organization. The overwhelming characteristic is immigrant: They have the most problems. Many of them are discriminated against because of their immigrant status - they don't receive repairs, their rent is increased, their concerns are ignored. They're told that they have no legal rights, but they do have rights."

To see how the Angry Tenants' implacable fury is playing with the propertied class, the Dig phoned Lenore Schloming, president of the Small Property Owner's Association, a group the Angry Tenants have described in this way: "This seemingly helpful group is really just a front-group for rich landlords who want to keep rent control from being reinstated ... SPOA's evils must be exposed to as many people as possible."

"Well, they described my home as an estate, which makes them less than credible; I live in a 10-unit apartment building!" Schloming chuckled. "I don't think they're accomplishing too much. They flyered my neighborhood. My tenants thought that was funny. They have a right to do their marches, but I don't think they're much of a threat at this point."

"Could you mention that we're having a tenant BBQ on August 15 at Ringer Park in Allston?" DeSiato responded. "We want to meet new people, talk about tenant issues and plan."

Sure thing, buddy. Just wipe that scowl off your face.

For more information on the BATU, e-mail angrytenants (at)
See also:

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Re: Landlords Beware: Boston Angry Tenants are Coming for You!
30 Jul 2004