Protesters rode in a caravan around La Jolla on July 1 to drive their point home by picketing the houses of the wealthy as part of a statewide effort to promote greater social equity.
Participating in the protest were renters, workers, and community/labor leaders of AFSCME 3299, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), SEIU USWW, UAW 2865 and San Diego Tenants Union. They met at Revelle College parking lot at UC San Diego, before traversing the neighborhoods of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, Michael Contreras, Douglas Manchester, and UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla.
After decades of rising inequality, and a pandemic disproportionately impacting communities of color leaving millions out of work, especially low-income Black and Brown Californians, organizers chose July 1 as the date to demand California’s billionaires work to ensure a just recovery for all.
Jose Lopez, an organizer with ACCE, a multi-racial, democratic, nonprofit that builds power to support economic, racial, and social justice, discussed the circumstances, and message, behind the billionaire caravan.
“Since the pandemic hit, a lot of people haven’t been able to pay their rent,” Lopez said. “So we started to think about what we could do about this, and the first action taken was to get creative, and use our cars to protest safely, have a platform to speak out.”
Added Lopez, “There are some very wealthy people in California getting away with paying less than their fair share. If anybody can pay, they can. So on July 1, we did a caravan to some of the wealthiest people in San Diego, to bring the emergency to their front door. We wanted to make sure that, if we’re not comfortable –- they’re not comfortable.”
A stop along the way for the caravan was the home of Khosla, targeted because of university layoffs. But UC San Diego police blocked protestors’ attempts to drive by Khosla’s residence in La Jolla Farms.
Protesters who’ve joined the La Jolla caravan and other caravans in San Diego have been a diverse lot. San Diego Community Newspaper Group spoke with two: single mom and distressed renter Patricia Mendoza, and retired schoolteacher Bradley Bang, both of National City.
“I recently became a member of ACCE because they help low-income people,” said Mendoza, who lost her job transporting disabled people due to the pandemic. “They helped educate me on my housing and tenant rights.”
“Part of the message was to make the rich pay,” said Bang, who had been a teacher’s union organizer and joined ACCE to be active in his community. “We believe that together we can change things. A big part of what we’re doing is community empowerment.”
Mendoza and her two children, like lots of others, are trapped in a situation where they can’t afford rent because COVID health restrictions have placed them in economic jeopardy.
“Housing is a human right, everyone should have dignified housing,” she said. “I work really hard for my kids, just to pay rent and have food. Food banks have kept us going. And now that my kids are not in school, I have to pay for the Internet for them. I waited a long time to get unemployment, and now 75% of that goes to rent, and I still have to buy food. We’re stronger united. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It sucks.”
“I think we’re a long way from the society that we need and want,” concluded Bang. “They talk about how great the economy is. But it’s only great for those on Wall Street, not for the homeless and struggling families. We need to support rent control and rent strikes. I’m not a renter living that lifestyle, but I know a lot of people who are hurting. I can go out there and work on their behalf, and so I do.”
Lopez of ACCE said seeing how the other half lives during the recent caravans have left an indelible impression.
“Our members had never seen homes that big, how inequitable things are, how not fair,” he pointed out adding, “We have no choice but to win.”
“Making sure housing is considered a human right,” answered Lopez. “There’s no reason why people shouldn’t have a home or healthcare.”
For more information visit acceaction.org.