Chanting "No Nos Moveran, We Ain't Going to Move," about 100 angry Mount Pleasant and Adams-Morgan residents marched down Columbia Road Saturday to protest speculation - a practice they say is pushing minorities and low-income families from their inner-city homes.
Organized by Adelante, an advocacy center for the city's Latin-American community, the demonstration was "a warning to those who put profit before people that we are not going to take it anymore," said Adelante president Susanna Cepeda.
"We resolve to fight those who are trying to evict us from our homes," shouted Cepeda, reading from a formal declaration against speculation at a pre-march rally held in a tiny, triangular park on Columbia Road and Champlain Street.
"The Latinos, blacks and low-income whites who have lived in this neighborhood for years are being pushed out today. We can't afford the increasing rent, we can't afford the rising taxes, and the neighborhood shopkeepers are losing their business."
With a fat, dollar sign-marked speculator hung in effigy leading the parade, demonstrators marched down Columbia Road carrying signs that read "Rats and Speculators Out," "Housing for People, Not for Profit" and "Decent, Affordable Housing Is a Human Rights."
The protest comes in the wake of a recent study by the city rent administrator's office noting the rising incidence of condominium coversion in the District. In ward one, which includes the Adams-Morgan and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods, 276 certificates of eligibility to convert to condominiums were issued in 1974. That number rose to 683 in 1977 and stands at 435 for the first half of this year, according to the study.
Rage at condominium conversion was apparent during speeches at the protest, where the term "condominium" was greeted with booing and catcalls.
"Has anyone you know recently received a notice of eviction? Heard of a building going condominium lately?" asked attorney Luis Rumbault, acting director of Ayuda community legal service. The crowd responded with a rousing "Yeah."
Demonstrators representing the Mintwood and Kenesaw apartments, two buildings recently embroiled in eviction controversy, brought banners proclaiming their support in the fight against speculation.
"Adams-Morgan is a happy place," said Marisa Perez, vice-president of the Kenesaw Tenants Cooperative, the group that won a victory against real estate speculators last month when they bought their apartment building from its owner, Antioch University. "We have good neighbors. You see faces that are black, Indian and white all living together."
"The more meetings and the more marches we have, the more nervous the landlords get," said Mintwood Tenants Association predident Gretchen Young, who said her group advanced their fight to stay in their homes last week when a D.C. Superior Court ruled their eviction notices were invalid.
"It's the cruelest game in town," said Theresa Holmes, a member of the Senior citizen activist group, the Gray Panthers. "Poor people can't buy them (condominiums). What are these old ladies going to do, living on fixed incomes and food stamps?"
The demonstration also proved a popular stumping ground for local politicians who turned out to show their support for the protest.
"This is an old issue for me," said city council candidate Frank Smith, walking hand-in-hand with his son, daughter and wife. Smith cited the need to reinstate the ban on condominium conversion and mentioned cooperatives as a possible housing solution for low - and moderate-income families.
Councilman David Clarke (D-Ward 1) called for creation of a comprehensive housing bill and applauded the council's recent passage of a bill, based on legislation he introduced, that provides for a tax deterrent against speculation.