Picketing with The Rent Is Too Damn High

This week, DJJ leaders, organizers, and our partner organizations went to Lansing to raise our voices and demand renters’ rights. Coming together with activists from across the state of Michigan, DJJ showed out to ensure that renters and houseless people throughout Michigan have their needs met.  

On Tuesday, May 14th, The Rent is Too Damn High Coalition picketed for hours outside the Building Michigan Communities Conference, chanting “Lift the ban on rent control” and, “Renters’ rights now!” As conference attendees searched for the entrance amidst a crowd of energized protestors, they were handed literature on the affordable housing crisis in Michigan; many insisted they were supportive. As security watched from outside and the Governor’s disapproval of this action hung above the air, the cries of renters from across the state ensured everyone inside knew the stakes of this crisis and their role in it. With the rent rate increasing 12.5% in Michigan in the last year, the third-highest spike in the country, the fight for social housing, rent control, and a renter’s bill of rights is more urgent than ever.

Here’s a reflection from Bridget Vial who attended the protest as a volunteer…

“You know a protest is a good protest if you get concessions just for announcing it and I heard that the Rent is Too Damn High team got a meeting with the governor's staff simply for announcing the protest because the governor didn’t want to have the image of people protesting for affordable housing outside a conference that is allegedly the state proving its commitment to affordable housing.

I think it was really well organized and I was surprised by how much of an impact it seemed that our protest outside the conference was making inside. I was passing out the legislative priorities and the half sheet about the campaign to as many people walking in as I could and the vast majority of people took them. I know we had put literature in the bathroom, I know security was being asked to monitor our presence outside so I think it was really being felt and our chanting was audible inside. 

It was interesting talking to people who were going inside as I was passing out literature because they have the impression that things are working and they’re like ‘I support affordable housing.’ People turned down the literature that I was passing out because they were like ‘No I’m on your team.’ And then there were those who stopped in conversation or were really shocked to hear that there were people at the protest who were currently or had recently been homeless and were proof in the conversations that they were having with people that the system is not working, we can’t just do developer subsidies harder and think that it’s gonna work. That was really cool to just witness some of the organizers chatting with people who were going in and out of the conference and I really enjoyed having those conversations with people too.

I am not an organizer, just showed up as a volunteer and I don’t know a lot about what’s going on with the campaign and I left hanging out with just really amazing organizers from Detroit, Lansing, and Northern Michigan who are working in communities and like truly having a huge impact with the political advocacy that they’re doing and having a transformative effect with the members who are joining the campaign.”

All it took for Governor Whitmer to feel threatened was the very announcement of the picket. So imagine the pressure looming over the conference as a hundred renters, organizers, and community members came together to shout, chant, drum, and stand strong in the face of legislators and developers supposedly “on our team.” 

As speakers came up to share their stories of houeslessness and tenant organizing, the crowd’s devotion to justice only grew stronger. Due to drastic increases in rent across the state of Michigan, many individuals who’ve lived in communities for decades have now been forced out, left scrambling for a home in a sea of unaffordable privately developed apartments. Since Democratic legislators have consistently stalled renters’ rights bills, we decided to fight back. As fellow organizer Rosey White said, “We cannot survive without a house. It’s a human right.”

Whether you’re an experienced organizer or a newcomer in the fight for renters’ rights, all are welcome and all are needed to combat the housing and rental crisis. We must stand in solidarity as tenants to seize back power from the landlords, legislators, and private developers. The rent is too damn high. Let’s do something about it. Come to an upcoming Housing and Development committee meeting to learn about the incredible organizing DJJ-niks are working on throughout the city and the state. 


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