Pubdate: Wed, 23 Jul 2003
Source: Riverfront Times (MO)
Copyright: 2003 New Times, Inc.
Author: Mark Davis


It's a racial thing: The sort of condemnation Randall Roberts writes about 
in "Meet the Anarchists" [June 25] happens all the time. The motivation is 
just as political as the one involving Bolozone. Throw in a handful of 
racism, and you have "Project 87," a special partnership between the St. 
Louis building division and the police department. Most of the 
condemnations happen to African-Americans living in less-than-trendy 
neighborhoods. The usual scenario is: The occupants of a housing unit -- 
say, one unit in a four-family flat -- are suspected of drug activity.

The police arrive with Mr. McEnulty and a board-up crew in tow. Mr. 
McEnulty enters under threat of intimidation or force of arms and finds 
enough violations to condemn sometimes the entire structure, not just the 
unit occupied by the suspected offenders.

Now the occupants of the other units are homeless as well. They may have no 
association with the suspects and may even be the ones calling the police 
in the first place.

No evidence need be found; no one need be arrested. The building is the 

People are not allowed to live in a building condemned for occupancy.

I will admit that these condemnations have made my neighborhood quieter and 
safer, usually only temporarily. Even though my household has benefited by 
such condemnations, I have always felt uneasy with the process -- or 
rather, the lack of due process.

My neighbors and I have been at our wits' end. We have witnessed extreme 
antisocial behavior, including assaults, robbery and shootings.

Some of my neighbors view a boarded building as a victory.

All I see is a failure of government, business and the economy.

Making people homeless cannot repair these failures. The situation only 
gets worse.

African-Americans are usually the victims in these condemnations. This 
smells of racism.

There has been little attention to this in the press.

This lack of attention reeks of racism.

When the same thing happens to a few young European-Americans, the press is 
in an uproar.

This uproar smacks of racism. Those arrested in the Bolozone case spent 
some time in jail and most probably had places to stay upon their release.

Being a part of a collective means having support system.

The truly poor and disenfranchised have no such system.

I do not wish to diminish the Bolozone victims, only to point out that 
their case is in no way a special one. These condemnations happen nearly 
every day, and almost always because someone perceives that there is some 
kind of threat either to public safety or, in this case, corporate freedom. 
These condemnations are a political football.

The good people demand them, the politicians make them possible and the 
victims suffer in silence.

Mark Davis

St. Louis
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