Squatting in New York City, 1970

Posted: August 2, 2016 in Economy, Housing, Latino Politics, Power, Race, U.S. Politics, Uncategorized, Violence

It was during my first year in college and I was a teenager. I showed up at a meeting of a squatters organization on the Upper West Side. None of them spoke Spanish. They found out that the authorities had been tipped off to what we were up to. They had to take the buildings much earlier than they had planned. So, they asked me to lead the families into some buildings one night in August. I said sure. I led about 50-60 mothers and children up Amsterdam Avenue from the 80s up to 111. As we got closer, I saw that there were a lot of cop cars with lights in front of the buildings we were going to take. About two blocks from our destination, I could also see that there were about 30 cops in riot gear waiting for us. I asked the mothers if they still wanted to go ahead and they said yes. We walked up to the cops and I saw that an officer in white shirt was telling the cops to let us pass. They were probably afraid of the bad publicity if they beat us up. So, we went past them and into the first building. We were screaming and running up the stairs and opening up the apartments. It was pure joy. When I got to the top, I heard someone calling my name from the first floor. It was one of the gringo organizers. He told me that I had gone into the wrong building. It was the building around the corner that had been secretly prepped for occupation. Hahaha… So, I led the families out of the building, past the surprised cops, and into the correct building. We squatted, de-squatted, and squatted again…

This was part of a larger squatters movement on the Upper West Side that included Latino militant groups like El Comite. A documentary about this period was done in 1971. It was called Break and Enter/Rompiendo Puertas.

Here is the trailer… 

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