BREAKING: Rioters arrested at Greenbridge

Ruby Sinreich's picture

So remember last year when I said that the people threatening violence against Greenbridge were doing more harm than good? They made a bomb threat against the building while it was under construction. Did it make Greenbridge better or cheaper or more accessible? Did it help the developers better serve the community? Did it help the community combat the rising cost of living in Chapel Hill?  No, but it probably served to make a small group of activists feel better about themselves.

Yesterday, a group of anarchists entered the lobby of Greenbridge intent on destruction. The group of over 30 demonstrators were armed with an anvil, and proceeded to do major damage to the floor, a glass table, and several pieces of artwork. Eight people were arrested Several people were detained, and three were held on felony inciting a riot charges until they were released from the Orange County Jail on a total of $8,000 bond.*

With the news that Greenbridge will probably avoid foreclosure, we should all breathe a sigh of relief. Let's just hope that the new buyers will be at least as invested in the community as the previous partners, so they can continue to make good (and maybe even improve on) their promises to Chapel Hill.

There are a lot of good people doing good work to help Northside (such as the wonderful Marian Cheek Jackson Center profiled in the Chapel Hill News this weekend, and the Counter Cartographies Collective mapping the change in neighborhood ownership), but I hope they realize that there are also some jokers that are too caught up in their own childish agenda. If they are are so passionately opposed to Greenbridge, why did they not speak to the Planning Board or the Town Council when it was being approved years ago? Nearly everyone, including many revered leaders in Northside spoke in favor of it.  And what are they doing now to help strengthen Northside, and create their own vision of the community's future?

Many committed activists are preparing for tomorrow night's public hearing at the Chapel Hill Town Council meeting to discuss a proposed moratorium on development in an effort to halt the gentrification of Northside. Meanwhile, these violent demonstrators are stroking their own egos and making life harder, even for the people they say they are trying to help. It's a real shame.

* An editorial note: Much of this reporting come from a first hand account that I received confidentially. I confirmed the aspects I could by calling the Orange County Jail, and was also referred to their jail custody report.  If anyone has conflicting or clarifying information, I would be happy to hear it. I also hope that some of the few remaining reporters left in Orange County might be able to cover this, but the lack of information about it in today's media is disheartening.

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79 Comments

disheartening or ...

disheartening or - if you assume that such people thrive on media attention - helpful. Although I'm very glad that people like you, whose judgment I trust, are reporting it.

leestorrow's picture

New Media

This is incredibly disappointing. While the signs that have cropped up around town recently (and during stages of the building’s development) had some violent rhetoric, it’s quite a jump from violent rhetoric to violent action.  It’s a sign of the evolving face of the media that neither the Chapel Hill News, Independent, nor the Daily Tar Heel have information posted on their website. Thanks for keeping us informed Ruby!

more information on anti-Greenbridge protest

Ruby and others:Here is some more information about yesterday's anti-Greenbridge protest. I gathered it from talking to eyewitnesses and reading a flyer distributed during the demonstration, the full text of which I've retyped below.There were two simultaneous protests, one outside the building on Rosemary Street with some 20 demonstrators holding banners, and one inside, with about 25 demonstrators occupying the lobby, some of whom were chanting, clapping, moving furniture, and creating a disruption. (No one was armed with an anvil, however hilarious of an image that is.) When police arrived, the demonstrators inside dispersed, while the demonstrators outside remained for about 45 minutes longer. There were only three arrests, not eight, though a few outside demonstrators and random passersby were briefly detained and then released.It's wrong to assume that none of the demonstrators involved voiced opposition to the project through the proper channels. Since Greenbridge's inception, there has been widespread resistance against it, including speaking out in council meetings, community forums, posters and art, and the infamous bomb threat. (The supposed absence of criticism in city council years ago says more about who feels represented by the town government and developers than what residents of the neighborhood and town actually feel.) For instance, a group called Concerned Neighbors Against Greenbridge gathered signatures from over 60 Northside households and ran an ad in the Chapel Hill News in August 2009 urging a boycott against purchasing new units. Other community groups concerned about gentrification, including UNC NOW and Sustaining OurSelves (SOS), have attempted to intercede in various ways. None of this succeeded in stopping the project, though it almost certainly contributed to its economic failure. So how can we make sense of this latest development? Implying that all of the “bad” protests (i.e. tactics that go beyond polite appeals to the proper authorities) stem from the same source seems disingenuous, especially given the wide range of opposition from various quarters Greenbridge has generated. The two protests Saturday included anarchists and folks of other political viewpoints, Northside residents and their allies, and both calm and angry protestors. As the violence against neighborhood residents in the form of raised property taxes and rents and evictions escalates, it's not surprising that expressions of anger against Greenbridge escalate, too. In this context, it seems both incorrect and insensitive to the point of cruelty to imply that these demonstrators are “violent” ones who are “making life harder, even for the people they say they are trying to help.”The following is the text from a flyer handed out by demonstrators, which explains the motivations.OCCUPY THE OCCUPIERS!We're here to express our rage about the displacement of renters from Northside. Greenbridge has been instrumental in causing property values in the neighborhood to skyrocket; families and households have been forced out as investors like Engelhardt Ventures buy up all the property. This demonstration is the latest chapter in a narrative that has included public opposition, a boycott campaign, posters, graffiti, and more.In the midst of a nationwide housing crisis, it is especially ironic that so many tenants have had to leave their homes on account of a development that remains mostly empty. This shows how the system of property rights prioritizes capitalist investment over the human beings it affects.Well-behaved citizens will object that we are disturbing the peace. Have they so much as batted an eye as families have been forced out of this community?Developers will charge that not all of us live in Northside. But they can bring in investors and wealthy homebuyers from the other side of the country to finance the developments that make it impossible for us to live here.Property owners will object that this is private property. But before this was a high-rise gated community defended by key cards and security guards, it was the church that hosted the charter school, the Ethiopian restaurant. This space used to be a part of our community;now the wealthy have stolen it from us.Politicians will insist that we should focus on bureaucratic reforms when the solution is obvious: the displaced should be permitted to move into the empty units in Greenbridge itself.This isn’t just about Northside. The displacement of renters from Northside is a microcosm of the story of all the service workers and poor people in Chapel Hill. We are constantly being forced to relocate, working in town but commuting from Durham or the country. This makes it impossible for us to maintain ties and stand up for ourselves together; it means that the privilege of being a recognizable community with legitimate interests is reserved for theproperty-owning middle class.This protest is the only meaningful alternative we have to being silenced and written out of history. Against landlords and developers - Occupy the occupiers!

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Thanks for the background

Thanks for the background, Nick. I'm correcting the number of people arrested, I think that was my own misunderstanding of what I was told."Developers will charge that not all of us live in Northside." Well of the 3 arrested, apparently only 1 even lives in Orange County. Not that others shouldn't speak out, but it's important to know where that message is coming from. (According to your profile. you don't vote in Orange County either, Nick. I'm curious whether you vote at all, but that's only tangentially related to this issue.) Not to say that there hasn't always been a variety of views about Greenbridge, but it was approved by the Town Council in 2007 after about a year of public discussion. I'm not sure UNC NOW and SOS existed at that time.  (You can see the archive of discussion about it on OP going back to 2006: I'm willing to bet that a lot of the people who think Greenbridge is largely responsible for the gentrification of Northside have lived here for less than 5 years. Not that newcomers don't have a right to be pissed off, but that ship has sailed. I'm more interested in what people are doing to make the community stronger in the future. And I don't think what happenned yesterday falls into that category.

Greenbridge Is One Building, Not the Entire Real Estate Market

I was not at the protest, and have no knowledge from eyewtiness or participant accounts.  But there are so many non sequiturs on the flier above it's hard to know where to begin.  The bottom line is that there is a complex, interrelated web of forces that are changing the socioeconomic composition of most of Orange County, most of which stem from a combination of local government actions (or lack thereof) and local real estate market dynamics. This change is not necessarily coming slowly, and it may be inexorable under status quo conditions. I've blogged about this in some detail at the Village Project website. Greenbridge itself is not one of those forces, but it is one of the responses to them. The critical question to be asking is not whether Greenbridge is "good" or "bad" for the community and arguing that ad nauseum, but whether or not it is better than the other potential responses to an increasingly unaffordable housing stock for low-to-median-income households. When weighed against other possible responses, I think Greenbridge tends to rate better than many as an outcome. With Greenbridge, yes, you get high-dollar housing but you also get units for OCHLT, and you get them within walking distance of major employment and the bus system, so moderate-income households who live at Greenbridge will have low transportation costs. You also reduce the speed of price appreciation as filtering occurs in the housing market from expanding the housing supply.  If you build it (or the same number of units) in Orange outside of Chapel Hill/Carrboro, you get...high dollar housing, lots more driving and air pollution, and that's it.  If you don't build Greenbridge, or an equivalent number of housing units elsewhere, you keep the housing supply static, get zero units for OCHLT, which drives up prices as demand increases with no filtering opportunities.Some posters on this site occasionally raise the spectre of real estate "comps" at Greenbridge making the houses in Northside escalate in value faster and faster, but this critique ignores two key facts:1.  Northside is mostly single-family homes, and Greenbridge is all condos.  Generally speaking, appraisers don't use comps of one type to estimate the value of the other.  They will use single-family homes within a mile or so of Northside to appraise homes there.2.  Due to the slow pace of development in Chapel Hill, existing sales of homes dwarf new home sales every year, so the influence of buildings that are already here have a far greater influence on real estate comps in neighborhoods than newly built ones.Finally, in addition to regular price appreciation plus a limited housing stock due to slow-growth policies in the towns and county, another accelerant for price pressure on Northside is below. The neighborhood already has a fantastic location within walking distance to campus, downtown Chapel Hill, and downtown Carrboro.  Put an elementary school of the top-performing school district in the state in the neighborhood, and competition for housing there will only get more intense. The key point is that the limited housing stock expansion int he county, the existing single-family home sales/comps issue, Northside proximity to UNC, and the future school are there regardless of whether or not Greenbridge was approved. All of these feed the dynamic that can lead to gentrification. Finding a awy to keep Orange County socioeconomically diverse is going to take a lot more effort than protesting one building in a variety of ways.   

Mark Chilton's picture

charter school?

"But before this was a high-rise gated community defended by key cards and security guards, it was the church that hosted the charter school, the Ethiopian restaurant."      And a flop-house used by many for drug-dealing and prostitution. If there was ever a charter school there, then I never heard of it.  Can anyone provide some clarification of that claim? Incidentally, here's a very different perspective on Greenbridge, East54 and other redevelopment efforts: http://orangepolitics.org/2009/11/crosspost-landscape-memory-and-east54 

Mark Chilton's picture

ill-conceived and poorly executed

This protest sounds both utterly ill-conceived and very poorly executed.  Vandalism is not going to persuade anyone to join your side.  And indeed it is bound to have the opposite effect.  If you are so upset about Englehardt Ventures, then why not protest (non-violently) against them instead?  Or any of another half-dozen investors in the same line of work? The displacement of traditional renters in Northside had been on-going for at least 15 years before Greenbridge was built.  Because of lagging private sector sales at Greenbridge, the majority (?) of residents there right now are moderate income homebuyers (through the Orange County Home Trust).  What's the point of targetting them?If the above reporting turns out to be basically correct (recognizing that there could easily be more to the story), then I thoroughly condemn these actions.

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Please LOG IN and have your say

There are a lot of great comments being posted on this thread by people who are not logged in. Because of the sensitive nature of the subject, and especially in cases where the commenters is making a specific accusation, these really need to be backed up by at least an e-mail address. I strongly urge people who want to have a say on this to quickly register at http://orangepolitics.org/user/register .  All it requires is a valid e-mail address and your voting precinct (so we know you're local). Full names are encouraged (especially if you want readers to trust the information you post) but not required.

Yes, its bigger than Greenbridge and Northside

Repeatedly, both on this blog and throughout town, the defenders of Greenbridge have attempted to criticize the project's opponents by pointing out that the problem of rising rents and gentrification are much bigger than just this one project. Obviously this is true; much as was advanced in the handbill distributed in this action (reprinted in comment form above), greenbridge is only part of a larger structural and systemic problem, whereby the housing market in our town drastically favors the rich and middle-class. Even those sympathetic to Northside have often printed articles totally ignoring the plight of tenants and non-homeowners from the neighborhood, as if the hundreds of non-student renters and housing project inhabitants just didnt exist. But just because greenbridge is only one more recent part of a huge problem, doesnt mean it shouldnt be opposed. This logic is pretty simple right? The war in iraq, for example, was hardly the first or even most pervasive instance of american imperialism; that doesn't mean those who want to spread a broadly anti-colonial or anti-war perspective shouldn't oppose it specifically, and use it as an opportunity to spread that broader perspective.The text from the handbill, if ONE READS IT, clearly states that this issue is not just about northside or greenbridge, but an entire town that displaces its working class population(s).  Displacement, evictions, foreclosures, these are violent things. They seriously hurt people. When people respond angrily, we shouldn't be surprised. Even if greenbridge, by itself, wasnt the primary source of gentrification (it is by definition a part of it), that still doesn't mean a group of class conscious tenants and service workers are being "irrational" or "childish" to   occupy it and express their anger at the rich. I think ultimately many people on blogs like this one cannot understand why people would "riot" at a luxury condo for the same reasons they cannot understand what it is like to be broke and unable to afford a place to live. The two are intimately connected. 

finally

finally someone speaks some sense. landlords and developers shouldnt act like the only consequences when rents increase is some historical documentation and some liberal "oh-well,-too-bad-so-sad" sentiment. Yes gentrification is part of an ongoing process of land acquisition, inherent to the way the housing market works under capitalism...But that doesnt mean people can't write new chapters in the struggle against it. 

Geoff Green's picture

The thing is, we're talking

The thing is, we're talking about a piece of property which is walking distance from downtown Carrboro, downtown Chapel Hill, and the UNC campus. Property further from Carrboro, further from downtown CH and closer to the UNC campus is among the most expensive in town. The Greenbridge site is a valuable piece of land. If not Greenbridge, what is going to go on that site? Any less dense housing on that site would, unless you have some generous donor or an extensive infusion of town funds, be quite expensive. Chapel Hill and Carrboro have two goals which are, in practice, somewhat exclusive.  One is to steer development in a sustainable direction -- e.g., no more car-dependent apartment complexes or large housing subdivisions disconnected from the rest of the community. The other is to produce more affordable housing. The way other parts of the country (Texas comes to mind, as does Cary/Durham and the areas surrounding Raleigh to a lesser extent) produce lower housing costs is by allowing unfettered development, despite the environmental costs. With the greater supply, and the lower land costs out in the periphery, come lower housing costs. It's difficult to combine environmental and social sustainability with affordability, though our towns are trying.My point is, the efforts to make downtown Chapel Hill and downtown Carrboro more successful, combined with the growing interest in living in more urban environments, will naturally make areas around these downtowns more valuable. Railing against gentrification by throwing some stuff around in a condo building's lobby isn't going to accomplish anything.

People vs Property

I think the problem Geoff is that you and others are thinking from a structural position and the protesters are responding from a  human rights perspective. I am not saying that you don't care about humans but your arguments are coming from a different place. When Greenbridge was first proposed lots of folks around here were very supportive and the language used to support was based on the same issues  you and Patrick M are raising. But the response is about the displaced people who could care less whether Greenbridge is green, whether is advances urban density, or any other structural type of issue. 

Geoff Green's picture

I guess, Terri, that I just

I guess, Terri, that I just haven't seen a real good approach to look at this from any other than a structural perspective. The complaint is that investors are buying up these properties, but for each buyer there's a seller. Maybe the sellers are desperate and really being lowballed, taken advantage of. Maybe the sellers are given false assurances of being able to secure other housing. I don't know whether any of those possible scenarios are true or false. But what I do know is that the property on which Greenbridge sits was purchased from someone who sold it, and the folks who purchased it decided to build a condo building on top.  I'm not sure what mechanism should have been employed to stop that from happening. I don't think taking extraordinary steps to keep people in their current residences is necessarily the answer. And the fact that there are 20 currently vacant homes in the Northside area (according to a statistic quoted in the CH staff memorandum on the proposed development moratorium) means that may not be feasible. If there is a moratorium, though, I guess we'll see what happens.

Mark Chilton's picture

Engelhardt Ventures?

I can definitely understand people who are outraged about gentrification, but statements like "Greenbridge has been instrumental in causing property values in the neighborhood to skyrocket . . . " are simply untrue.Greenbridge may well have that effect in the future, but Greenbridge has surely not done so yet.  Given that few market-rate (i.e. unsubsidized) condominiums at Greenbridge have even been sold, it's hard to believe that the putative value of Greenbridge has really raised anyone's property values other than immediately adjacent commercial properties.Curiously, the handbill specifically mentions Engelhardt Ventures.  I have no prior knowledge of Engelhardt Ventures.  They may be good landlords or bad ones - I have no idea.  But a quick search of Orange County tax records shows that this LLC has gone on such a real estate buying spree that it owns exactly one property in the entire county: 209 N. Graham Street in Northside.  And it appears that Engelhardt bought that property in 1995 - about 10 years before Greenbridge was even proposed.  So why single them out?  Did they do something to the author of the handbill?  Or is there something more to Engelhardt that I am ignorant of?

Check your facts

Hey, i live on graham st. and am friensd with the folks in that house. it was bought by the new owner just several months ago, and the people in the house are being kicked out so that the company can do renovations and massively raise the rent.  besides, read the handbill, enghelhardt is just being used as one example. the counter cartographies (ironically mentioned as a positive force by this liberal blogger, even though they are ALSO anarchists...) did a great map on developers buying up property in the area. and once again, even if greenbridge is only starting to have that effect, is that not a reason to start opposing them as soon as possible, particularly when they re symbolic of larger forces at work? 

Mark Chilton's picture

Who were the protesters?

Can anyone provide some non-speculative information about who was actually protesting.  Were current (or former) Northside residents protesting?Folks who actually grew up in Northside would seem to have a lot more legitimate standing to complain - as opposed to those whose complaint is essentially that Northside has gotten so expensive that they can no longer afford to participate in the Studentification of the neighborhood.

Legitimacy of protesters?

I think, once again, the handbill reprinted in an earlier comment already deals adequately with this issue ("____ will charge that not all of us live in northside. but they can bring in investors and wealthy homebuyers from the other side of the country to finance the developments that make it impossible for us to live here.") There s a pretty obscene double standard going on. Millionaires from a thousand miles away have the power to change the fortune of small homeowners and tenants with the stroke of a pen, and they go totally uncriticized by the majority of liberals and "good citizens." But somebody actually from here, who has to work a shitty job or pay rent or whatever, acts up in their own self interest and all of a sudden all the "progressives" are shrieking bloody murder. BTW one of the arrested actually according to police records lives on N graham st.  And in any case, developments and rich speculators and landlords etc. like greenbridge dont just affect northside, they affect the economic and social character of the entire town (particularly a town this small.)  

news accounts of event

Hey, for those of you looking for news coverage of the event at Greenbridge (and probably more reliable information), here are a couple links:From the News & Observerhttp://www.newsobserver.com/2011/06/20/1287352/chapel-hill-police-charge...From an anarchist news site:http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=2011062001And one other site:http://www.chapelboro.com/Reports--Greenbridge-Site-Of-Major-Protest--Th...  Calling these folks "rioters" is a bit disingenuous and sensationalistic, though.  As much as I would like to believe that there was a riot -- that there were enough people around Chapel Hill with that much anger at current conditions who were expressing it collectively --  a group of twenty people who cause a couple thousand dollars worth of property damage confined to the interior of a lobby is nowhere near enough to qualify them as "rioters."  If you're using the police charges to justify that terminology, remember that police classify spitting on one of them as "assault."  Heck, they classify getting *beat up* *by* one of them as assault on an officer.  Their role is to selectively enforce laws, and to rain down punishment as hard as possible on dissenters who are not "behaving" in that they refuse to dissent only through the prescribed (totally coopted, and largely ineffectual) channels, in order to quash the possibility for effective resistance to the horrors of modern life.  Their role is clearly not accurate reporting, or calling things by the names that any reasonable person would agree with.And as far as insinuating that the commenter above, Nick, doesn't vote as if it's some kind of aspersion on his character, I'll save you the trouble of raising the same question in my case and go ahead and tell you that I don't vote.  When was the last time you saw anyone running for office, for example, on a platform to abolish capitalism and the violence of state authority?  (And even if  you could cite an instance, anybody trying to get elected on that platform is clearly not actually dedicated to it.)  Voting is never going to represent my politics, so why in the heck should I vote?  And I can tell you right now, voting is never going to represent the interests or politics of millions upon millions of other people in the world.  People can vote if they want to, but any belief that voting is going to change the fundamental structure of power, exploitation, and alienation in this world is self-delusion.  That only happens with social movements that live in the streets, in our homes, in the parks, and in the forests.

This is the wrong question

This seems a disingenuous question to me, something along the lines of "Given that all this bad stuff is inevitable, whats the point?" Thats obviously a huge "given," one that thankfully at least some people have the courage to not be resigned to.But you re correct that the building is built. Investors prices, on the other hand, are hardly fixed; if nothing else the last two years of real estate troubles tell us that. If opposition continues to make these condos undesirable to buy (currently a prospective buyer googles "greenbridge" and comes up with a laundry list of words like "bomb threat," "vandalism," "riot," "protest," "controversy", and "racism"...not exactly a place the average homebuyer wants to invest in, huh?) then it is actually VERY possible that prices would drop. BUt that doesnt seem to me to be a real solution. A real solution, as pointed out by the handbill mentioned in an earlier comment, is actually families (or groups like St Joseph's food program, which needs more space) occupying the empty space in the building rent free and using it. That both directly undermines the gentrifying effect of the development (it reverses process of rich displacing poor) and solves a practical problem for dozens of households and even small businesses. This sounds like a pipe dream, but all over south america and europe similar projects of large building occupations and subsequent free space have and continue to occur. Its not a fantasy, its already happening. What makes it possible is a certain level of political militancy, a generalization of social discontent and direct action, and a culture of class consciousness, all of which, Im guessing, these protesters are trying to create.In other words, yes, "consciousness raising," but also much, much more. 

michelleforcarrboro's picture

Questions

Mark-I love that you asked the question"Who Were the Protestors?", because I think that it is an important one. Did the protesters think about how their actions might impact the people living in Northside? Did the protesters think about the assumptions that are going to continue to be made about the historically black neighborhood? Did the protesters represent the neighborhood in a way they wanted to be represented? Did the protesters collaborate with residents in the community about the protest and process for change and action? I don't know the answer to any of these and I think they are really important questions because I have seen actions being made in the name of social justice on behalf of people many times when there hasn't ever been a conversation with the people on whose behalf the protest is happening.  I have also seen movements split apart (and we have many examples of this in history) because the same tools are used to dismantle the system that people are trying to fight against.  Just something to for us to think about.

Representation?

The protesters never claimed to be representing anyone other than themselves. Some of them are from the neighborhood, we can assume given the address of one of the arrestees, others likely are not.In any case, for the umpteenth time, read the handbill given out at the demonstration: it clearly states that this is not just about northside, nor is it even just about greenbridge, but about the general displacement of service workers, working folks from this town. This is a demographic i would assume these protesters belong to.I understand that it may be difficult for the "politically minded" to understand this, but maybe these folks went there with their own interests, desires, and anger in mind, rather than "representing" some mythical "other" or victim. What a refreshing change. 

Also...

Also, this protest hardly has happened in a vacuum where northside residents have been silent...Northside has been constantly attempting to assert itself, with a community proposed boycott signed by over 60 households, to media interviews, gatherings and teachins, etc, not to mention a whole host of other things like graffiti etc. some of which was probably done by northside folks (people in this neighborhood arent just victims, they re also active subjects...).  In other words northside has repeatedly spoken up and represented itself, and been totally ignored or silenced by a bunch of wealthy liberals who continue to apologize for a luxury condo development.  

Sorry...

...but I just don't believe this statement. I would like to know if any of the people in the riot were from the neighborhood.

I'm reading the handbill, but I've discovered a number of flaws. The prices for homes in that area are about as much as they were in 2005, long before Greenbridge arrived.

its about rent

first off, maybe you didnt read the handbill....you ll notice the main emphasis is on rent prices, not necessarily home prices. Obviously there is a relationship, but a landlord can raise the rent without the home value going up. And rent prices are DEFINITELY going up in northside, talk to any tenant in the area. Id also suggest looking at a series of maps of the area, regarding development etc., made by an anarchist/autonomist group called the Counter Cartographies Collective. (Ruby Seinrich's article above mentions them as a positive counterexample to the evil rioters, not knowing they re part of the same political philosophy as the evil "rioters." shows how well she knows the issue...)  

Mark Marcoplos's picture

real solutions

I've argued for my share of idealistic solutions and I'm sure I will continue to do so sometimes. It's healthy to envision how things might be in a radically different world. For example, I don't believe the American public school system is even close to the best way to provide educational opportunities for our kids.  I'd like to see elementary schools abolished and some form of home or small community schooling take place until kids are about twelve years old. At that age there would be community schools, apprenticeship opportunities, travel programs, athletic teams, art studios, etc. to allow the young people to continue to learn in their own individual way. I recognize that taking a sledge hammer to some school windows may communicate my frustration with the existing system, but beyond that it will result in more intransigence to change. I should qualify that, if an entity is actively threatening and dangerous, like a fracking operation or similar, I can see justification for disabling the operation as a last resort. We have to defend ourselves against invaders. Of course, categorizing threats is relative. But I think my point is clear.I don't see a commitment to actual solutions expressed by those involved in this protest. You have to keep your eye on the ultimate goal while working with current practical realities. It's nuanced and complex. But at least progress can occur.  

Actual Solutions

How can we know whether or not these folks are working towards actual solutions - as a general rule we don t know who they are. They seem pretty committed to me to risk arrest to express their anger and "encourage" folks not to want to move into the development (which they have undoubtedly accomplished!).As many people have pointed out, both anarchists and even liberals who apologize for the development, the problem of overpriced housing is structural and systemic in nature.  That means that "actual solutions" will require deep, fundamental changes in social and institutional relationships in this town. I would argue that much like many other dramatic acts of disobedience in our country's political history, this one was necessarily less focused on a tangible solution and more focused on creating the atmosphere of discontent and anger. That's a perfectly reasonable goal for a one-off action, and can certainly help create the political capital to organize broader solutions in the future. If the point was to demonstrate a willingness to act by whatever means necessary, they have done so. On the subject of tangible goals, it seems that if one goal is to get rich people to think twice before moving to the area (both northside and chapel hill generally) then the "rioters" have clearly acomplished that: every major and non major media source have covered this, the AP has picked up the story, and it has contributed to a long line of dramatic controversial things now associated with the development. They may have made some enemies with more rich folks and "progressives" in town, but somehow i think maybe they were enemies already... 

BrianR's picture

Tim Toben's Statement

In a Orange Chat post dated 6/22 they posted a statement from Tim Toben. Here it is for context.

Greenbridge is a convenient scapegoat for what had already occurred in the west end of Chapel Hill decades earlier. Mason's Motel and The Starlight Supper Club, which were marvelous contributions to the community, opened in 1960 and had been shuttered for decades before Greenbridge arrived. Beginning in the 1970's Northside homes were purchased as investment properties and rented out to students. By 2001, the Sykes Street Study from showed that Northside was already 71% "gentrified," primarily with student rentals. It is unfortunate that the protesters didn't do their homework to find out the facts before attacking this project.

The incident that occurred last Saturday was no "peaceful protest." A group of local anarchists plus a few regional recruits wearing masks came onto the property and overturned furniture, blocked exits, and threatened residents. Three were arrested and face felony charges. The mayor called me to express his sympathy and promised a thorough investigation. A group with an identical signature arrived at our contractor's office in Greensboro in 2008 wearing masks, chanting slogans, overturning furniture and intimidating employees. These white 20-30 year-olds claim to represent the interests of black residents, but the leaders of the black community say they do not represent them.

Greenbridge and its residents stand for positive change on a block that the town designated an economic opportunity zone. The Town Council and planners invited redevelopment of that blighted block. Because of the water sourced heat pumps, green rooftops, double insulation, and Solarban 80 glass, our residents consume half the energy per square foot of other downtown buildings. They are serious about reducing their carbon footprint, reducing the need for new coal or nuclear power plants in NC, and contributing to the betterment of the community. They stand for positive change, while the anarchists apparently seek to maintain the status quo through vandalism and intimidation. I am all for freedom of speech and peaceful protest. They are rights that I also exercise. The behavior of the anarchists is unlawful and based on unfounded assumptions. The mayor and police chief have assured me that there will be no more tolerance for such criminal activity.

hah thats a good joke

"Greenbridge and its residents stand for positive change on a block "...Yeah, thats a good one! The only time i ever see that handful of yuppies in our neighborhood is when they briefly leave the solace of their high-rise gated "community" to come let their dogs crap in the lot at the corner of rosemary and graham st. And i love the ad hominem "anarchists seek to maintain the status uo..."...um, what?! The rich developer doesnt like the anti capitalists, i get it, but come on, this just sounds ridiculous. Read a book, toben.And once again, for the millionth time, everybody has already pointed it out: just cus Northside was already getting gentrified hardly means moving MORE (and much, much richer) rich people in isnt part of the problem. This is a logically silly argument that needs to just be put to rest. And ya gotta love this part...."The behavior of the anarchists is unlawful..." Um....no, really? Theyre ANARCHISTS. Their goal is to overthrow the ruling social order of capitalism, police, politicians, bureaucrats, etc. Are you really surprised? Do you think they care? Since when is the law on the side of poor people? It belongs to the rich; it always has and always will. Look around the world: police stations and political buildings on fire in egypt, cops being beaten up by unemployed youth in tunisia...spain, italy, greece, the UK, half of North Africa....What makes you think poor people give a hoot for your laws?   

research...

then maybe do some research. think broadly: the entire insurrection of greece in december 2008 is generally understood to have an anarchist character (refusal of political demands, occupations of workplaces, universities, etc., anti capitalism, solidarity with and involvement of migrants..); but also the new plaza occupations in spain have some anarchistcharacter, particularly in barcelona where theyve been more active; the entire direct action wing of the ecological movement in the UK and US (ELF, ALF, and earth first!, but also others...); the rebellions in mexico in san salvador atenco and oaxaca city in the mid 2000s were influenced by anarchists and anarchism; the antifascist movement in eastern europe, which is particularly urgent right now given the process of balkanization, etc.; the movement against a US military base in (southern?) italy in the 90s was a joint effort by local residents and anarchists from the region, much like the italian actions against migrant detention centers there; the anarcho syndicalist movement in South Africa; the current struggle against police in the Northwest; labor struggles in poland, as well as the occupation of entire city blocks in slovenia; the mapuche movement in "chile" and solidarity with it in the cities is highyl anarchist in character, though it is a native struggle; the same could be said for the indigenous struggle in papua new guinea;  the massive "anti-globalization" movement, as it was dubbed by the corporate press, was by 2001-2002 largely anarchist in character, although not necessarily revolutionary. though subsumed in the US by the highyl ineffective antiwar movement by 2003, it internationally succeeded in bringing down the WTO as well as the FTAA, and, more importantly, in bringing genuine anti-capitalism back on the table in a real way for the first time since the fall of the berlin wall.  this is also still a real force: the g20 cant seem to meet anywhere without people rioting, injuring cops, and destroying corporate property.the anti austerity movement in many european countries has a high anarchist involvement, particularly the UK as of late...check out the neighborhood opposition to the building a Tesco in Stokes Croft, or the anti cuts demos in london. 500 000 people, over 3 million pounds in economic damage, an entire youth dissatisfied with, well, everything. All had largely an anarchist character in the more militant efforts.   maybe that ll do for now?   

more specific...

perhaps i should be more specific, to help avoid confusion. When i say "had an anarchist character" i do NOT mean (necesarily) violence, vandalism, graffiti, whatever. While obviously anarchists have a critique of the legitimacy of state authority, those kinds of things can be and are done by all sorts of political and nonpolitical individuals and groups. (Liberals in chapel hill may act like the sky is falling when some silly string gets sprayed, but i would argue that just shows an overall naiveite when it comes to political struggle and violence, and their own personal comfort.)What i mean by anarchist character then, is more structural and organizational: i mean they contain a strong critique of the role of political parties, NGOS, etc., a refusal to negotiate or barter over minor demands with the state, an absolute intolerance towards police and snitching, an (either formal or informal, usually a mixture) egalitarian internal structure, and a broad critique of capital and the state. This doesnt manifest itself in the same way with every movement: in the anti-glob era, for example, one would hear buzz words like "affinity group," "anticapitalism," and "direct action." Perhaps now one hears more often "attack" and "communism" (little-c, btw; we re not talking marxism.) But these same elements are there in some form in basically every single example i mentioned in the earlier comment, plus hundreds of others. (One example i forgot to mention, by the way, is the MASSIVE social upheaval in argentina in dec. 2001, the rallying cry of which was "que se vayan todos" or, "out with them all," as a reference to political parties as well as businessmen, financial managers, the IMF, etc.

Mark Marcoplos's picture

more specific on targets

Paul, Point well-taken on 'anarchist" actions around the world. But I have a feeling that those many actions included representations of more oppressive agencies than Greenbridge. It almost seems like a cartoon - protesters around the world are targeting military bases, big banking interests, dominant multinational corporations, and other representations of large-scale oppression while the Chapel Hill version of "anarchists" are targeting a project by  local developers that went through many months of public process, is designed by possibly the world's foremost green architectural team, contains many affordable units, replaced a rundown section of town, and does not appear to have enough resistance from the neighbors that any one of them were prominet in the demonstration.  

True...

Its true, in a sense, that greenbridge is not the same thing as the international monetary fund or the Greek economy....But actually a critique of green capitalism has been very much at the forefront of many of the more recent struggles i listed, especially in ecological circles. Also, btw, the architect of Greenbridge, William McDonough (sp?), is VERY much at the forefront of global capitalism -- his other designs include offices for the headquarters or Nike, etc. And the struggle against gentrification, and the wealthy acquisition of poor folks land, is obviously a struggle that is both gigantic and global in scope. Similar struggles as to the one around northside and greenbridge are happening around slums in sao paolo, squatted parks in athens, greece, etc etc. That this struggle is small and local in scope does not make greenbridge any less of a foe--arguably, it makes the struggle even more important, if one believes that one is best equipped to "fight where one stands." And of course greenbridge is hardly only local: it is financed by Bank of America (not exactly your friendly neighborhood co-op) as well by a set of multimillionaires that mostly arent from here.  also, if you look into the struggles i listed, youll find that there a continuum by which local struggles like the one against greenbridge (which is very, very similar to the struggle in san salvador atenco, the fight against the squat eviction and subsequent construction of the Tesco market in Stokes Croft, the squatting of parks in Athens, Greece) feed into larger, more intense struggles like the antiausterity movement, the greek insurrection of 2008, etc. etc. etc. In other words, you re making a very false dichotomy. The anarchists involved in these struggles generally understand this, and are involved in both ends of this spectrum of resistance from the local to the national to the international. There are already so many counterarguments to the "green" image that i hardly feel it necessary to make them here, first and foremost that the idea of a "green" mega luxury condo is an absolute absurdity, no matter how many solar panels (contained hard metals that are mined often agains the wishes of "locals" around the world, btw) it may have on its grassy roof. ditto with the affordable units (which are hardly affordable to any of my neighbords) and public process arguments. There were official, "public processes" involved on any number of levels to many of the same movements i listed earlier too, btw...does this make the public protest and organizing against these oppressions any less valid? The city officials in chapel hill listened to peoples opposition in town council and at various meetings; that opposition was then ignored and the development was built anyway. This is a familiar tale, and it hardly renders the opposition after such processes invalid.On that note, who says these "public processes" are legitimate anyway? The same web of wealthy real estate interests, politicians, developers, and liberal demagogues. Seems kind of fishy to me. Why does the legitimacy of northside's political expression rest in a town council meeting of politicians who mostly arent from the neighborhood, and certainly aren't part of the same class?  It seems to me that the anarchist take on self determination and autonomy is, in this case, not a cartoon image but in fact particularly relevant. on a final note, i think its probably worth pointing out that just because a capitalist is local doesn't mean its any more responsive to the needs of workers, the land, etc. In all the service work and other jobs ive had, the ones with "local" bosses were often the worst. it doesnt render the work any less alienating, environmentally destructive,  nor does it necessarily pay any better.  the capitalist must be responsive to the market, which in this day and age is by definition global.  

Priscilla Murphy's picture

What's "under-the-top"?

I've been following this story and this thread and think the over-the-top rhetoric isn't any more help here than it is on a protest sign. 
 For the record, not all liberals endorse(d) Greenbridge, not all liberals are wealthy (or yuppies), not all yuppies are liberal, and not everyone who disapproves (disapproved) of Greenbridge -- and the process by which it arrived in the neighborhood -- is an anarchist.  I can't say whether everyone who approves of Greenbridge is wealthy, but I doubt that everyone who disapproves of it is poor.  In any case, I do disapprove of how easy it is -- generally, across the country -- for developers to get investors, push through plans, and then declare bankruptcy, reorganize, and go back into business elsewhere, leaving unoccupied buildings and indebted occupants behind.  I certainly don't mean to imply that the Greenbridge developers and backers ever intended to do that -- to the contrary -- but given the failing economy and the over-representation of upscale projects in Chapel Hill, questions may well have been raised that were dismissed.  (For the record, I applaud the intention to produce a green "product" but even there, it seems the project falls short on at least a few counts.)

LIberal opposition?

Priscilla, i think this is a fair thing to bring up. There ARE liberals and progressives who oppose greenbridge. But i think a lot of peoples' question is, how do they manifest that opposition?  Does it manifest at all? Sitting around bemoaning decisions by town council, or showing up at their meetings to talk for a minute and promptly be ignored by wealthy interests, isnt really doing anything.Of course a LOT of folks have acted against greenbridge in some way, including everyone from members of St. Josephs Church to militant anarchists (and in between). But the mainstream of the white liberal demograhic, which is politically hegemonic in this town, has from what i can see done virtually nothing. Not one protest or demonstration, they did not sign on to or support the community proposed boycott, etc. (Although as is my understanding, several white college students strongly opposed that boycott, on the grounds that it was worded too strongly against the development...It was then signed by over 60 northside households...)I guess the more philosophical question is, what is the point of "opposition" if it is not manifested in some real way, with real consequences? Is it just to take a moral high ground?  Where is the sense of urgency at an entire group of people getting displaced? 

Priscilla Murphy's picture

Fair and useful

There are liberals and there are "liberals".... Maybe the problem is the definition of liberal (e.g., which? Paul Wellstone or John Edwards)Be very careful not to imply that being uninformed, misinformed, inactive, or too cynical to act is the hallmark of liberalism and only liberalism.   Who do you think it is who keep going to town meetings to object to various development plans -- thereby giving conservatives the justification for labeling Chapel Hill "anti-business" and "anti-growth," even though the track record recently seems to be the contrary?    And if their protests are ignored, it's truly unfair to then decide they are part of the problem, that they haven't done anything.  (I'm having a deja vu experience here, harking back about 45 yrs. on some other issues but having the same debate.)  I can share your/their frustration, but that doesn't make me contemptuous of people who actually share more principles with me than the ones pushing projects through and those enabling them to.  You're implying, too, that having sympathy with environmentalism is only another aspect of liberal hypocrisy when it comes to building something like Greenbridge.  As with a number of issues, environmentalism has been fractured and factioned so that some activities that are fundamentally anti-environment get co-opted and marketed as "green."  Think of all that "natural water" in plastic bottles, just for starters.   So there are environmentalists and  there are "environmentalists" -- by their works shall ye know them.   Ditto on "affordability."  Greenbridge fails my liberal-progressive "smell test" on both counts.It's fair and useful to say we should "follow the money" -- pay attention to whose benefit something will work -- but it's not fair and not useful to assume that only those without money are legitimately your political fellow-travelers/bedfellows on an issue like this.  (And fwiw, the racial insinuation about why opposition to Greenbridge failed is similarly problematic for similar reasons and a few more.)

To Be Clear

Without misrepresenting anyone here, i think its pretty clear that the way liberal has been used on this comment board by various greenbridge critics has been of the garden variety social democrat, progressive, etc etc variety (not in the older traditional philosophical sense of negative rights etc.)I personally agree that some liberals/progressives have spoken out against these kinds of developments at town council meetings and other "legitimate" forums, and that it is unfair to imply they are part of the problem simply because their opposition was ignored. (Though i also think its worthwhile to point out that the town council and mayor we have are mostly themselves "liberals" and social democrats...) I also agree strongly with your assertion that not all environmentalists are to blame, that much that calls itself environmentalist these days is merely capitalist consumerism painted green (Greenbridge obviously being a perfect example). However, when it becomes abundantly clear, again and again, that one's attempts to speak "truth to power" over an issue is fruitless, then one IS responsible to continue acting. If one stops their dissent, their organizing, merely because the "legitimate" channels have been exhasuted, I argue they are part of the problem.From what ive seen, the general pattern that liberal dissent has followed in this town is something like the following:  When not in direct cahoots with whatever developer or bank is benefiting from some action, liberals overall put up a meek opposition ineffectively confined to legitimate channels which are themselves designed to railroad and pacify dissent.The controversy (is there really a controversy? everyone knows what happened...) around sanitation workers clarke and kerry's being fired amidst complaints of racist hiring practices and unionbusting is a perfect example. Its brought up at town council meetings, they say theyll address the issue, they hold an "investigation," lo and behold the government says they did no wrong, and these two men and their families are out of a job. The whole process is a joke. But it ends there. Why? Imagine if for the last few hundred years human beings had been merely content to use the appropriate channels when challenging exploitation or oppression, and then promptly gave up once the process had run its course. I submit that if that had been the case, we would live in an incredibly miserable, horrific world, one that makes this one look like a veritable paradise (and thats saying something!). The overall liberal establishment in this town, institutions like the Independent, like this website, like town hall, like most of the newspaper editorialists and political demagogues in this town who grace us with their presence, have generally supported Greenbridge. When individual liberals have not, they have been the outliers, the exception, and have been well-intentioned but politically ineffectual at best. It is other demographics, including various youth groups like the sacrificial poets, including black instituions like st josephs church, and including young radicals and the now infamous anarchists, that have consistently expressed some kind of real public opposition to this project. They may not have always won, they may have made enemies and controversy, but they have at least succeeded in making this an issue one must take sides on. They have succeeded in bringing the class and racial tensions of this town to the surface, in a way that these tensions were not as apparent before, and in a way that has made politicians like Chilton and Kleinschmidt apparently uncomfortable.I submit that, predominantly, liberals in this town have unfortunately chosen the path of Kleinschmidt, which is direct condemnation when poor people violate the legitimate channels of dissent, accompanied by the continued belief in an illusion of pluralism and "community" where every citizen is white, every citizen is middle class, and every citizen is a citizen. The anarchists may choose only to represent themselves and no broader "constituency," they may have ideas that are strange to some or even disturbing to others, but in their refusal to follow this illusion I would argue that they are not alone.  I understand that in saying phrases like the "liberal establishment" and "liberals" im lumping together a large number of people with fairly disparate ideas, and this seems unfair. Certainly I do not wish to disregard the few progressives who have strongly stood by the opposition to greenbridge; their stance is all the more courageous given that they ve had to stand up against their "own" institutions in town hall and the media.But i would seek to ask hard questions, if you will. If their methods of public processes and legitimate dissent have failed, if they understand the current moratorium to be a temporary and probably ineffective gesture, what is next? If they recognize that the legitimate channels are closed (the building is built, but it is 2/3 empty...how might we fill it?) what is next? The anarchists have answered: they will continue struggling, if not against just greenbridge then against police and the wealthy in general in our town. For those liberals who have had the intelligence and analysis to oppose this development, what is next: protest or resignation? Because it does not seem to this observer that this fight is over.  

Priscilla Murphy's picture

If only ...

Taken to its logical conclusion, your position is that if you just try hard enough, you'll win.  If you lose, it's just because you haven't tried hard enough.  You have no idea how much I wish that were true.

Not necessarily

No, dont get me wrong, i recognize that no matter how hard we try, no matter how many risks we take and how courageous we are, more often than not social movements "lose" in some sense. This can be due to any number of factors, some within a movement's actors' control, some largely outside of it. Its too complicated and multifaceted to get into here probably, and in case what one means by win or lose is largely up for debate. If one is fighting a specific problem, that is symptomatic of a larger social structure (one could say "capitalism" for instance) then is some kind of reform, getting passed by legislators to quell the rising storm so to speak, a victory? It depends on a lot of factors probably, and not everyone will agree. My point was that, first and foremost, social struggle does not stop once the legitimate channels have proved fruitless. If anything, that is when it begins. But unfortunately, those committed to a social demoratic or liberal analysis often do see things this way, and that that is a problem. I think there is a grain of truth, though, in the "if you just try hard enough you ll win" idea you mentioned. Of course, it doesnt work applied on an individual level. But i think there might be something to it, not so much taken literally, but in that it acknowledges that essentially the power of police, of capitalists, and politicians, comes from us, from our own acquiescence. Not to blame the victim(s), but in some ways these systems are only able to exist because of the sum total of every compromise we make, every instance where we choose to go along, to inform or snitch or look the other way. I think that is the most frustrating aspect of this greenbridge dillemma; the amount of people willing to say they oppose the project but apparently unwilling to do much about it. It makes it that much more important to support those who are.

And...

Its great to hear that you "doesn't supported greenbridge." what have you done with that sentiment? Im not trying to get you to say something that would get you in legal trouble, mind you, but im just curious. What have you found that is effective? What do you think we can do better to fight developers in the future? 

Seeking to Understand Anarchist Housing Policy Preferences

Anybody who builds new housing is by definition, a developer.  Those who develop housing are likely to try to sell it at market rates, or if in a town with an affordable housing ordinance, provide affordable units according to some criteria a la OCHLT and then sell slighly more expensive than market rate units to offset their losses on the affordable units.  Do you oppose all housing development? Do you support greenfield development but not infill/brownfield/redevelopment?  Do you oppose all market rate housing development? Are housing developments of predominantly market-rate housing that include subsidized housing for lower-income workers better than housing developments without such housing, or not? Is housing built by local government or non-profits acceptable, or are those also to be opposed? If developers are to be fought on principle, how should we house a population that is growing both due to births to existing residents and in-migration from elsewhere?

the problem is development for profit

this is a silly strawman argument. Nobody is saying, "Never build or fix up a new house." The criticism and analysis is of development for profit, and the way that it leads to a town where a huge swath of the population cannot afford to live. The problem is not unique to our time or our town -- as long as there has been capitalism there has been struggles between tenants and neighbors on the one hand and landlords, commercial developers, banks, and city officials on the other -- but it is fundamental to the economic system we live under. An anarchist position, if that is what youre asking about, is generally that housing should be free, like all other basic necessities, and that it should be run and "governed" (if you will) by the neighbors and communities it exists in, not by some State housing authority or panel of comfortable bureaucrats far away. There are THOUSANDS of different models and ways that this has been done in human history, and in fact is being done in some parts of the world.  The short term practical application of this principle, in this situation, is that greenbridge be taken over and run by people from the neighborhood, ideally with preference to those who have been displaced or evicted. This could provide both free housing as well as community space for a number of initiatives, some that already exist (like the st. joseph church's free food program, which needs more space) and many that we have yet to imagine, but that might be helpful with dealing with some of the problems the neighborhood is dealing with. (A lot more helpful than current solutions, which is racist cops and capital investment...)The long term application of that position is a town without landlords and rents and massive luxury condos...People have a place to live, but the idea of owning more than one house, and having other people have to work to pay you money which you take as profit for doing precisely NOTHING, is an absurdity. Somewhere in between the short and the long term, one might see things like : rent strikes, neighborhood assemblies, temporary or permanent building occupations, home defense of houses that are being evicted, etc. etc....all of which would have to by definition be a part of a larger social trajectory.This all sounds pie in the sky, but we can see the hints of it in various places around the world. In any case, it all seems a lot more "realistic" than quixotic and doomed attempts to "fix" the housing problem while leaving everything about the system that creates it totally intact.  

B Roberts's picture

Nothing is free

"...housing should be free, like all other basic necessities..."Nothing is free. Nor should anything necessarily be free. Each individual is endowed with a mind and a body, which he/she freely uses to support himself, his family and those whom he chooses. The product of any labor I freely undertake is my asset; it is the free exchange of my work for something, most often money. So money is a physical representation of my work and something easily exchanged with others. No one has a claim on my work or the assets that result from them; if they do, then I am a slave (or a prostitute working for a pimp). If I save my money and buy a house with it, the house then is a product of my work. Why should I be penalized if I decide to rent space in my house to someone else? Within the constraints of the law, I should be allowed to use my asset as I see fit.What you're describing is slavery, a society without property rights.

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