An anti-gentrification march Saturday night in the Central District ended in a brief confrontation with Ian Eisenberg, owner of Uncle Ike’s pot shop.
About 100 people had gathered earlier that evening at the Midtown Center to rally in support of Omari Tahir-Garrett. Tahir-Garrett, a longtime Central District resident and activist, was evicted three days prior from the Umoja Peace Center on the other side of the super-block located at 23rd and Union.
A recently installed construction crane loomed overhead as activists called for the Midtown Center to be transferred to black ownership.
“We want to set a new model for inclusive community development,” said K. Wyking Garrett, Africatown CEO and Tahir-Garrett’s son, addressing the crowd. “We want to be included. We want to be in on the decision making.”
“When we stand here at 23rd and Union, we aren’t just standing for 23rd and Union, we aren’t just standing for the black community, but all of those that are vulnerable to being pushed out,” he said.
The area is experiencing rapid growth: two large multistory apartment buildings have brought 200 new units to the area in as many years. Two more projects in the pipeline will bring over 250 additional units.
“How many of those cranes are building something for the people that have been in this community for over 130 years?” Garrett asked the crowd. After the crowd responded “none,” Garrett continued, “That’s a problem, we don’t have any equity. We hear about equitable development; in order to have equitable development, you have to have equity. Equity means ownership.”
Organizers gave updates on Tahir-Garrett’s well being, telling the crowd he was taken to the hospital following the eviction. At the hospital, he was later arrested for refusing to leave the hospital.
“We were forced into places like the Central District, where we did not get services,” said Cliff Cawthon, with Standing Against Foreclosure and Eviction. “Today we are forced into suburbs, we are forced to rural areas, where we still pay through the roof, and we still don’t get services.
“That kind of evil, evil racism isn’t abstract, it is concrete; it must be condemned; and more importantly, it must be destroyed.”
With shouts of “Whose streets? Our streets,” protesters marched west down Union Street.
At Union and 34th the group circled the intersection briefly, preventing cars from passing. After winding their way through Madrona, the group walked back east on Union. As they reached Midtown Center, instead of turning left and ending the march where it began, organizers led the anti-gentrification protesters to Uncle Ike’s pot shop across the street.
Less than 10 minutes after the group surrounded Uncle Ike’s, Eisenberg arrived, immediately confronting the protesters as bicycle police lined the front entrance of the marijuana dispensary.
As Eisenberg lunged at a protester with a megaphone, a security guard quickly stepped in, along with other protesters and a store employee. The group was locked in a brief scrum before being pulled apart.
Eisenberg could later be seen standing behind the police barricade as protesters celebrated having provoked him. Short victory speeches were shouted through the megaphone before protesters quickly disbanded.