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May 21, 2008

Harlem drops into Scotland

The renowned New York newspaper The Greenwich Village Voice describes the Movement for Justice in El Barrio as the best ‘power to the people’ movement in New York City. The group are on a European speaking tour and are stopping at venues in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen


“We will not be moved!” Juan Haro of “Movement for Justice in El Barrio” is taking that message from the ground-breaking Harlem community group to Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh this month, as part of a European speaking tour. The renowned Greenwich Village Voice describes the group as “the best power to the people movement in New York City.”

The members of “Movement for Justice in El Barrio” are mainly poor Mexican immigrants. Having driven their previous landlord, millionaire Mr Kessner, out of East Harlem, they are now involved in a major battlewith new landlord, UK-based multinational Dawnay Day.

Juan Haro explains : “Driven by multi-national corporations and profit-seeking landlords and facilitated by city officials, gentrification has swept New York causing the grand-scale displacement of low-income people of colour and immigrants from our communities. East Harlem is experiencing a wave of harassment, abuse and intimidation in attempts by greedy landlords to evict us from our homes in order to raise rents and increaseprofits. Movement for Justice in El Barrio is fighting back: “We Will Not be Moved!!!”

The group accuses Dawnay Day of trying to drive its tenants out of their
homes by the imposition of illegal charges. Juan says “We are organizing
on a transnational level to combat displacement in El Barrio – East

Harlem – by building a multi-nationalnetwork to go after one of our main targets, the multi-national corporation Dawnay, Day Group at their central headquarters in London and on multiple continents where they hold property.” Dawnay Day also own the prestigious Carlton Hotel on Edinburgh’s North Bridge, and hotels in Troon and Stirling as part of
Paramount Hotel Group.

Movement for Justice in El Barrio is committed to a grass-roots way of organising, stating “the struggle for justice means fighting for the liberation of women, immigrants, lesbians, people of colour, gays and the transgender community.” They are part of “The Other Campaign”, an international extra-parliamentary movement initiated by Mexican indigenous rebels the Zapatistas.

MJB are keen to make links with community groups in Scotland. At the Edinburgh meeting they are being joined by a speaker from Save Our Old Town, campaigning for community-based change in Edinburgh’s Old Town, and against the “Caltongate” development. In Glasgow they are taking part in the May Reshuffle and Radical Bookfair, an event hosted to bring together a range of community groups, campaigners, and Govanites, aimed at building community cohesion, and a fun day out for all the family.

• MJB has been active for 3 years, and has 400 members, tenants in privately-rented housing in mainly Hispanic East Harlem. They have launched an innovative form of local democracy, “a consultation of El Barrio”, in which 1,500 local people expressed their views on which issues the movement should take up and prioritise. This led the New York Daily News to state :”It is real grass-roots democracy, and it is being practised by the immigrants who live in East Harlem.”