DES MOINES MUTUAL AID STATEMENT ON DOWNTOWN EVICTIONS AND GENTRIFIERS
Des Moines Mutual Aid stands against every camp eviction. We denounce Amy Tursi as a lying hypocrite and capitalist pig. We believe housing is a human right which can and should be provided by expropriating the rich, whose wealth is built on theft and exploitation. To hell with the cops, city, and gentrifiers, solidarity with the houseless.
This past Monday saw the forced removal of dozens of houseless campers from downtown near the municipal shelter, Central Iowa Shelter and Services (CISS). Campers saw their means of survival - tents and sleeping bags - along with personal belongings, destroyed and carted away. The police department was on the scene to deal with any resistance.
This scene is not an unusual one in Des Moines. It has been the city’s policy for over a decade to “sweep” camps periodically. The city is wildly inconsistent about how they carry out these forced removals, sometimes coming in without warning like on Monday, sometimes using a notification system that gives their actions the veneer of legality. Occasionally they use a mix of both: last April, the city notified campers DMMA sees regularly on the Des Moines River levee that they would be removed in a month. They waited 5 months to act on this threat; long enough that most campers there assumed they weren’t coming and were surprised when the cops and bulldozers showed up. The city uses a variety of justifications for destroying people’s homes. They often feign concern for campers’ or the public’s health or claim the need to keep levees clear. When these fail, the go-to excuse is to claim that they are responding to complaints.
Usually the sources of these complaints are never revealed (and may not be real), but in September, Amy Tursi, owner of Exile Brewing and late-stage gentrifier on downtown’s west end, revealed herself when she whined to the city about the downtown houseless population. Why Tursi, who opened her business less than 100 meters from the largest houseless shelter in the state of Iowa, felt entitled to complain about houseless people existing close to her business, was not a part of her statement to the City Council. The alcohol industry makes the majority of its profits from people with alcohol substance use disorder, and we can speculate that Exile Brewing is no exception. Apparently Tursi only finds alcohol abuse to be a problem when poor people are the ones drinking, though, because she also grumbled to the City Council that campers "get drunk around 5 p.m." (her business, which again, mainly sells alcohol, opens at 11 a.m. 6 days a week). Like many pseudo-intellectuals who want to feign compassion, Tursi went on to blame the problem of houselessness on mental health issues, a sidestepping of the real problem: a lack of public housing. She evidently did not consider that houseless people being evicted because of her complaints or arrested because she dialed 911 has the obvious effect of exacerbating any existing mental health issue. Competing with Exile for infamy is Crane Artist Lofts Apartments, whose owners occupy the same parasitic class as Tursi and who pushed on their tenants a nauseating petition to remove campers in the area.The city of Des Moines functions to keep gentrifiers like these happy, and will no doubt continue to attack poor people should they threaten business interests.
The city could tackle the housing crisis which forces people into the street by taking just a fraction of the police budget and investing it in public housing. As it is, though, the wait list for the meager housing options available is months-long and excludes many. And while CISS’s CEO claims that they accept anyone who needs shelter, the facility in fact has a convoluted “time-out” system under which one may stay 90 days, is kicked out and cannot return for 90 days, can then stay for 60 days, is kicked out and cannot return for 90 days, can then stay for 30 days, and cannot return for another 90 days. The last cycle, of 30-in, 90-out, repeats indefinitely, something the lapdog local media outlets failed to report in their dutiful repetition of Amy Tursi’s comments and the city’s official line. Our members spoke with campers who were evicted in Monday’s sweep who had been “timed-out” of CISS and were camping out until they were allowed back in. Others may choose to camp away from CISS because of the prison-like conditions they encounter while inside, because pets and companions are not allowed, or because families are broken up at the front door of the facility. Ask any city official what a houseless person in the city should do, though, and they will point you to CISS.
Asked what a houseless person should do if they are “timed-out,” it is apparent they will point to a bulldozer and a cop.
Our city deserves better.