Hurricane Wilma hasn't received a lot of media play, but families in South Florida are facing a lot of the same problems as those in the Gulf Coast. Here's a dispatch from the Miami Worker's Center, a grassroots group that organizes low-income workers, about an event they hosted last Friday to bring attention to the situation:
Fed up with the continued run around from FEMA and the Red Cross, displaced residents and their children along with the Miami Workers Center and allies, marched on the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) at the Joseph Caleb Center in Miami. The delegation of 40 people occupied the lobby for 7 hours after being blocked from entering the office. They chanted for immediate housing vouchers, and demanded a meeting with the head FEMA official.
Negotiations with FEMA were disastrous. The first FEMA official in charge of the Recovery Center, Randy Proudy, gave a number of false promises, lied about the negotiations, and ultimately snuck out the back door during the middle of the event. He was later fired. Things were so bad that the Miami Dade County police had to call national FEMA executives to locate someone that was accountable.
This direct action was taken after days of mass evictions following in the wake of Wilma - one of the most devastating storms that Miami has seen in 20 years. These evictions are a result of building condemnations due to worsened conditions in already inadequate housing throughout poor neighborhoods of Miami. As apartments were deemed unfit for human habitation people were forced from their ruined homes. Eerily reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina, there is an empty vacuum of support for the working poor.
I just recieved a follow-up report that when FEMA officials asked police to arrest the protesters, they declined, saying they didn't want them to suffer the "double indignity" of being evicted and then arrested.
The update also notes that two representatives of
FEMA Red Cross came to the Worker's Center offices this Saturday to talk. Who says protest doesn't work?