Activists Hold “Cancel the Rent” Protests Around USA

By Democracy Now


HAVANA TIMES – People in cities around the country took part in a “Cancel the Rent” car protest Saturday. The action was organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation. This is a protester speaking in Los Angeles.

Protester: “Democrats and Republicans pass legislation which bail out the banks and not the people! And that’s why we’re here today. They’ve been telling us for years — for years — that we don’t have the money, that we don’t have the power, to bail out the people. But somehow, in crisis, when the economy has to shut down, when capitalism has to take a back seat, the workers become the essential class.”

Activists have been calling for a moratorium on rents for the duration of the coronavirus crisis as unemployment numbers continue to surge. President Trump signed off on the latest $484 billion coronavirus relief bill Friday, but neither of the relief bills passed so far includes any assistance for people struggling to pay rent.

The Congressional Budget Office is projecting the unemployment rate in the U.S. will remain high for at least the next 18 months as the U.S. recovers from the pandemic. The unemployment rate is projected to be at 10% at the end of 2021 — higher than it ever was during the Great Recession following the 2008 crash. It is expected to be between 14 and 16% through the fall of this year, though some analyses of the true rate of unemployment put that number much higher.

19 thoughts on “Activists Hold “Cancel the Rent” Protests Around USA

  • Anti-imperialist, you suggest that “everything will have to be paid for” “sounds quite impractical”. So everything is free? Pennies from Heaven? Magic!
    As I understand it the thirty odd million unemployed in the US receive an unemployment benefit. Is that not a “measure”?
    According to the news from the US (or maybe like Trump you consider it fake) the US Government has made grants available to small and medium size businesses.
    The assessment I gave has not changed, whereas you continue to raise a problem, but to offer no solution, expecting others to do so.

  • Carlyle fails to understand what it means to go from working and paying your bills including rent and having no work and no savings. It’s not a matter of 25% or 50%. Where is the 50% going to come from with no income. Without government and/or employer assistance, theft or robbery, which isn’t very practical now either, may be the only way to pay the landlords part of their rent for people who have lost all of the their income and who were living check to check or week to week or by the day in the case of much of the informal market, which is many millions in the US. The idea that “everything will have to be paid for” in the end sounds quite impractical to me. Saddle the poorest with debt they won’t be able to get out of will only compound the crisis and make it last longer. Although maybe raising the minimum and other wages considerably might allow them to pay back rent. However fat chance for that to happen with the depressed economy. Again what’s needed in the US are measures that takes the pressure off the poorest, those with no real assests. Also small businesses should be helped, including small landlords. We don’t need to mention the big guys and the banks because they will be well taken care of or file bankrupcy and start over.

  • I understand your concept Anti-Imperialist. Just deny landlords any income for three months and potentially longer. Presumably you would expect their necessary services to their tenants to continue? Who would pay for that? The difference in our views, is that your concerns are limited to one section only of society, rather than concern for all those affected.
    You are correct in saying that Covid-19 has created emergency, but it is not short-term. Even the most optimistic scientists suggest a minimum of two years, many will be unemployed for a long time. So, is there a time limit in your mind for the cessation of rents?
    You ignore the plight of the elderly who will still have to pay their rents.
    The banks cannot print money, the Federal governments can. Federal governments represent all the people. A combination of a reduction in rents, for those receiving unemployment benefit, with government making a contribution makes a reasonable balance of pain sharing. Say reducing rents by 25%, with government paying 25% leaving the tenants with 50% to pay.
    What are you suggesting for monthly payments on hard goods, cars, cell-phones, domestic appliances and other desirable but not essential products?
    I would agree that placing a hold or partial hold on mortgages for a relatively brief time of say three months, would allow people to re-assess and reorganize their lives.
    I think that everybody is eventually going to realize that this “emergency” is long term, not of a couple of months duration. Eventually, when a new different normal has become established, everything will have to be paid for. I anticipate a substantial drop in the average standard of living, far fewer of those luxuries to which society as a whole has become accustomed, a return to the conditions that existed in the 1930s. That is not being “heartless”, that is being realistic!
    Those who have always endeavored to live within their means, will however suffer less than those who decided to depend upon future earnings and chose to assume debt.

  • Carlyle and Bob I was first waiting for your proposals on what to do in this EMERGENCY situation. You both shy away from doing anything but criticising previously working renters, for one reason or another, and becrying the situation of the poor landlords who are smarter than the renters who you see as losers looking for a free ride. Here’s my initial suggestion, since you asked Carlyle.

    A three month cancellation on all rents for those who lost their source of income, including informal workers without legal status, At the same time, anyone paying a mortage that loses their income source should receive three months of cancelled payments. After two months that is on July 1st an evaluation of the situation should be made to decide what to do for the next three month period which would be August-October. I can think of several other issues to resolve in these times of the Covid-19 emergency but that would be a good start. I don’t mention the banks that would lose their mortage payments because we all know the government will take care of them twice over.

    No judgements would be made if it’s a cut-throat landlord or stupidly consuming tenant. That’s out of place in a time of EMERGENCY.

  • Pilar, you have options, you don’t have to remain “stuck in this capitalist system”. You can choose to emigrate to one of the totalitarian “socialist” states. The odd thing is, that the emigration/immigration flow appears to be a one-way system, so it would be interesting to observe someone going the other way. The decisions by people to speculate and take out mortgages that they could not afford was others taking advantage of the vulnerable, suggests that the decision makers had no responsibility for their subsequent plight. Philanthropy cannot meet the current economic challenges, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has established causes to support. As for “a class system” it is a somewhat out-dated ill-defined expression. Marx has been lying nice and cosy in Highgate cemetery for away over a century. If on the other hand, the racism of the US were discussed, that would be valid.
    Anti-imperialist suggests that although he himself offers no answers, others should, and if not doing so, are “heartless and rather self-defeating”.
    So go on Anti-imperialist, what is your answer?
    It is a false assumption that because some think that people have responsibility for their decisions, that that means a lack of concern for them and their families. But to deny that they hold any responsibility is in itself irresponsible.

  • I’m okay with fat cats having to forage. And many things have occurred to me, lol, but in regards to this crisis…. I don’t want to bring in the housing crash of 2008. That was entirely different from this situation. That was a period of speculation and taking advantage of a vulnerable population, being sold a bill of goods they would never attain. But ANYWAY, this is a crisis of humanity, and should/could be dealt with via philanthropy. I doubt that landowners would run to become tenants. Remember, there is such a thing as a class system too. Overall, it doesn’t matter what I want because I’m stuck in this capitalistic system and must adhere to its rules and regulations. Ultimately, the landowners will win as long as we have Trump in office.

  • Carlyle and Bob don’t seem to be able to grasp the nature of an emergency. Nobody was asking for a free ride to the detriment of landlords or the banks a month ago. Then, Covid-19 came which was a game-changer, or correct me if I’m wrong. You guys are heartless and rather self-defeating in my way of thinking. This nothing to do with socialism or capitalism it’s a crisis damn it. Turn out 25 million broke tennants to live on the street during the emergency and see what happens, or jail them or shoot them which I believe are the other options so that the poor landlords and banks don’t face any hardships from the losers in society taking advantage of them for a free ride. You guys have said a lot to defend the landlords but have not offered one alternative on what the rest of society should do to weather the emergency which to my way of thinking affects everyone.

    O yes Bob had one alternative, the tennants should sell their cars and telephones to pay their rent. Bob doesn’t seem to realize that it’s not possible today in many cities to go to a swap meet or hold a yard sale. And even if they could sell eveything they own, even the clothes they wear and the baby stroller to pay a month’s rent… what about the next month if employment isn’t in the cards yet?

  • Pilar, you are simply suggesting that the tenant should continue to have the benefits of tenancy, but the landlord should bear all the costs.
    You may recall that in the earlier part of this century, in order to assist people to become property owners, it was possible to obtain a mortgage with virtually no deposit. Millions took advantage, property prices rose dramatically, but purchasing continued, consequence was the financial crash of 2008.
    Your argument appears to be that someone else, be it landlords or banks ought to bear the burden and tenants ought to be allowed to live free.
    Has it occurred to you that if such were the case, everybody including those who you think should bear the financial burden, would rush to become a tenants ? Not “Born Free” but “live free” – remember that even fat cats have to forage.

  • Anti-Imperalist: we both agree there are many needing help such as those struggling with paying rent. They and their needs cannot be simply ignored.

    You seem to believe there is a simple solution of just not requiring them to pay.

    However, someone must make up for what they don’t pay. Nothing is free. There are economic impacts that someone or some group must make up for what these struggling folks cannot pay. There are ripple effects throughout the economy. As I mentioned previously, the landlord cannot make up totally for not receiving rent. The mortgage holder cannot make up totally for the landlord not paying his mortgage. It ripples through the economy. The problem with well meaning socialists is that they fail to recognize someone has to fill in the economic gaps.

    So everyone, including those who cannot pay the full rent, had to bear the load collectively. No free rides. No free housing. Maybe those renters have to sell their cars and cellphones to pay partial rent. Maybe they have to do some repairs or maintenance work in lieu of some of the rent. Maybe the landlord has to do with less rent coming in. Maybe the mortgage company has to make do with partial payments. Maybe those who invested their own money with the mortgage company so they would have money to lend have to make do with partial interest or repayment. But there should not be free rides on someone else’s shoulders.

    It is not a matter of simple fairness. It is a matter of simple economics which most socialists fail to understand. There is not free lunch. If someone contributes less or takes more then someone else must contribute more or take less.

  • Just as a point of interest, we ARE charged rent for our dog. But our dog died recently so the rent will be adjusted. Landlords should lobby on behalf of their tenants who help them BE land owners. Rent should be forgiven–not just halted or disrupted, otherwise the tenant’s debt increases. But better yet, the pressure needs to be placed on the banks to share their bail out. After all, the buck starts there! Since we are talking about capitalism, any disruption will upset the apple cart, and if you want to continue with capitalism, then you do have to consider the chain of supply. Capitalism forces us to work interdependently but not for the right reasons. We work for the advantage of a few. So, the few need to take the higher ground and fight morally or compassionately for the tenant community they depend on. Yes, that’s a revolutionary act, but someone has to take the first step.

  • Anti-imperialist, you pose a question imagining that there is an answer. Whether it is a president, governor or mayor, they will practice make-do. They don’t know where the virus is actually leading, they don’t know when or if, an effective vaccine will be available, They just do what they think is best at the moment within their own area of responsibility. If you or I were one of them, we would be in the same position.
    It takes great optimism to talk of matters returning to normal and as said previously, I try to be a realist and factual. I neither approve or disapprove those who choose to incur debt, but I do not think that they should expect others to accept responsibility for their own decisions.
    I do not have a magic answer to a world-wide problem. But, it is indicative of the form of society which the US has developed, that one third of the Covid-19 cases in the world and over one quarter of the deaths, have occurred there. The rate of infection and deaths per capita exceeds that of neighbouring Canada by over 50%. Those facts also raise questions!
    The US administrations appear at the moment, to consider that the answer is to incur increased debt by distributing funds under a variety of schemes to those they deem to be needy. But even for the US, continuation of the policy can only last so-long – hence the desperation to somehow re-start the economy. But as you indicate, most of the citizens no longer have any money to spend. Who is going to be purchasing anything other than bare necessities.
    It is easy to point out the problem as you have done, but are there any acceptable answers? Your concerns are justifiable, but the scale of the problem(s) is such that social programs cannot resolve them. Once before, I quoted Professor Ronald M. Smith, the late Head of the Asian Language Department, University of Toronto, Canada. I heard him say in discussion:
    “I can tell you about sociology. A degree in sociology is a degree in wishful thinking.”
    Wishful thinking is demonstrated almost daily by President Trump. But then facts and reality like the truth, never bother him.
    Incidentally I having had a mortgage, have used credit, but that was to provide a roof over my wife, our children and myself. (As a tenant, our dog was excused rent).

  • Carlyle, you make some interesting points about your personal lifestyle but everybody isn’t you and everyone’s living situation isn’t yours. Maybe you never used credit, but the fact is in the US most people do in one way or another. And no we aren’t going in circles… you are failing to answer what should be done in the US with way over 25 million people without income because they can’t work now. AGAIN IN CASE YOU DIDN’T NOTICE, THIS IS A CRISIS situation and you’re evading my question on what to do, not your usual statesman attitude. This isn’t about a discussion on how to live healthier, smarter, less consumer crazed or debt free.

    Besides all the newly unemployed, I want to include everyone whose lifestyle you don’t approve of, even those who engage in criminal activity, but because of lockdown, their customers have no income. If they can’t pay their rent to their landlords should they be put on the street with the other homeless, be jailed, or shot.

    Again the immediate deporting of the millions without legal status isn’t even possible because most of their countries won’t take flights. If they are jailed, should their underage kids, often born in the US, be also put in detention or adopted out?

    So let’s pretend that Carlyle is the president or a governor or a mayor. How does he concretely address the issue.

    Bob, this question is also posed to you if you’d like to respond.

  • Hey guys, we are going around in circles. Nobody knows what the economic conditions will be in the future. I comprehend the fears about people having no source of income other than that which the state provides by going ever deeper into debt. If the landlords throw out all the tenants who are unable to pay their full or part of their rent, there will be a lot of unoccupied residences, and in general buildings are better occupied than empty. Rents are not the cause of the economic problems both current and probably worse to come. They merely serve as an example.
    Anti-imperialist perhaps unintentionally, puts his finger on another perhaps even larger problem. Society at large has become accustomed to living on “tick”. Those “pretty normal” possessions like cars and the “latest iPhone” were usually bought on tick, to be paid off in installments. Who took the decision to enter into debt? Those cars are practically all newer than mine – a 2005 Ford Focus, and I don’t possess an iPhone, and I don’t buy anything unless I can pay for it. Prudence or not so common sense?
    Anti-imperialist says: “they had a right to buy what they wish be it on cash or credit”, omitting to point out that as that was their choice, they were accepting responsibility. Apart from societal concerns, why should folks like me who have acted with prudence, now be expected to bail out those who have blithely ignored common sense and spend, spend, spend money they did not have?
    One of the difficulties is that people have swallowed the concept promoted in socialist circles that the state will look after you from the cradle to the grave. It can’t and it won’t.
    The much maligned banks generally accept and practice, that mortgage payments ought not to exceed 35% of net income. Are they wrong, should it be less?
    Anti-Imperialist poses a sensible question by asking what is going to happen to large sections of society. No one actually knows, time will tell or as Trump usually concludes “We will see what happens.”. But life is going to be tough for all, and returning to the “normal” that was will not be possible. Is the pandemic going to be the great leveler in world society where everybody is poor and the irresponsible will no longer be able to “buy what they wish”?

  • Bob, you don’t get the point. It’s not about a few people protesting. It’s about millions who can’t pay their rent because they suddenly have no income. What should happen to them? Even if they have the latest iPhone, or a car, which is pretty normal in the USA, remember almost all were working and had a right to buy what they wish be it in cash or on credit. They can’t eat the iPhone and can’t even sell it if locked down in their homes. And rent in the US for many working people is 30 to 50 or more percent of what they make. They pay it when they have work because they have no choice. But with no work and no way to even sell everything they own what’s your proposal? Put them in the street, jail them, shoot them or what? You can’t even deport the millions without legal status because most of their countries are closed down.
    I find your approach heartless in a real crisis time. These aren’t normal conditions. Haven’t you noticed?

  • Anti-Imperialist: I do think that Carlyle got you point. I only know him through his posts here. But I do believe he expresses a view that none of us can be hard-hearted. We all believe in helping others and sharing the pain. We realize others may not have had to opportunities we did. Or, even that they once did not work as hard as we did. However, this protesting group appears to express the view “you are rich, I am poor, so gimme, gimme, gimme”. There was a time when people like these protesters used to ask what they could do in return for rent assistance. They used to ask if they could at least mow the grass, wash the windows, pay some token amount and the remainder later. Sadly, today it is only “gimme, gimme, gimme”.

    Notable the protesters in the accompanying photo are riding in a car. I did not always have one. And, the car they are riding in is newer than mine. Maybe newer than Carlyle’s. Do you want to speculate if their cell phone is fancier than mine? Or, if their cell phone plan is more expensive than mine?

  • Carlyle, You totally missed my point. This isn’t the time to decide who has done better with their financial situation. I have no grudge against landlords or people paying mortages to banks. This is about some people having assets, which landlords do and others who are flat broke because they are out of work do not. It just so happens that the government aid in the US goes first to the big guys, then if there’s any left over to smaller businesses and a few scraps thrown at the out of work individuals if they qualify. I want to hear what you would suggest happen to all the people who can’t pay their rent. That includes many millions of informal workers who are often without legal status. Should they be set out on the streets to join the other homeless, jailed or shot, or what do you propose? My point is that people with assets have some margin of manuever that people with no real assets don’t. A crisis isn’t a time to pass judgement… if my neighbor has poorly managed his/her money and is without assets they need help to get through the crisis, in part because everybody’s health is at stake. So I’ll be looking forward to your concrete ideas on this. And by the way I am talking about the USA because that’s what the article is about.

  • Anti-Imperialist has his blinkers firmly in place. His perspective is based upon the concept that rents and mortgages are an “exhorbitant” imposition, rather than a choice by those who pay them. His response to Bob Michael’s comment about the vendor with the tomato cart in Cuba, reveals his actual view: “He’s not a landlord, probably has no savings…….” the tomato growers problem in Cuba is government controls. In Anti-Imperialist’s mind, landlords and banks are the evil rich and the “working class” (a much over-used and ill-defined phrase) are the exploited. It is apparently the responsibility of the landlords to find ways to help tenants – they should take the responsibility of seeking government assistance rather than those who require it. The source of income to which he refers, is for landlords, the rent.
    Nobody denies that the pandemic is causing much anguish, but that is across the whole of society, not confined to tenants. The US statistics demonstrate that the Black and Latino citizens are more likely to succumb to the virus as a consequence of underlying conditions. That certainly points to the need for the different levels of government in the US to address the root causes of those underlying conditions, but I doubt whether it is landlords.
    My perspective is however based upon having been both a tenant and a mortgage payer, but never a landlord.

  • Bob, I may be wrong but in my time in the US I got the feeling that many working class people and students live check to check and are often in debt for being good consumers and paying their exhorbitant rents, or mortages in the case of the middle class. Many of those people have lost their source of income. Are you suggesting building jails for the homeless after they are evicted by the property owners? Are there not already enough homeless? Maybe the property owners should come up with a way to help their tenants while seeking government assitance they may be eligible to. The tomato cart vendor is a poor analogy, he’s not a landlord, probably has no savings and is most likely just scraping to get by on a daily basis.

  • Those who want their rent cancelled fail to realize that those who are collecting the rent need that money to maintain the buildings and make the mortgage payments for what they borrowed to buy the buildings. And, those who collect those mortgage payments, typically banks, need that money to pay interest to their savers who provided that money for them to loan. And, those who made the deposits in the banks from money they personally saved need that interest to buy groceries as they typically are retirees. Whoa, that is me! I am not uncaring but have financial needs as well.

    If they were in Cuba, would they ask the vendor with the tomato cart in the street to simply give them tomatoes for free?

    Too many who simply want something for free fail to realize that somebody has to pay for what they get. Do they believe that somewhere there is some money tree?

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