What was planned for the sixth JP/Rox Workshop on May 11th, did not go as as expected, as the Keep It 100% for Egleston group led a civil protest.
The meeting was held at English High School and led by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), but the Keep It 100% for Egleston group threw a wrench into the meeting, which was supposed to discuss the Jamaica Plain-Roxbury area.
Keep It 100% for Egleston describes itself as, "A grassroots fight to protect the residents and diversity of Egleston and Jamaica Plain. Real affordable housing, not gentrification and displacement!" on their Facebook page.
"Jamaica Plain and Roxbury are the first areas the BRA is targeting but they won't be the last because [Mayor] Marty Walsh wants to do whatever it takes to build 53,ooo units of housing mostly for wealthy white people who want to move back to Boston."
Many of the Keep It 100% Egleston members were new faces and most had not been to any previous JP/Rox Plan workshops. The group did include familiar faces from City Life and Affordable Housing Egleston, who have participated over the past year in the meetings.
Twenty minutes into BRA Senior Planner Marie Mercurio's opening remarks the sign-in area swelled with mostly young people with a scattering of adults in yellow City Life t-shirts. Then the clapping began and they marched into the meeting area clapping and chanting, "Three more months! Three more months!"
The demonstrators gathered in a big circle and alternate speakers made statements repeated in call and response fashion by the demonstrators.
Speakers would say things like, "The BRA is not listening!" and the audience would repeat it in unison.
"The plan is broken!" one speaker said and was repeated by the crowd, "The plan is broken!"
Income disparity was the demonstrators' main theme. The group feels the BRA is not sensitive to, or even recognizing that the income levels for those who live in the planning area cannot afford to live in any of the new housing proposed at 70% area median income or $65,000 per year.
This is not a new theme for Affordable Housing Egleston, which has spearheaded this topic since the development at 3200 Washington Street was proposed more than a year ago.
The well rehearsed and choreographed demonstration was highlighted by a presentation illustrating income disparity using a series of green cards and red cards shaped like a house. Kelsey Galeano said the green cards represented the income level for those who live in Egleston, and the red cards signifying "red lining" -- were for those making $75,ooo a year, which is the income level the group believes the BRA wants to attract to the Jackson Square-Forest Hills corridor. "Look at all those reds!" said Galeano.
The demonstration was peaceful and good humor prevailed, and although it seemed like there were two concurrent meetings in the hall, it was big enough to accommodate both the workshop stations and the rally speakers. And everyone had their say.