This is Anthony Prince. Attorney, community organizer, champion for the homeless. We meet Tony in May in 2017 as he coordinates a peoples trial in Grey’s Harbor County in Washington State.
It makes absolutely no sense and it’s indefensible for the United States of America, with its vast resources, where a home can be produced on an assembly line in 45 minutes, for someone to have to be living in a cardboard box. It’s indefensible, it’s inexcusable, and we’re going to do something about it.
Specifically, for many, many years there’s been an encampment of homeless, homeless people in Salinas in what’s called the Old Chinatown section of the city. And more recently that area of town is become— has become very desirable property for developers so a part of that plan is to move those who have lived there for years, in some cases
So we became part of a fight to stop them from breaking up that camp. 300, between three and 400 men, women, and children lived there. It was a real community. And they actually unfortunately did break up that camp, but not before we put up a real fight and we lost the battle in court, but the battle in court helped us create a durable movement. So we lost the battle but we took a step towards winning the war. The war for the rights of people to have housing.
When you see people on the street, in tents, in cardboard boxes, people in doorways, people sleeping— living in their cars, what is that but the most visible, extreme expression of broader poverty? So when we say that we’re here fighting these battles around homelessness, it’s actually the thin edge of a much broader wedge. That we are talking about not just the so-called homeless, we’re talking about those millions of Americans who are living in poverty, who are dispossessed.
And when we say that we’re fighting against poverty, we’re actually striking a blow against the entire system. Because even people who do not live in poverty currently are only one step away.
I was invited to come up to Grey's Harbor. I was told that they were gonna have this people’s trial. They’re calling it a people’s trial and I like that because it is a legitimate proceeding. It may not be happening inside what’s known as a court of confident jurisdiction, but it’s nevertheless an opportunity to engage in truth telling, to get testimony, to elicit evidence of what’s going on here in Grays Harbor.
Part of the process today will be the taking of testimony from live witnesses. and these are stories that are true stories. They’re going to be presented in this court, people’s court setting, as kind of an amalgamation. The stories themselves have been pieced together from actual experiences of community members. And these are very riveting, very shocking stories of injustice. This is kind of a combination of a civil proceeding and a criminal proceeding, in the sense that we’re going to charge the police, we’re going to charge the county government, we’re going to charge the, some of the powers that be here in Grays Harbor with legal responsibility for creating and perpetuating poverty. Poverty is often thought to be the fault of the people who are poor, but poverty actually is systemic. Poverty is constantly generated and regenerated by the system that we live under. So we’re putting the system on trial.
What we’re doing today here in Grays Harbor, with the first day of the people’s trial process, is part of that walk towards an historical objective: the complete abolition of poverty. I feel that systemic change is possible and I think that if you look at history, you can see that it’s not only possible, but inevitable. You see a movement of the dispossessed. You see a movement of people who have lost everything, and so therefore they have nothing left to lose. That’s what happening here in Grays Harbor.
So I take the day-to-day fight very seriously. There’s a lot at stake, there’s a lot of danger in this country, but I think there’s a lot of opportunity. And the opportunity is to unify a class of people we never could unite before. The conditions now are such that we can unite them for a new world, a better world, a just world. §
Anthony Prince, 2017