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Watch out, profiteering developers – our community is on the march!

We’re taking our fight against gentrification and displacement directly to the corporate developers who would destroy our communities for the sake of their profits.

On Monday, my Office was proud to lead a diverse delegation of 40 working people and community activists – patrons of Saba Ethiopian Cuisine, union members, immigrants, people of faith, small business owners, socialists, people of color, the LGBTQ community – as we marched on the office of Alchemy Real Estate to demand justice for Saba Ethiopian Cuisine.

For 20 years, Saba has been a beloved jewel in our Central District community. The restaurant has served tens of thousands of people from its 12th Avenue location. Its owner, Workie Wubushet, has supported non-profits, donated food, and provided gathering space where everyone is welcomed.

Last month, Workie and her business were summarily evicted by the new owner of the building, Centric Partners LLC, an affiliate of the giant developer, Alchemy Real Estate. They just bought the building for $5.5 million and have submitted plans to develop the property, largely for luxury-priced units that most working people couldn’t afford. And after months of leading Workie on that they would be willing to assist her in relocating, they just kicked her business out.

On Monday, we made it clear that we will hold the corporate developers at Centric and Alchemy accountable. Our delegation included leaders and activists from Ethiopian Community in Seattle; Africatown; Bethany United Church of Christ; Valley and Mountain Fellowship; Socialist Alternative; UAW 4121 and WFSE; and my Council Office. Together, with Mrs. Wubushet, we knocked on the door of Alchemy Real Estate, and delivered a letter signed by more than 270 community members, demanding that Centric/Alchemy provide all of the relocation assistance that Saba Ethiopian Cuisine needs.

The only reason Saba has been displaced is because of Centric’s plan that will yield them big profits. So it’s only logical that Centric pay relocation assistance to the evicted small business.

While the top executives of Alchemy didn’t have the courage to confront our community, the spokesperson they sent to the door acted rudely toward us, and practically attempted to force the door shut on us. But we made it clear we won’t be stopped. After reading and delivering our community letter, we rallied and chanted, “We’ll be back.” Because we will, until Saba gets justice.

This is not a fight for just Workie and her daughter, Saba, to wage alone. As a teacher and a member of the union movement, I know that “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

We’ll take that labor slogan with us as we march forward in this fight, to win justice for Saba, and to win bold citywide policy to support all struggling small businesses and working families facing displacement because of developer greed.

Most immediately in our fight against displacement and to make Seattle affordable to all, I urge you to sign the petition to Save Saba Ethiopian Cuisine, and join us September 17 at the Renters Rights Committee as we bring the rent control movement into Seattle City Hall! At the committee, which I chair, we will discuss a draft legislation for universal rent control for Seattle, free of corporate loopholes.

In solidarity,

Kshama Sawant

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