On Wednesday afternoon about two dozen people gathered outside Providence City Hall and began a “Dance Parade” to call attention to the eviction crisis and to demand protections for renters and homeowners throughout Rhode Island. The event was organized by DARE’s Tenant and Homeowner Association, in collaboration with the Tenant Network of RI, and Big Nazo’s Space Transformation Station’s Yuranian Aliens.
The action in Providence was held in concert with similar actions in 15 states and 19 cities across the United States, including Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Washington DC, Lexington, Los Angeles, Medford, Memphis, Miami, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, Rochester, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa and Tampa.
Dancers and marches proceeded from the Providence City Hall, up Dorrance Street to the Garrahy District Courthouse, where they called for the closure of the courts that are currently engaged in evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. There, organizers called for the Rhode Island General Assembly to pass legislation creating an eviction and foreclosure moratorium in the state that goes into effect when any state of emergency is declared, as well as to quickly, efficiently, and transparently disperse federal rent and utility assistance to those in need. Providence City Councilmember Katherine Kerwin (Ward 12) participated in the Dance March.
The United States’ Center for Disease Control eviction moratorium, recently extended by Congress until January 31, 2021, has significant gaps, allowing for evictions for reasons “other than non-payment of rent.” Rhode Island courts are still holding in-person eviction hearings. The execution of evictions postponed by the moratorium since October 2020 are set to begin on February 1st, unless there is additional federal action. In addition, Rhode Island is set to receive $200 million in federal rent and utility assistance, which, if administered effectively, could cancel nearly a year of rent and utility debt for struggling tenants across the state.