TODAY: Tenants tell Metrobank – “Don’t push us out of Pilsen!”

Tenants at 1140 W. 18th St. say the building has fallen into disrepair since Metrobank assumed ownership last fall and now, the bank is threatening to evict them.

At 12:15 p.m. today outside the 1800 S. Halsted Metrobank, the building’s residents are fighting back. As supporters hold a rally and press conference, tenants will request a meeting with bank officials. They will ask the bank to drop the evictions and work with them directly to address problems in the building.

For months, residents have been asking their property management company to make basic repairs to wiring, plumbing and hot water, but have not seen significant progress. The bank has given several tenants notices that it plans to file eviction cases against them if they do not leave.

Residents are also concerned that the bank is marketing their building as a redevelopment opportunity or potential tear-down, setting the stage for more gentrification in Pilsen.

In protest of their living conditions, the building’s residents are refusing to pay rent. They have approached Metrobank with their demands, but have only received a response from Property Security Advisors, who told tenants that they are being evicted because it is cheaper to evict them than to make the necessary repairs.

“The bank finds it cheaper to remove people from their homes than to make their homes livable. We say – you’re the landlord with “community” in your name, do your job,” says tenant Haley Whiting. “If we can’t stay here, at the very least, we’d like to see this building donated back to the community.”

Adds tenant Ezra Arreola: “If Metrobank cared about this community, they wouldn’t be trying to evict us and sell the building. What is happening here is part of a trend of gentrification, and we will not let the bank displace us – or anyone else in Pilsen.”

The tenants will be joined by supporters from Occupy El Barrio, Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), and Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction.

“As an environmental justice organization, PERRO recognizes that issues of race, class and gender are intimately connected with issues of environmental contamination in working-class communities of color like Pilsen,” says Jerry Mead-Lucero of PERRO. “PERRO stands in solidarity with those fighting against evictions and those fighting against gentrification in our community.”

Occupy El Barrio has issued a solidarity statement saying that “The rising rents and increased cost of living in Pilsen is a form of economic apartheid that we are seeing in neighborhoods across the City of Chicago. The proud history of resistance in Pilsen shows us that taking to the streets and defending our communities is the only way to prevent this systematic dispossession.”