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The Save the UC Townhomes encampment on July 16, 2022.

Credit: Jesse Zhang

Philadelphia law enforcement confronted protesters who were defending an encampment set up to protest the sale of the University City Townhomes.

The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office enforced a court ruling on Monday to remove the encampment, which resided at the entrance of the townhomes at 40th and Market streets. Law enforcement, led by Sheriff Rochelle Bilal, ultimately vacated the area of tents less than an hour after arriving on the scene.

“You want to remove us, you’re gonna have to do it by force because we ain’t going nowhere,” townhomes resident Melvin Hairston said at a rally outside the encampment before police arrived.

Soon after arrival, police removed the tents and wooden barricades on the perimeter of the property associated with the encampment. Residents and supporters organized the protest encampment to illustrate the effects of displacement and challenge their Sept. 7eviction deadline. 

Altman Management Company, owner of the UC Townhomes, did not renew the townhomes’ 40-year federal housing contract with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development — leaving up to 69 families to be displaced.

During the confrontation, Philadelphia police were met with protestors chanting, “Housing is a human right” and, “Shame on you.” At moments, officers struggled to remove the tents as protestors defended the encampment.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Teresa Lundy stated that no arrests were made, and only one individual was issued a citation for disorderly conduct after getting into a “physical brush” with officers.

“We understand that [residents] are protesting for what’s going on with their housing, we are not disrespectful of that,” Sheriff Bilal said to reporters at the scene. “We are enforcing the law, that is exactly why we are here.”

After the Philadelphia police removed the encampment — including tents and barricades — residents and supporters continued to march on Market Street, blocking off traffic in the surrounding area.

“Change can be made by just a few people standing up and we got enough people standing up that we can really make effective change,” Hairston added. “This is a big issue, housing is a human right.” 

As the September eviction deadline looms, residents stated that they won’t stop protesting.

“They came and they got the tents, but the tents were symbolic,” UC Townhomes resident Rasheda Alexander told the Inquirer. “We are not the tents, and it doesn’t stop our voices. And we’re going to continue to fight.”