The activist arrested Tuesday while protesting evictions at a foreclosed low-income apartment complex in Miami’s Liberty City is behind some of the area’s most controversial and creative housing demonstrations. In 2006 Max Rameau established a shantytown on a vacant lot owned by the City of Miami to highlight how the government keeps land dormant for years rather than put it to use. City officials were powerless to evacuate the village because of a federal ruling dictating that homeless people on city land engaged in life-sustaining conduct could not be moved.
The shantytown burned down in 2007 when a resident’s candle set a shack on fire. Rameau and his organization Take Back the Land then started a campaign to illegally move homeless families into foreclosed homes in the inner city, as well as other vacant homes, some owned by the county. That campaign received national attention.
Letting houses stand vacant due to foreclosure during a housing and employment crisis “is immoral and the laws should be changed,” Rameau says.
Last year, Rameau and Take Back the Land successfully blocked the eviction of a family renting a home on Eighth Avenue and 137th Street that was in foreclosure, by protesting and occupying the house on the day of eviction. The family continues living there. That campaign was featured in Michael Moore’s film Capitalism: A Love Story.
Tuesday, police charged Rameau with disobeying a lawful order, a misdemeanor, when he sat down in front of apartment police and the property manager were trying to enter. It’s his third arrest since 2007. One of the building’s tenants, Ashaundra Young, was charged with inciting a riot, a felony.