A housing advocacy group will host a “socially distant” car parade Sunday in West Durham to signal a rent strike for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic

The parade will begin at 4 p.m. in the parking lot of the Scrap Exchange at 2050 Chapel Hill Road.

Organizers say the demonstration will enable participants to stay healthy while coming together as a community without having to share physical space.

“Some of us have no choice other than to not make rent or mortgage payments,” organizers, Can’t Pay Won’t Pay Durham said in a Thursday press statement. “Some of us won’t pay in solidarity with those who can’t. Some will negotiate to pay less and some of us will potentially face eviction.”

The press release described CPWPD as “a network of tenants and homeowners in Durham”—a city that organizers describe as the “stolen land” of the region’s indigenous peoples, the Catawba, Occaneechi, Eno, Sappony, and Shakori tribes—“who cannot or will not pay rent or mortgages throughout the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.”

“We reject the accrual of debt; we refuse to make payments for months that we are unable to work, when medical professionals advise us to #StayHome,” the group stated. “Housing is a basic need and no one should be houseless, especially during a pandemic.”

Organizers say the parade’s purpose is to raise awareness of a “growing movement to #cancel rent,” and direct residents to resources and information that will help them stay in their homes during the crisis.

“We encourage autonomous, collective action to turn an unprecedented moment into a deliberate strike,” organizers said. “We will face our landlords and banks together, rather than alone, and demand the means to survive this pandemic.”

Even before COVID-19, Durham had one of the state’s highest eviction rates. Last year, housing advocates reported that the county court system was processing 900 evictions a month. During the winter holidays, housing advocates asked the Durham Housing Authority to declare a moratorium on evictions until March. In addition, Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead announced that his deputies would not serve eviction notifications during the crisis.

“Unfortunately, when the courts re-open, we expect evictions in Durham to skyrocket, as so many people cannot afford to pay rent during this crisis,” CPWPD officials said. 

Contact staff writer Thomasi McDonald at tmcdonald@indyweek.com. 

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