LOGAN SQUARE — For a few minutes at presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ Chicago rally, Logan Square’s gentrification battle took center stage.
Ashley Galvan Ramos, youth leader with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, gave an impassioned speech before an estimated 12,500 people at the U.S. Senator’s Sunday night rally at Navy Pier.
Upon arriving at the podium, the 21-year-old put on a sweatshirt emblazoned with the phrase “Gentrification is genocide” before launching into her speech.
Ramos told the packed arena her family lost their longtime Logan Square home last spring after their landlord moved to sell the building and hiked their rent.
“On March 21st my family was moving. That was also the day of my sister’s Quince. Instead of celebrating her day we were packing the U-Haul. We were packing our lives,” Ramos said.
Her family was homeless for a couple of weeks before family friends took them in and allowed them to stay in their basement — “a basement that didn’t feel like home,” Ramos said.
“My mom still had to travel to Logan Square for work. I gave up on school. During the time I was supposed to be in school, I was walking around the neighborhood trying to look for an apartment,” Ramos said, adding that her life “looked really dark and helpless.”
Thanks to her connections at Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Ramos’ family was eventually able to buy a home in Austin, on Chicago’s West Side, but “the feeling of being displaced still lingers,” she said.
“My story is only one out of many who have been affected by gentrification. …We need to hold our leaders accountable. Senator Sanders is the rare leader who does the right thing even when we don’t notice,” she said.
“Whenever you see those votes in the Senate where there are only a handful of senators voting to protect working people, you always know Bernie is one of those votes.”
The youth leader said her connections with organizations like Grassroots Collaborative and United Working Families helped her land the speaking role.
Since before she was old enough to vote, Ramos has been heavily involved in Logan Square politics, leading countless anti-gentrification protests.
“Out of all of the millions we have in Chicago, my story stood out and mine was chosen to be heard. I felt really honored and really powerful,” Ramos told Block Club.
Ramos said she focused on gentrification-fueled housing issues, a personal struggle of hers, because so many working families in Chicago can relate.
“We have Fight for 15, Healthcare For All, but what about housing?” Ramos said.
“Bernie fought to get rid of housing segregation at [University of Chicago], and I think we need to keep that going — not only in Chicago, but beyond. There are other cities that are being impacted by gentrification as well.”
Ramos was one of a few community leaders who spoke before Sanders at Sunday night’s rally. Destiny Harris, an activist with Chicago’s No Cop Academy movement, also gave remarks. No Cop Academy is opposed to a $95 million training facility for Chicago police and fire departments slated to be built in West Garfield Park.
“I’ve learned that when we build movements that make bold and visionary calls, there are politicians such as Bernie that will address each issue no matter what the cost,” Harris told the crowd, according to The Chicago Maroon.
Sanders is among a crowded field of 2020 presidential candidates.
When it was his turn to speak, the presidential candidate talked about his time as a college student at University of Chicago, where he was arrested for leading a sit-in against school segregation in 1963. He also spoke about broader inequalities among white and black Americans, the country’s unjust criminal justice system and voter suppression, according to reports.
Sanders went on to denounce President Donald Trump and his policies, at one point calling Trump “the most dangerous president in modern American history.”
The Chicago rally was one of Sanders’ first large events since announcing his run for president. It came after an appearance at Brooklyn College in New York, where he spent a year of college. He also grew up in Brooklyn.
Sanders talked about his personal background at the Brooklyn event as well, focusing on his lower-middle-class upbringing.
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