Thursday, July 26, 2012

New Petition for Affordable Housing at Parcel 42!

As we mentioned in last week's post, one significant struggle over the use of public property in addition to Franklin centers around Parcel 42, at 7ths St and Rhode Island Ave NW.  This land was promised as affordable housing for families making less than $50,000/year, but now the city seems to have its eye on luxury housing development.

Today, July 26th, developers submit proposals to the city government to develop the controversial Parcel 42.

In response, the incredible organizers at ONE DC have created a new petition that, when signed, will deliver a copy of our demands directly to the three developers bidding on Parcel 42 and the city officials most responsible for this development.   

Click here and sign today -  

Now is the time to let the government and developers know that we are not only aware of what is happening, but are mobilized and demanding our voices be heard and respected concerning the development of public land in our own communities.  Much like Franklin, this campaign is about whether the city will use what it owns in order to serve community needs, or if low-income residents will be squeezed out while developers profit on developments for wealthier residents.

Please support ONE DC in demanding that development on Parcel 42 be halted until the resources and community involvement needed to develop fully affordable housing is realized.

Following this flood of emails, ONE DC will organizing meetings with developers and officials and bringing the full list of signatures from our primary petition.  The campaign will also enter its second phase as we seek to mobilize more political power and grassroots actions.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

After the Trial, Struggles for Community Control of Public Property Continue!

The trial is over, and the Franklin defendants have been convicted of unlawful entry.  But the struggle over the use of this and other public properties continues.  We hope that you will still take action to tell the Mayor and Council that Franklin should serve the community.

Franklin School is, in fact, one of many public properties that Mayor Gray and the DC government are misusing or trying to sell off to private developers. Now, more than ever, it's clear that we can't trust politicians to manage these public resources. We hope that all Free Franklin supporters will also act to support the grassroots groups who are organizing to take control of what rightfully belongs to the people of DC in order to meet communities' needs in two other essential campaigns.

Parcel 42 in the Shaw neighborhood was the subject of a tent city occupation two years ago.  The land was promised for affordable housing, but there now appear to be proposals to use it for market rate (not remotely-affordable) developments. Click here to learn more and sign the petition.  As of July 26th, ONE DC has unveiled a new petition for affordable housing on Parcel 42--please sign this one, even if you signed he previous petition.

At the same time the city is currently trying to use the vacant Crummell School in Ivy City as a parking lot for charter buses.  This goes against the wishes of Ivy City residents, who have spent many years developing a vision to use it as an adult education and recreation center. Click here to learn more and sign the petition.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Trial Story on an Important Birthday

Today would be Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday.

As he wrapped up his closing statement in the Franklin Shelter trial Wednesday, pro se defendant Jesse Schultz said, "As Woody Guthrie said," when a prosecutor interjected, "Objection! Not in evidence!" Laughter erupted throughout the courtroom, and the smiling judge suggested that he courtroom hear what My. Guthrie had to say. Jesse continued with a quote from Guthrie's "Pretty Boy Floyd": "Some will rob you with a six-gun/Some with a fountain pen."

Thanks Jesse, and thank you Woody. Happy birthday.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Support Ongoing Fights for Community Control of Public Property in DC

The trial may be over, but the fight is still on. Franklin School is one among many public properties that Mayor Gray and the DC government are misusing or trying to sell off to private developers. Now, more than ever, it's clear that we can't trust politicians to manage our public resources. We need to organize and take control of what rightfully belongs to the people of DC in order to meet communities' needs.

Lot 42 in the Shaw neighborhood was promised for affordable housing and is now on the auction block for market rate (not remotely-affordable) condo development. Click here to learn more and sign the petition.

And the city is currently trying to use the vacant Crummell School in Ivy City as a parking lot for Bolt Bus, against the wishes of Ivy City residents to use it as an adult education and recreation center. Click here to learn more and sign the petition.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Press Release on Franklin Shelter Trial Verdict

new video (posted 7/13)

MEDIA ADVISORY CONTACT: Ray Valentine Ph.: 440-204-8284
July 12, 2012                                            Email:

DC Residents Hold Press Conference Today on Guilty Verdict in ‘Free Franklin’ Trial

Defendants and Attorneys will Discuss Trial Verdict for Activists who Occupied Vacant Franklin School to Protest Lack of Housing for City’s Homeless

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, after a 3 day trial in DC Superior Court, a jury found six housing activists guilty of unlawful entry. The ‘Free Franklin six’ were arrested last November as part of an occupation of the vacant, publicly owned Franklin School building at 13th and K Streets NW. The defendants were part of a larger group that attempted to re-open the Franklin building to raise awareness of the need for housing and other services for the city’s homeless and underserved residents.  The activists were promoting the idea that public resources would be better utilized if controlled directly by the community and not left abandoned or sold to the highest bidder by city officials.

Despite the guilty verdict, in sentencing Judge Broderick showed sympathy for the defendants by giving them only 5 days in jail suspended with three months unsupervised probation that can be cut in half. When the Prosecution asked that the defendants be sentenced to community service, the  Judge responded that they do community service all the time.

"The real crime here is the mismanagement of public resources like Franklin and the lack of services for DC’s homeless,” says defendant and DC resident Rosa Lozano. “This trial was a waste of taxpayer resources that could be better spent on putting abandoned buildings like Franklin to use to serve the real needs of the greater DC community.”

During the trial, the defendants did not deny that they were in Franklin School but argued that they  were sequestered and arrested without proper legal authorization. In the testimony of two of the six defendants and remarks from another who represented himself, they argued that they had a right to be in the Franklin building on November 19th, 2011 because it rightfully belongs to the people of DC. However, Judge Broderick did not allow crucial aspects of the defense’s case that would have allowed the jury to understand why the defendants should be acquitted.  In these circumstances, the jury returned a guilty verdict against all six defendants.

“The prosecution worked hard to keep the politics out of this case and prevent any mention of the shameful history of this building and others like it,” explained supporter Ray Valentine. “They clearly knew that they couldn’t win that argument—that no jury of DC residents, would support the city’s failure to use public property to address community needs.”

Community groups have been fighting for the city to re-open the Franklin Shelter that was illegally closed by then Mayor Fenty in 2008, but DC officials have ignored all demands thus far, and instead have been trying to sell the building to a private developer.

"I participated in this action because the people of this city can't count on the DC government to be honest with public resources,” says defendant and DC resident Jesse Shultz who represented himself ‘pro se’ in the trial. “Honestly, I think we need to put the city council and mayor on trial for policies that result in human rights abuses by depriving homeless people of shelter, especially in the freezing winter months as well as on these scorching hot summer days.”

The city is currently facing a growing crisis of homelessness (currently over 6,500 homeless individuals) and lack of affordable housing, but the city continues to close shelters and cut funds for needed services, including $7 million cut from homeless services in next year’s budget.

Nonviolent direct action tactics like those employed in the Franklin occupation have been used effectively on numerous occasions in the district. Franklin first became a shelter in 2002 through an occupation by housing activists and was re-opened again in 2003 due to pressure from a second occupation. It remained an emergency shelter for the homeless until 2008. Other shelters have also opened as a result of community action.

According to Attorney Mark Goldstone who was the attorney advisor for Mr. Schultz, “throughout their case, the defendants were able to establish that in DC, historically, the only way to get a shelter opened is through direct action, but bureaucratic processes continue to fail the citizens of DC.”

For more information, go to:


7/12 AM Update

Guilty Verdict, But Minimal Sentence Reflects Truth of Political Message

[Please direct press inquiries to Ray Valentine, 440-2204-8284.  More press materials and information to follow.]

All six defendants in the Franklin Shelter case were found guilty today of one count of entering without authority.

Despite this disappointing verdict, the sentence reflected the noncriminal and pro-comunity nature of their actions.  The prosecution requested a $1000 fine and* a year of community service.  The judge replied, "Most of what they do is community service," which affirmed the nature of their work.

The sentence itself was: 5 days suspended sentence, 3 months unsupervised probation which may be cut in half at the judge's discretion, and the absolute minimum contribution to the victims of violent crime fund.  This is not a fine, but a fund into which all those convicted in DC must pay some amount; $50 is the minimum.  During probation, defendants must stay away from the shelter--but may be across the street.

In the meantime, the city remains guilty of allowing public building to sit unused while people literally sleep outside of them.  The people of DC need action on this far more pressing issue.

* Correction: The prosecution asked for a year of community service, but not a $1000 fine.  This mistake grew out of the retelling of a side comment the prosecutor had made.  The confusion grew from a fast-paced and emotional moment, but we sincerely apologize for the error.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

End of Day 3 - Both Sides Present Closing Arguments, Jury Starts Deliberations

The jury started deliberations on a verdict late today and will be coming back tomorrow at 9:30 am. We expect a verdict sometime tomorrow, though we don't know what time.

Please come down tomorrow to support the defendants when they hear the verdict. We'll be at the court starting at 9:30 am, court room 112 again.  Some of us will also be flyering the public outside of Franklin, at 13th and K Streets NW, from 8:30 to 9:15.

And at 5:30 pm tomorrow, if there is a verdict issued, we'll hold a press conference in front of Superior Court. We'll send an update of there's any changes.

The Defense presented the rest of their case this afternoon. Rosa Lozano testified about how the DC government has over and over again ignored demands to re-open Franklin, forcing community members to take action like the November occupation.

Then the Prosecution and the Defense presented their closing arguments. The Defense pointed out that the police who had been called to testify by the Prosecution contradicted each other's stories, and were unable to prove that they had the lawful authority to kick the defendants out of the Franklin building.

Jesse Schultz, one of the defendants who is representing himself pro se, gave a moving closing statement where he explained that the defendants believe they had a right to be in the Franklin building on November 19th, 2011 because it is a building that rightfully belongs to the people of DC and there was broad community support for the effort to re-open it. He also reminded the jurors that their decision on the verdict should be based on the morality of what the defendants did, not just the technicalities of the case. The defendants' actions were an attempt to right the injustice committed by the city when they illegally closed the Franklin Shelter, and we hope the jury will uphold this by finding them not guilty.

The jury started deliberations on a verdict late today and will be coming back tomorrow at 9:30 am. We expect a verdict sometime tomorrow, though we don't know what time.

Once again, please come down tomorrow to support the defendants when they hear the verdict. We'll be at the court starting at 9:30 am, court room 112 again.

And at 5:30 pm tomorrow, if there is a verdict issued, we'll hold a press conference in front of Superior Court. We'll send an update of there's any changes.

Thanks for the ongoing support!

Lunchtime Update on Day 3 of the Trial

The Prosecution finished presenting their case this morning and the Defense called their first witness - Defendant Justin Rodriguez. Justin did a great job explaining to the jurors why the Franklin Shelter occupation was a necessary action to address the crisis of lack of homeless shelters and services, and overall lack of affordable housing in DC.  We're reminded how the Franklin Shelter was closed illegally by then Mayor Fenty in 2008, despite widespread public protest against its closing, and since then homeless activists, advocates, and community groups have been fighting to get the building re-opened.

This afternoon the Defense will call the rest of their witnesses. Its possible that the jury could deliver a verdict by the end of the day today, and, if not, it should be tomorrow. So keep checking back for more updates, we'll keep you posted.

And if you're able to come down to the courthouse this afternoon, please join us in showing our support for the defendants. Remember that all cellphones and other electronics have to be turned off inside the courtroom, and right now the court isn't allowing these devices inside the courtroom at all, so you may want to leave devices you don't need at home. And don't forget to check out the Take Action page for more ways to get involved.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Update: Franklin Trial, Day Two

It was a packed second day of the Franklin Shelter trial today.  The defense gave an opening statement, and the jury heard testimony from several prosecution witnesses.  Earlier in the day, there was also extensive discussion of whether the defense could present part of its legal theory--which, we're sad to say, the judge did not allow.  But we trust that the defense has plenty more to argue!

Trial resumes Wendesday at 11:00 am once again, in room #112.

Supporters will also be FLYERING once again outside the Franklin Shelter, at 13th and K Streets NW at 8:30 am and 1:00 pm.  This political outreach went well today, and we hope that you'll join us to continue it.

An important note:  Now that the jury is in the courtroom, it's really important to be on careful behavior. If supporters are talking, or getting up and coming and going a lot, it can distract or annoy jurors.  That can hurt the defendants.

Also note that court security got very strict this afternoon about keeping phones turned off in the courtroom.  They were also very concerned about tweeting in the courtroom--we ask that supporters, like us, only tweet when outside the courtroom.  Texting or typing on a phone--or even looking at one for the time--is not allowed and may get you thrown out of the courtroom.  Frustrating as this is, we ask that everyone roll with it to prevent disruptions and keep the focus where it should be--on the defendants whose freedom is at risk.

Finally, we continue to ask that you go to the Take Action page and contact the Mayor and your Councilmembers.  They may have been a bit, er...distracted by some other drama in city government today--but we need to remind them that issues around Franklin and the use of public property will not disappear so long as there is massive need in the city alongside unused and misused resources.

We also urge you to check out and support a campaign by the good people at ONE DC around the use of Parcel 42, another piece of publicly-owned land.  See their petition at

Thank you!  As alway, please re-post and share this update and other materials, and follow us on Twitter at FreeFranklinDC.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Update from first day of trial

 Jury selection wrapped up this afternoon and the Prosecution gave their opening statement before everybody was dismissed. Check out this video about the day's events!

Trial resumes tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11 am in room #112 again with opening statements from the Defense. If you can, come down to the courthouse to show your support for the defendants (and you get to wear one of the great Franklin for the People t-shirts shown in the video!).

We talked to a lot of interested and concerned people while we were handing out fliers this morning, so we'll be doing more of that tomorrow, but this time in Franklin Square (13th and K St NW), in front of the Franklin building itself. Meet us to help flier, either from 8:30 to 9:30 am or from 1 to 2 pm to get the word out about the trial and the ongoing struggle around Franklin shelter.

And if you can't make it in person tomorrow, go to the Take Action page and contact Mayor Gray and the Council to make sure they know DC residents want public property like Franklin to be put to use to meet communities' needs!

And keep following us on Twitter: @freefranklindc and please help spread the word by sharing this blog, video, tweets. 

Thanks for all your support!

Trial Day One: Mid-day update

The trial has started slowly, but the support was strong and clearly felt.  This morning, about twenty people gathered outside the courthouse before the trial.  Several passersby expressed their support, some of whom were familiar with the history of Franklin.

Inside the courtroom, the judge went through a series of preliminary motions, interspersed with business related to other cases.  About twenty supporters were in the courtroom--many of them different individuals from those who were outside the court in the morning and then had to go to work.  The initial stages of jury selection began a bit after noon, and the judge gave a few instructions and then broke for lunch.  She pointed out that hungry an unhappy jurors were not in anyone's interest--and we agree!  Now that lunch is over, jury selection is moving forward.

Thanks to all for the continued support!  We'll keep you in the loop on what's going on.  The case is sure to go into tomorrow, and could well continue into Wednesday.

In the meantime, please continue to spread the word.  Ask your friends and co-workers if they know about the case.  Post these updates and videos on social media.  Check out some of the background documents on the case--contained on this site--if you haven't seen them before.

And if you live in DC and haven't yet done so, please give a call to Mayor Gray to remind him that the city should use public resources to serve the community, not for-profit developers.  If you've already called him, try Council President Mendelson, your ward councilor, or the at-large councilors.  All of their numbers--along with talking points--are in the Take Action section of this site.

Thank you!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Support Activists from Franklin Shelter occupation on trial this week!

After the occupation of the Franklin Shelter last November, there was a huge outpouring of community support.  Now, on the eve of the trial stemming from that event, we have again seen a flood of supportive messages.  We deeply appreciate these sentiments, and we know that they reflect the widespread concern about the issues surrounding Franklin, and the lingering pain over the closure of the Franklin Shelter in 2008.

As the trial begins, we ask that you show your support in three main ways.

1.  Attend the trial.  The trial is scheduled to begin at 9:30 am Monday at the courthouse at 500 Indiana Ave NW in DC, in courtroom 112.  It is likely to go at least one more day, though we don't know how long.  If possible, your presence at any point would be greatly appreciated.

**Please remember, though, that in order to support the defendants, those who attend need to dress and act in a way that shows respect for the judge, jury, and courtroom.  This includes being quiet, and letting your presence speak for you.  We know that this isn't easy for everyone, and if it doesn't feel feasible for you, we ask that you consider supporting in other ways.**

2.  Spread the word.  We want people to know about the trial and.  Even more importantly, we want people to know about the larger issues around Franklin, poverty, and the use (or non-use) of public property to address community needs.  By talking it up and sharing materials in your social networks--both online and in person--you can help us to do this.  So please repost videos, links, talk with your friends, retweet us, etc.  We expect to update this blog about twice a day during the trial, and we will also post updates on Twitter at FreeFranklinDC.  (Tweeting in courtrooms isn't permitted, so frequency of updates will depend on how often there are breaks.)

3.  Call the Mayor and Council.  We don't want the city's leadership to forget that these are issues of great concern to people throughout DC.  If you live in the District, please call Mayor Gray at 202-727-6300  to tell him that you want the city to use resources like Franklin to serve community needs, not to sell them off to serve developers.  Phone numbers and talking points are in the Take Action section of this site.

Thank you for your ongoing support, and for all that you do to create a more just community.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Activists from Free Franklin occupation will stand trial next week

Trial starts Monday, July 9th at 9:30 am - supporters will gather outside starting at 8:30 am
DC Superior Court: 500 Indiana Ave NW Washington, DC

On November 19, 2011, a group of DC community members going by the name "Free Franklin" entered and occupied the former Franklin Shelter building at 13th and K St NW. Protesting the lack of homeless shelters in DC and the city government's ongoing attempts to dispose of publicly owned property, the occupation was intended to put public resources to use to meet community needs.

Six of those arrested at the occupation are facing charges of unlawful entry. The Franklin building belongs to the people of DC and the Free Franklin defendants, who carried out the occupation to re-open the building for its rightful owners, should be found not guilty! Join us in the courtroom to support the defendants and to send a message that DC communities want control of our public property to meet people's needs, like addressing the crisis of homelessness and lack of affordable housing in our city.

And take action by going to the link at the top and calling Mayor Gray and the City Council to demand that Franklin be re-opened to serve the community's needs.