PILSEN — Activists who live-streamed a confrontation at the soon-to-open S.K.Y. Restaurant in Pilsen last week took to Facebook in an attempt to better explain the dangers of gentrification.
The ChiResists group wrote on Monday that "despite attempts to characterize us as bad and violent people, we're not the 'bad guys.' "
"We are the children of immigrants that watched our parents work for the homes that they now cannot afford to keep," the group said. "We are young residents, born and raised in Pilsen, that are hurting from seeing our people and history systematically erased from our community and the city."
ChiResists did not respond to a request for comment.
The statement was posted one week after the anti-gentrification activists spoke with S.K.Y. general manager Charles Ford outside the restaurant, which had been vacant and condemned before the restaurant owner began renovations in the spring.
As seen in the video, activists tell Ford that the restaurant — attracted by the vibrant, already established culture of the neighborhood — contributes indirectly to rising rent prices, which pushes out poor residents who have nurtured the community for decades.
"You've inserted yourself into a community that doesn't want you, without talking to us first," one activist says of the restaurant. "It's national news that Pilsen is fighting gentrification, and you still" came here.
The exchange ended when Ford, who said he felt "berated" by the group, called police, although no threats of violence can be heard on the video.
"That is gentrification in a nutshell: To claim to want to be a part of the community and then immediately act to get rid of us," the activists said in the statement. "All we did was express our fears [and] rightful frustration and demanded an end to business practices that accelerate our displacement."
For his part, chef-owner Stephen Gillanders said his restaurant offers a range of dining options which he hopes will be accessible to S.K.Y.'s neighbors. Both he and Ford said they were upset with how the incident ended, but felt they were "caught off guard" on a day that was already stressful.
"I think there's this false understanding of what we are," Gillanders said. "There's no big money — it's just us. We realize there's so much more to do and help, but we've got to have a conversation about it in the most constructive way possible."
Slowing gentrification is an urgent issue for many in Pilsen, who view rising rents and the loss of 10,000 Hispanic people as a threat to their way of life and the tight-knit community they call home.
The building at 1239 W. 18th St. has been vacant since 2014, when the Allport Medical Center closed. Next month, S.K.Y. Restaurant will open in the remodeled space. [Screenshot/Google Maps]
In the Facebook video posted last week, the group of activists are showing people from Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood how gentrification is changing Pilsen. They point to restaurants like Dusek's and S.K.Y. as catering to clientele from outside Pilsen, where working-class families can't necessarily afford the higher prices.
"Those businesses directly benefit from social and economic injustice, and in the process, treat local residents as objects rather than human beings with a right to housing security and community," ChiResists wrote. "This is why we believe that anyone that participates in the process of gentrification ... are guilty of using those very systems of oppression to establish their businesses."
Read the full statement from ChiResists below: