Three security guards were stationed on Mark Lane in a car. They were positioned in the same spot that we had held for twelve days, yet instead of keeping watch over the preservation of a vibrant community, these guards were defending the machinery that will begin today’s construction. One of the guards commented that the area looked like a "battle zone" following the events of the day.
We were allowed to walk escorted in the property searching for our tent. The few remaining residents were in tears sifting through various pieces of clothes and items that volunteers didn’t have enough time to collect before the gate was constructed, and we were forced out.
As we headed back across the makeshift gate, Chevelle, one of Deb Eck’s twin daughters, broke through the security officers on her bike to present us with beautiful red tiger lilies.
"For you," she said before riding off. The gesture seemed to affect even the security officer.
“You should put it in your hair,” he said.
Passing through the gate to my car, I thought about how quickly we forged a very real community made up of residents, their families, volunteers, and neighbors. We planted gardens, constructed outdoor stoves, and cleaned up debris leftover from trailers that had been stripped for parts to give families some extra cash for the moving expenses. I thought about how we incorporated roofs and any building materials into the murals, so that even the physical components of the park contributed in promoting the preservation of this community. I thought about how “home” means more than a house – it is comprised of people, it is the land upon which we thrive. Many of us grew up on the Susquehanna River. And, then I thought about how our home had been violated. The Riverdale community invited us into their home, and in twelve short days, it had become ours. I thought about how quickly they tore it down. They threw over our barricades covered in children’s handprints, and then they erected a physical dividing line between the residents and all of us.
We left not because the police asked us to, but because they told residents that our continued presence would threaten the negotiation with Aqua America that we had all collectively fought so hard to take place. Out of respect for that vulnerable position and our continued deferment to the resident’s needs and wishes, we left Riverdale.
As we drove away, I looked back upon the space that had encouraged these truly unusual connections and relationships to form as community members and their supporters united to defend the Riverdale families. For the first time I saw the park as a destroyed community, but also felt hope in the community that was resurrecting in the ashes. We didn’t come to Riverdale to blockade, we came to support a community, and in that process we changed the landscape of community self-determination in this region. We forged relationships over class, generational, and cultural divisions. The things we hoped for from Riverdale were won before the eviction.
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