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Occupy Miami descends into drugs and chaos in an Overtown apartment building

Occupy Miami descends into drugs and chaos in an Overtown apartment building

From Miami News Times

For three years, this has been Charane Odho’s neighborhood. It’s poor and imperfect, the 37-year-old grandma with pale skin, dark tattoos, and raven hair admits — but it’s home nonetheless. Suddenly, however, it’s occupied.

“It’s like we live in a huge crack house now!” Odho says. She points a long manicured fingernail at brown smears on her apartment complex’s yellow paint. “They poop on the walls,” she says, stifling a gag as she steps over stinking piles on the pavement. “They poop in the back of the building and wipe themselves with socks… Who are these people? We don’t know who the hell they are.”

Welcome to phase two of Occupy Miami. Protesters call it “Peace City.” Locals call it a living hell.

They arrived the last day of January: young and old; black, white, and brown; clean-cut professionals and grimy gutter punks. Their tents and lean-tos once clogged a lawn outside county hall like a South American favela. Now they have overtaken Odho’s Overtown apartment building, ripping off doors, tagging the building with black and red graffiti, and hanging posters from the railings. Yet there is little the cops, let alone Odho, can do. The squatters didn’t invade. They were invited.

When scores of Miami-Dade Police in riot gear swarmed Government Center on January 31, the crackdown looked like the end of Occupy Miami. The four-month-old movement was already splintering. The tent city had grown dirty and occasionally violent, and even some protesters were glad to see the sit-in shut down.

Yet Occupy Miami didn’t die. A mysterious, messianic slumlord who calls himself Señor Paz — Mr. Peace — welcomed the protesters into his dilapidated building at 540 NW Seventh St. For the occupiers, it was a miracle: a haven from the police and a place to plan their campaign against corruption and fat-cat corporations. Paz was their savior.

But for the building’s rent-paying tenants, Paz has unleashed a nightmare in Overtown. The squatters blast loud music late at night, openly use drugs, and regularly wage drunken fights with one another. And though Paz claims he is trying to save the neighborhood from crime, tenants say he is to blame for the violence and narcotics. Some residents have begun to fight back against their unwanted neighbors. Tensions are boiling.

Read the rest here.

Hat tip to Russ.

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