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Justice for Florence Mason and Arturo Castillon!

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On December 14th, 2011, Florence Mason and Arturo Castillon were arrested on charges including burglary and criminal trespass by the Philadelphia police. What did they do to deserve this? The two had dared to enter Ms. Mason’s home, from which she had been wrongly evicted by a combination of greedy landlords, housing companies, and a corrupt city government and police force.

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On December 14th, 2011, Florence Mason and Arturo Castillon were arrested on charges including burglary and criminal trespass by the Philadelphia police. What did they do to deserve this? The two had dared to enter Ms. Mason’s home, from which she had been wrongly evicted by a combination of greedy landlords, housing companies, and a corrupt city government and police force.
 
Before all of this, on January 6th, 2011, Elaine Luckin of Third Corsa, Inc. filed a lawsuit against Ms. Mason in the Philadelphia Municipal Court, alleging that she owed $5,435 in rent. But Third Corsa was not Ms. Mason’s landlord. In fact, Third Corsa does not legally exist. Elaine Luckin is an employee of a company called First Corsa, which provides management services to landlords, including Ms. Mason’s landlord, Svetlana Shliomovich. Third Corsa/Elaine Luckin had no right to bring a complaint against Ms. Mason. Even the identity of her landlord is uncertain: Ms. Shliomovich is listed in public records as the owner of the property, but another person signed the lease that Third Corsa presented as an exhibit to the court.
 
On top of this, Florence Mason does not owe anything to First Corsa, Third Corsa, Svetlana Shliomovich, or anyone else. The home she lived in was a Section 8 property, or federally-subsidized property. The Department of Housing and Urban Development was responsible for paying Ms. Mason’s rent. In spite of this, Third Corsa’s lawyers lied under oath that she was responsible for payments.
 
Despite all these obstacles, when Ms. Mason appealed the case to the Court of Common Pleas, Third Corsa’s lawyer dropped the complaint, and then the judge dropped the case. Back in the Municipal Court, however, the company’s lawyers lied under oath again to claim that it was Ms. Mason who dropped the appeal, and proceeded to continue to attempt to evict her. Third Corsa continued to cause injustice to Ms. Mason not only based on lies, but based on unfounded disdain that caused her and her family a great deal of struggle and suffering.
 
On September 1st, Philadelphia police terrorized Ms. Mason’s children, assaulting and arresting her two oldest children, Vincent, 20, and Crystal, 18, and even handcuffing her youngest girl at one point. Ms. Mason herself was arrested on October 15th and held until the 27th. All of these arrests were illegal, in light of the dismissal of the case by the Court of Common Appeals and the lack of standing of the case to begin with. There is no reason that Vincent Jr., Crystal, or Ms. Mason should have been arrested.
 
On November 29th, activists staged a protest and then unscrewed the locks on Ms. Mason’s home. They entered the house and spent time cleaning it up. The locks were never replaced. On December 14th, Ms. Mason and Arturo Castillon, a community activist, entered the home to do another cleaning, and were then arrested.
 
The Philadelphia community must unite to defend Florence Mason and Arturo Castillon against the injustices that are being done to them. But we also must remember that this incident is just one small part of the larger picture. All over Philadelphia, and all over the United States, people are being evicted from their homes by greedy landlords and banks, corrupt governments and police. The current crisis of capitalism has hurt the 99%; but it has hurt people of color and women worst of all. As the Occupy movement increasingly turns towards direct action such as home reclamation, and toward a fuller analysis of the dynamics of race, class, and gender, this case is an important opportunity to strike a blow, but many more blows must continue to be struck. While we fight for Arturo Castillon, Florence Mason, and her children, we must keep in mind the plight of others facing the same struggles from the economic and legal systems that be.
 
As the legal battles rage on in order to try and achieve justice for Arturo Castillon and Ms. Mason, we as a community must ask ourselves what allows these wrongdoings to occur. In a country that claims to believe in liberty and justice for all, we must question how our society has allowed for mothers, children, and activists to get arrested for only trying to have a home that is rightfully theirs. We must ask ourselves why we do not stand up and fight back before this injustice is inflicted on innocent people. Most importantly, we must rise up in solidarity with Florence Mason, and Arturo Castillon and all other victims of this system to help defend their rights, and make a dent in defending the rights of thousands of others.