Tenants protesting housing conditions and the alleged harassment of rent strike leaders marched peacefully through several blocks of Santa Ana apartments Sunday morning, renters' representatives said.
The protesters, estimated at 250 to 600, joined in prayer and listened to speeches by local church leaders before marching through a neighborhood of apartments near Standard and McFadden streets.
The gathering was organized to alert residents there of their rights to decent housing and to respond peacefully to alleged death threats, said Nativo Lopez, a spokesman for Hermandad Mexicana Nacional de Condado de Orange.
Appearance Before Council
The group also asked residents to join the protesters at the Santa Ana City Council meeting tonight to demand that the city inspect large apartment complexes owned by corporations, Lopez said. Until now, the city inspectors have focused on single-family house owners, who "are not the greatest culprits," he said.
About 300 households in the city are now withholding rents and placing them in a trust fund in an attempt to make landlords improve substandard apartments, Lopez said. An additional 100 households have settled their grievances with landlords, he said.
Lopez said he has received three death threats by letter and several more by telephone and has turned the letters over to police.
"Today was a response to death threats, harassment and aggressive behavior," Lopez said. "We wanted to show it was a family movement and this was a peaceful way of winning dignity."
Many of the apartments in the neighborhood of Sunday's march are owned by Beach West Realty and Investments, one of the corporations that the city should crack down on, Lopez said. He said the apartments are infested with rats and roaches and have broken plumbing, torn carpeting, no screens and windows off frames.
Richard Zanelli, president of the corporation, contacted at home Sunday, said the apartments have been improved with new carpeting, tile and other amenities during the last few years. The apartments are in "top-notch shape" and among the best in the neighborhood, he said.
The managers have solicited comments from the tenants, but the tenants have filed no complaints, said Zanelli.