Sunday, August 12, 2007

Umoja Fire Trial- Monday Aug. 13, 11:30AM

Press Release
for immediate release
Sunday, August 12, 2007

Umoja Village Arrest Trial Set for Monday, August 13, 2007

Long time resident John Cata on trial for disorderly conduct arrest following shantytown fire

Former Umoja Village resident John Cata is set to go to trial for his arrest which followed the fire which destroyed Miami's shantytown. The trial is set for Monday, August 13, 2007 beginning at 11:30am, at the Richard Gerstein Justice building, 1351 NW 12th St. in court room 2-11.

A devastating fire destroyed the Umoja Village Shantytown on April 26, 2007, just three days after the village's six month anniversary. Over one hundred community members turned out to support the residents and defend the Village before city of Miami police arrested 11 people, including John Cata. Cata was charged with disorderly conduct for attempting to retrieve his belongings from the ashes of the fire and with resisting arrest without violence after his weakened condition obligated police to carry him to the police car. Cata subsequently fainted and was taken to the VA hospital instead of jail.

While the lot remained vacant for eight (8) years, the city of Miami was able to erect a fence around the lot within hours of the first arrest.

In 1968, a 25 year old John Cata lead the team negotiating the first contract for 1,000 newly unionized Jackson Memorial Hospital workers. After successfully winning higher wages for Jackson workers, Cata was drafted and sent to Vietnam where he served two tours of duty. In 2006, Cata returned to South Florida and, due to the lack of viable options afforded by his pension, lived in a vacant lot for months prior to discovering the Umoja Village.

Umoja Village was created on October 23, 2006 in response to the crisis of gentrification and housing in Miami-Dade County. The shantytown housed as many as 50 otherwise homeless people at a time, serving both as a solution and living protest to the housing crisis and the government corruption which contributed to the crisis.

The trials of village organizers Max Rameau and Amanda Seaton are set for later in August. Other arrestees have settled their cases.

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