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Activists protest housing, health crisis in Chelsea

Protesters march around City Hall Wednesday evening to call on state lawmakers to extend the eviction and foreclosure moratorium due to expire on Oct. 17. They also called on lawmakers to pass the Housing Stability Bill, the Right to Counsel Bill, and Emergency RAFT Program Assistance. Chelsea has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the state. topic: reporter:Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Dozens braved rain and high winds Wednesday night to march through Chelsea to urge state lawmakers to pass legislation to extend the moratorium on evictions during a rally in Chelsea Wednesday evening.

Protesters marched at 5:30 p.m. from the Chelsea Collaborative Pantry to Bellingham Square near City Hall, where speakers gave their testimonies about why the extension is necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Chelsea Collaborative, the organization that led the protest.

The protestors pushed for the passage of the Housing Stability Act and right to council for low-income tenants brought to housing court, Norieliz De Jesus, director of policy and organizing for Chelsea Collaborative said in a telephone interview after the protest.

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“We need to make sure that people have representation and protection,” she said.

Chelsea residents showed their support by stopping and honking, even as rain poured down, she said.

The protest featured life-sized replica coffins to illustrate the impact eviction will have on low-income Chelsea families who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, De Jesus said.

“It will literally be ripping these families from bedrooms and placing them in coffins if we evict them,” she said.

If legislators do not provide aid, the housing crisis will lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases when people are evicted, become homeless, and become unable to social distance, she said.

“It’s going to be basically a death sentence for low-income communities of color because those are the communities that are going to be more impacted when the courts reopen and all these eviction notices start being sent out,” she said.

Executive Director of Chelsea Collaborative Gladys Vega said another risk is that people who are evicted will move in with families or friends who are already living in overcrowded conditions.

“I think about fires,” she said. “I think about the pandemic when I think about the housing situation.”

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Vega also said she is concerned about what will happen to families who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 after the moratorium ends on Oct. 17.

“What’s going to happen to those families?” she asked. “And it’s not like miraculously they’re going to be able to pay their proper amount in rent.”

Vega criticized legislators for not having a plan for low-income residents for after the moratorium ends.

The protest is connected to a week long series of action calling for the extension, De Jesus said. On Thursday, Chelsea Collaborative will join activists in Revere to call lawmakers, and actions will continue throughout the week in Lynn and Dorchester.