Since China’s implementation of a neo-liberal housing regime, housing activism has boomed. Whilst activism is ultimately in place, as increasingly recognised within protest work, there is limited reflection upon how permeable material histories are entangled with the throwntogetherness of place as a site for protest. Employing ethnography over three months, this article follows the emergence, organisation and implementation of housing activism in Lane 49, a public housing community in downtown Shanghai. Utilising feminist geography and feminist political theorisations of material permeability this article contributes to Chinese geographies of protest, providing a local epistemology of housing activism which demonstrates the importance of drawing materiality into understandings of activist tactics. The article also contributes to radical geographies of protest by deconstructing the idea of public protest in a public place and thus offering opportunities to demonstrate how, through blurring public-private binaries, protest can emerge and survive in authoritative governance regimes.