Oakland Activist Group 'Moms 4 Housing' Reach Deal To Buy Home They Occupied Following Eviction At Gunpoint
Moms 4 Housing says it highlights the increasing crisis of homelessness in Oakland.
Update (January 21, 2020): After a months-long battle including protests, court dates and an eviction at gunpoint, Oakland housing rights activists Moms 4 Housing, represented by Oakland Community Land Trust, are in negotiations to purchase the investor-owned home that they were evicted from just last week, according to KTVU. The announcement came Monday, a national holiday in honor of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which has become a day of organizing and action across the United States.
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Wedgewood LLC, the real estate investment company that owns the single-family home the mothers began occupying in November of 2019, has made a “good faith” agreement to negotiate the sale of the West Oakland property to nonprofit Oakland Community Land Trust. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has declared the homeless crisis an emergency, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf reportedly stepped in. Earlier this month, during a speech about the homeless crisis, Moms 4 Housing activists interrupted Schaaf in an act of civil disobedience to bring attention to their plight and have successfully made the discussion national news, as Blavity previously reported.
Monday, the formerly unhoused mothers marched through downtown Oakland followed by dozens of supporters, including city council president Rebecca Kaplan and city council representative Nikki Fortunato Bas – there was also a drumline.
We’re marching to the @ACSOSheriffs because of the violent, militarized eviction of @moms4housing. We will #HoldThemAccountable— Alyssa Kang (@1alyssakang) January 20, 2020
#ReclaimMLKOak #HousingIsAHumanRight #CloseTheCamps #StandWithTheMoms#MLKDay https://t.co/5uKKclyuBU
They led the march to the plaza in front of Oakland City Hall, which the residents have reclaimed as “Oscar Grant Plaza” in honor of a man that was murdered by local transit police causing civil unrest in 2009, where they expressed gratitude for all of their supporters and laid out their plans for the future. They plan to keep fighting.
“This movement does not end today with us, with that house on Magnolia Street. We will not stop fighting and organizing until all unhoused folks who want to have shelter have shelter," Dominique Walker, one of the founders of Moms 4 Housing, said.
The march continued to the Alameda County Sheriff's offices where protesters showed their disapproval for the way the moms were evicted. In a scene reminiscent of a war zone, Alameda County sheriff’s deputies used tanks and camouflaged officers with AR-15s in the 5 a.m. raid that lead to the arrest of four, including two of the mothers.
While being interviewed by Ta-Nehisi Coates for the MLKNow 2020 Conference, United States Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mentioned the Moms 4 Housing activists when discussing how movements begin with the people.
AOC on @moms4housing: "That's the kind of organizing that's required. That organizing challenges many of the operating tenets that the United States was founded on, including racism, but also including the protection of capital over human beings." https://t.co/6oJpEcC8S7— Rick Paulas (@RickPaulas) January 20, 2020
"That's the kind of organizing that's required. That organizing challenges many of the operating tenets that the United States was founded on, including racism, but also including the protection of capital over human beings," the trailblazing congresswoman said.Original (January 15, 2020): Four people were arrested in a pre-dawn raid Tuesday morning at the West Oakland house where Moms 4 Housing activists had been staying. In order to bring increased attention to the homeless crisis in Oakland, members of the group had taken over the empty residence.
According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, activists with connections to the group, and others, are calling the arrest and subsequent story a win, bringing increased attention to the fight the organization originally set out to highlight.
The mothers have occupied the house since November, but a judge made a ruling Friday and ordered the group to leave the vacant home within five days or face eviction.
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The @moms4housing protests have continued, following the court's decision to evict the group of homeless mothers who were living in a vacant Oakland home on Tuesday. The women had already planned to stay and fight for their right to housing, despite the court order, when militarized police officers arrived to their home early this morning to carry out the eviction. A total of four arrest were made, including mothers Jesse Turner, Tolani King and Misty Cross. They were arrested for resisting an eviction, authorities said. Walter Baker was also arrested for allegedly obstructing officers. Following the eviction, supporters went on various platforms to voice their solidarity with the mothers as well as their disapproval of the arrests. #HousingNow #Moms4Housing
“People are talking about things and changing their relationship to land and who deserves [ownership] just because of this action [Moms 4 Housing] took,” said Carroll Fife, regional director of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. “Just having their children be housed was a victory, but the larger victory is what this means for the larger community.”
Fife shared a video on Twitter, showing children who sang together to support the mothers.
“This gave me life today,” she said.
Vicente Vera shared a short video of a documentary he made about the group’s effort.
A short documentary I produced on @moms4housing Dec. 30th court battle. Forgot to post it earlier.— Vicente Vera (@VicenteSJSU) January 10, 2020
A group of mothers are currently settled in a home in West Oakland and they say they are not leaving any time soon. More on this developing story coming soon. 1/3 #moms4housing pic.twitter.com/t366E97dzl
Supporters of the group also came together and formed a human shield as a symbol of unity.
Supporters have created a human shield for the moms who have taken over an empty house in Oakland. Their eviction has been ordered but they have no plans to leave. #Moms4Housing pic.twitter.com/MZgrPcele3— Amy Hollyfield (@amyhollyfield) January 13, 2020
Fife was in the middle of an interview with Democracy Now when she heard the sheriff had arrived at the home to evict the mothers.
.@moms4housing's interview with @democracynow was cut short this morning when word came in by text message that the sheriff was at the door to evict the families who have been living in a vacant house in Oakland. Oakland has four times as many empty houses as unhoused people. pic.twitter.com/oRdGWKbXjC— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) January 14, 2020
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Wedgewood Properties bought the home in July and took possession in November after the mothers came in.
“The solution to Oakland’s housing crisis is not the redistribution of citizens’ homes through illegal break-ins and seizures by squatters,” Wedgewood Properties officials said in a statement to the Chronicle.
Wedgewood spokesman Sam Singer spoke to CNN, saying he “is pleased the illegal occupation of its Oakland home has ended peacefully."
"That is what the company has sought since the start,” Singer said. “We will now work with a non-profit, Shelter 37, to renovate the home giving opportunities to at-risk Oakland youths and splitting the profits with the non-profit so that other youths may benefit."
Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies were seen in military-style fatigues with rifles and executed the eviction order on Tuesday.
“They came in like an army for mothers and babies,” said Dominique Walker, one of the mothers who was not arrested, to KTLA. “We have the right to housing; this is just the beginning.”
Fife said it wasn’t enough for the city to offer the group a stay in a shelter for two months.
“Anyone who has tried to get housing in the city of Oakland knows that two months is nothing,” she said. “The system doesn’t work.”
Watching this video will help you understand what it means to live in the Bay Area.— L E F T, PhD ⚫️ (@LeftSentThis) January 13, 2020
Each of the arrested individuals has been booked into Santa Rita jail on misdemeanor resisting and obstructing charges, Sgt. Ray Kelly said during a media briefing Tuesday morning, and bail has been set at $5,000 each. Moms 4 Housing has set up a GoFundMe page to raise bail money for the affected individuals — it has since exceeded its goal.
According to the group’s website, Moms 4 Housing brings together “uniting mothers, neighbors and friends to reclaim housing for the Oakland community from the big banks and real estate speculators.”
“My heart goes out to these courageous mothers (who) are standing up for a basic human need,” Mayor Libby Schaaf told reporters. “This is a difficult situation, and it is clear evidence that our laws are not working properly.”
The mothers confronted Schaaf during a housing rally last week and asked why she is ignoring their cry for help, The Chronicle reported.
“No one should be homeless when homes are sitting empty,” the mothers stated on their website. “Housing is a human right.”