A group of homeless mothers were arrested and evicted from a vacant home they had occupied in a West Oakland neighborhood on Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Four women, Jesse Turner, 25; Tolani King ,46; and Misty Cross, 38, and one man, Walter Baker, 28, were arrested during the removal and are currently being held at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. Two of the women Misty and Tolani are founders of Moms 4 Housing an advocacy group aiming to reclaim vacant housing from real estate developers and big banks for the purpose of giving homeless Oakland residents shelter.
Last week an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled that the group of women were not legally allowed to reside within the home, which had been occupied for months. The judge’s order said the women could be removed within five days. Alameda County Sheriff’s arrived to the residence around 5:15 a.m. to fulfill the order from the judge. But they were greeted by protesters and demonstrators who were enraged at the act of removal, and the use of force by the police who reportedly used tanks and high-powered guns during the exchange. Luckily, the children of the women were not in the vicinity during the arrest.
The move has set off a firestorm of debate and protest within the city and on social media as critics discussed the myriad of intersections found within the event, including race, gentrification, economic opportunities, housing discrimination and systemic oppression.
The conflicting issues exemplify a dichotomy of what is happening across the United States as metropolis areas deal with the influx of upwardly mobile white and non-white inhabitants moving into historically Black areas. It also signifies the sweeping trend of the criminalization of homelessness happening in Los Angeles, New York City and now Oakland.
Dominique Walker, 34, moved into the home on November 1 with her one-year-old son and her five-year-old daughter in November, the Chronicle reports. A group of women soon followed, intent on protesting the lack of affordable housing within the neighborhood. The women were also working to raise funds to purchase the home in order to establish legitimate residency.
“Instead of allowing us to buy this home through the Oakland Community Land Trust for exactly what they paid for it, Wedgewood CEO Greg Geiser has chosen to enact physical violence on us and our families. We won’t leave our home, and our neighbors, friends and family are standing with us in solidarity,” the group said in a statement obtained by MadameNoire.
“I’m really concerned about my sisters,” Walker said. “This house was a statement; it was a symbol of what needs to happen in Oakland.”
The homeowners, Wedgewood Properties, reportedly offered to pay for temporary housing and moving expenses for the group of women, along with placement for two months in a Catholic-based shelter the Chronicle reports. The women pointed viewed this as an insult, simply because it would not permanently solve their problem, but create new ones for them and their families.
“That’s no offer,” Walker continued. “We offered to buy the house — that’s what we wanted to do.”
“If they were truly interested in housing the families, they would sell this home for what they purchased it for. They have hired a multi-million dollar firm to spin it and get people, including the media, to think other than what is actually happening. It is very simple,” a supporter of the women said during a press conference outside of the home on Tuesday.
Supporters have begun a GoFundMe to help raise funds for the women to be released.