This story includes an update with information provided by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office in a Tuesday morning press conference.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office early Tuesday morning evicted mothers with force from a West Oakland home they had occupied since Nov. 18.
According to livestream video posted on the Moms 4 Housing Facebook page and several videos posted to Twitter by supporters at the scene, the mothers and others were arrested after the door was broken down using a battering ram.
The videos show various law enforcement agencies, riot or SWAT vehicles and officers carrying assault rifles as they held back a crowd and enforced the eviction order issued by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Patrick McKinney Friday after denial of a right to possession claim filed on the mothers’ behalf.
The two homeless, working mothers Dominique Walker, 34, and Sameerah Karim, 41, had moved into the vacant home at 2928 Magnolia St. after unsuccessful attempts to secure housing for themselves and their children in Oakland.
Other mothers had joined in what become a publicized movement, under the name Moms 4 Housing, to bring attention to the housing crisis and role of real estate investors and speculators in driving up the city’s cost of living.
The home was purchased in foreclosure by Wedgewood Properties, a subsidiary of Redondo Beach-based Wedgewood Inc., which claims to be a “leading acquirer of distressed residential real estate,” according to company’s website.
The mothers, with support from three Oakland City Councilmembers and advocacy groups, asked Wedgewood to negotiate a sale of the house to the Oakland Community Land Trust, which buys homes and converts them to affordable housing. The trust offered to pay Wedgewood what they bought the property for and would have allowed the mothers to remain there.
HEAVY DUTY MILITARY GEAR SOLDIERS WITH WEAPONS HERE TO EVICT 4 UNHOUSED MOTHERS AND THEIR CHILDREN. Alameda Sheriff is functioning like a paramilitary gang. GET HERE NOW @moms4housing #moms4housing pic.twitter.com/1jcYxUbNwZ
— #NoWarOnIran 🚩 (@pomegranatjewce) January 14, 2020
The company declined to negotiate and instead offered a donation to Catholic Charities to put the mothers and children up in a homeless shelter for two months with expenses paid to move their belongings. The Moms 4 Housing group called the offer “an insult.”
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office had not responded to a request for comment by the time this article was published but is holding a press conference at 8:30 a.m.
In a statement issued on Facebook, Walker said:
“We’ve heard from people all over the world who are inspired by our nonviolent civil disobedience.”
“People who say that our action has shifted their perspective and helped them understand that housing is a human right. We’ve built a movement of thousands of Oaklanders who showed up at a moment’s notice to reject police violence and advocate for homes for families.”
Vowing to continue fighting for housing equity, Walker said:
“This isn’t over, and it won’t be over until everyone in the Oakland community has a safe and dignified place to live.”
Update; 8:30 a.m.:
Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Ray Kelly held a press conference at 8:30 a.m. and confirmed that three people, two women and one man, were “peacefully arrested” and have been booked into Santa Rita Jail.
Kelly said the response with a “tactical element” was born of “multiple safety concerns” and the assertion that some of the protesters had been previously involved in other Bay Area “violent protests.” He said they “encountered a lot of hostility” that was mostly verbal but that some objects were thrown at officers.
Kelly said they used a ram to enter the home because the front and back doors had been barricaded but that once they gained entry, the occupants said that though they would not voluntarily leave, they remained nonviolent and asked to be peacefully arrested.
“I think we handled this very professionally.”
The children had been removed by the mothers from the home prior to Tuesday morning as a matter of protection.
The spokesman acknowledged that this has become a movement and that there could be further actions but that issues of this type are largely civil.
The sheriff’s office said the incident cost the agency “10s of thousands” of dollars, for which they will consider billing Wedgewood Inc.