Hundreds of East Bay residents gathered at Mosswood Park in Oakland around noon on Sat., Nov. 23, 2019, to participate in The March for Housing Now, which called for the City of Oakland to house its unhoused residents.
“We believe that housing is a human right,” said Carol Fife, Director of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), the organization who hosted the march. “I know you all do, too. And we need to make Oakland the model for what can happen when people say ‘enough is enough’ and are putting their feet down around the carnivorous, brutal, evil, malevolent, capitalist, white supremacist [housing market].”
The march had several dozen speakers and at least nine other organizations, non-profits, and labor unions joined ACCE at the march including East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), IFPTE Local 21, East Bay Democratic Socialists of America, Moms 4 Housing, Sunrise Movement Bay Area, Youth Vs The Apocalypse, Youth for Positive Direction, Strike Debt Bay Area, and Tenants and Neighborhood Councils Bay Area (TANC.)
Calls to join the march highlighted the fact that there are far more vacant housing units in Oakland than there are homeless people. The march’s Facebook invite called on the City of Oakland to “move thousands off the streets and vehicles into safe, healthy homes by filling vacant units.” The call comes after formerly homeless Oakland residents Dominque Walker and Sameerah Karim of Moms 4 Housing, moved into a vacant home on Magnolia street in West Oakland with their children, which is owned by Wedgewood, a Southern California real estate investment company.
Speakers at the march spoke at three locations and stood atop the flatbed of a vehicle they used as a stage. Starting at Mosswood Park, next to an unhoused community of several dozen people who lived in tents, Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown spoke of how difficult it is for teachers to find housing they can afford in Oakland and that many Oakland teachers are forced to live elsewhere.
Daphine Lamb-Perrilliat of EBHO, spoke of how Mayor Libby Schaaf had promised in 2016 that market rate developers would pay impact fees to construct affordable housing but that those funds have not been made available. She claimed there were $50 million missing from affordable housing funding.
Amin Robinson, a student at Laney College, spoke of the secondary homelessness many college students experience, where students don’t have stable housing and stay with others who offer them space.
“Students are focusing on: what am I going to eat tonight? Where am I gonna lay my head?” said Robinson. “They can’t even have a full-time student mentally.”
Robinson suggested that Laney College should build affordable housing at an underused parking lot.
Those who attended the event marched from Mosswood Park down MacArthur boulevard holding signs and banners. One read “Housing is a Human Right,” another read “Housing for All, Not for Profit,” and another read “The Working Class Produces Homes, Capitalism Produces Homelessness, Cestroy capitalism.” Two TANC members carried a large red banner that read “No Landlords.”
While stopping outside of homes along MacArthur set to be demolished to make room for market-rate housing, youth activists spoke. Many were from Youth Vs The Apocalypse, and spoke of how housing insecurity is related to climate catastrophe.
“People should not have to live in the street, people should not have to live in tents, people should not have to live in sheds, ” said Youth Vs The Apocalypse member Isha Clarke. “And especially when we’re in this time of severe climate catastrophe, when California is on fire, how dare we allow someone to live in a tent where they’re facing lethal asthma attacks, cancer and lung disease. This is not how we treat our people.”
Marchers then moved to Telegraph Avenue and walked north until they reached MacArthur Commons, a luxury housing development that has 97% market rate units. As they marched they chanted “Housing is a what? Human right,” and “Fight, Fight”.