Moms 4 Housing advocacy group was evicted from a West Oakland home in the early hours of Tuesday Jan. 14 after judgment came in favor of corporate homeowner Wedgewood on Friday, Jan. 10. The advocacy group took the case to court in an attempt to stay in the home.
Bearcat armored vehicles descended on the neighborhood at approximately 5 a.m. while deputies in camouflage and other police dressed in full riot gear blocked protesters view of the arrests performed by Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies.
In a mass text alert Moms 4 Housing said, “2 moms (Misty & Tolami) and 2 neighborhood supporters (Jesse & Walter) were arrested, and are being held at Santa Rita Jail.”
Hundreds of supporters had gathered at the West Oakland home on Magnolia Street the evening before the eviction after Moms 4 Housing sent a mass text announcing that the Alameda Sherriffs Department was coming to evict them. Supporters sang, chanted and rallied together peacefully while many stood in front of the house ready for arrest.
Dominique Walker of Moms 4 Housing moved into the vacant house illegally on Magnolia Street with her children and other women from the advocacy group on Nov. 18, 2019, after the women found no suitable or affordable ways to obtain housing in Oakland. In an interview with KAWL on Dec. 11. Walker said the occupation of the house came out of absolute desperation where the only option is to occupy a house or live with her children on the streets.
“The system is designed to protect the wealthy. It wasn’t designed for us so we never thought we would win in the unjust system. Yet we are here and we’re not leaving,” Walker said on Friday at a press conference held after the ruling.
“We are bringing awareness to this national and global housing crisis. And we don’t intend to stop. Housing is a human right,” said Walker. “We’re working to change not only the loss here but all over the world around housing. We want to create a housing registry. We want to outlaw short term rentals. We want to be able to use eminent domain to get housing from these corporate speculators out of our communities.”
Director of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action Carroll Fife spoke first at Friday’s press conference calling attention to a narrative she said she saw often in media that blamed the moms for being homeless.
”I really want to highlight how this particular situation has called into the forefront of how people are not valued,” Fife said. “I hear that they should work harder. That they shouldn’t have children.”
“They work two or three jobs,” Fife said of Moms 4 Housing advocates. “Some of them lost their partners through car accidents, or bad health because they didn’t have access to health care. So we want people to understand that this could be anyone.”
Fife continued to say the housing problems Moms 4 Housing face affects everyone. “The people who can save up enough for a down payment on homes have to compete with corporations like Wedgewood who have hundreds of shell organizations and limited liability corporations that buy houses in bulk,” Fife said.
According to NBC Bay Area, Wedgewood LLC is a southern California based real estate home-flipping giant with an extensive national portfolio and a business model “Centered around buying, fixing, and quickly flipping homes.”
Wedgewood said it would offer to pay a nonprofit shelter to house the women for two months if they moved out before the eviction, according to SFgate. The company also claimed they plan to work with a nonprofit to serve at-risk youth through jobs and skill development — according to Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan, who questioned the company’s intentions in a statement last week. “Wedgewood appears to have no office or personnel anywhere in this region, no local business license, and no track record can be found of performing this type of work,” said Kaplan.
Sam Singer, president of Singer Associates Public Relations San Francisco — the PR firm hired to represent Wedgewood — took to Twitter on Friday to respond to the court ruling. “Wedgewood will now renovate the Oakland home illegally occupied by squatters @moms4housing using at-risk Oakland youth who will benefit from learning new skills, improving neighborhood,” Singer said.
Walker was not arrested because she and Fife were at KPFA in Berkeley for a live broadcast with Democracy Now! at the moment of the eviction.