Housing

Sheriff’s Deputies Enforce Eviction of Squatting Moms at Oakland Home

Four arrested, including two moms; activists lash out at deputies for use of force in gaining entry

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Alameda County sheriff's deputies arrived at an Oakland home Tuesday morning to enforce an eviction order in the case of homeless mothers squatting in the house.

At about 5:30 a.m., deputies were seen forcing open the front door at the Magnolia Street property, where the women have been squatting since Nov. 18. Eventually, the women were escorted out of the home peacefully.

Three people, two women and a man, were arrested inside the home without incident during the eviction, according to sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly. A fourth person was arrested outside the home on charges of resisting and obstructing an officer in the performance of duties. All four had been released by Tuesday afternoon.

The deputies used a battering ram to get the front door open because the door was barricaded, and the women refused to exit the home voluntarily, sheriff's officials said.

The women's children were not inside the house at the time of the eviction. After the occupants were removed, the house was boarded up, with the eviction notice taped to the door, and by Tuesday afternoon there was a chain-link fence around the property.

Last week, a judge ruled that Dominique Walker and Sameerah Karim could not lawfully stay in the home owned by Wedgewood Properties. The women belong to a group called Moms4Housing.

Protesters and activists supporting the Moms4Housing cause showed up at the scene, and some were visibly upset and lashed out at the deputies.

"What the Alameda County Sheriff Department did today was an act of war on the Oakland community. A tank and military grade weapons to take out mothers and babies," Moms4Housing posted on social media.

Walker delivered a statement later Tuesday morning:

"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 moments notice to reject police violence and advocate for homes for families. This isn’t over, and it won’t be over until everyone in the Oakland community has a safe and dignified place to live."

Wedgewood released its own statement Tuesday, saying in part: "Wedgewood is pleased the illegal occupation of its Oakland home has ended peacefully. That is what the company has sought since the start. ... The solution to Oakland’s housing crisis is not the redistribution of citizens’ homes through illegal break-ins and seizures by squatters."

The mothers lost their legal battle to stay in the house on Magnolia Street, and a judge last week issued an eviction order to be carried out by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office within five business days.

"We are prepared to not leave; we will not resist, we are not resisting, but we will practice nonviolent civil disobedience," Walker said Monday.

Wedgewood offered to pay to shelter the women for the next two months, but the women called the offer an insult and continued to say, "The moms, and the community behind us, will not leave the property."

Wedgewood has said it is working with nonprofit Shelter 37 to renovate the house using at-risk youth. But Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan, who was among the Moms4Housing supporters, said the company has a "troubling history" and there is no evidence it is serious about launching the project at the Magnolia Street house.

"Wedgewood owns and buys hundreds of houses. Yet, thus far, they have not offered any of their other properties into the program they claim to be launching," Kaplan said in a statement. "Wedgewood has stated they would then sell the house and send a portion of the proceeds to groups in Los Angeles, leaving no benefit to the local community."

Protesters in support of the women rallied on Monday.

Moms4Housing said this is the start of a new civil rights movement, adding that politicians have reached out to the group, including someone from Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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