Jahahara Alkebulan-Ma'at received an eviction notice from his Oakland apartment on Christmas Day 2016. The residence in question is a home near Lake Merritt that was converted into three separate apartments. Alkebulan-Ma'at went to court to try to stay in his home of 22 years at 369 MacArthur Boulevard because that is generally what people do when they feel they are being unfairly evicted.
His landlords, the building's new owners, Eugene Gorelik and Jessica Sawczuk, then hung a large banner, according to the East Bay Express, on the brown shingle cottage asking that people give Donald Trump a chance. The owners at one point allegedly claimed that they wanted to move into the home themselves but eventually, plans to turn the lot into a multi-unit apartment were revealed and the lot is already a pending sale, at least according to a Redfin listing for the address. The whole time, the now 64-year-old Alkebulan-Ma'at dealt with Oakland courts to fight the eviction. And in the meantime the landlords allegedly turned off his heat, water, and electricity.
The Trump sign, which originally hung high between two trees on the property so that it could be seen from Interstate 580, drew the ire of neighbors and was eventually stolen. After that, Gorelik apparently put a new sign with the same message on the front of the home, as shown above, and "surrounded the billboard with barbed wire, and lit it up with flood lights," according to the East Bay Express.
According to his attorney, Alkebulan-Ma'at went to court on Match 15 to negotiate a resolution with Gorelik and Sawczuk. The parties were instructed to return to court five days later. But before anyone could get back to court, someone changed the locks on the house and began demolishing the property. Some of Alkebulan-Ma'at's belongings were still inside his apartment, and other items from inside his home were selected by strangers to survive the demolition inside a storage container.
In a small slice of justice, the City of Oakland is now suing Gorelik and Sawczuk for violating Oakland's Tenant Protection Ordinance and California's Bane Act for harassing, threatening and unlawfully evicting a tenant.
As of last week, Alkebulan-Ma'at still doesn't have a place to live, as the Chronicle reports, and he's still trying to get his stuff back from Gorelik and Sawczuk.
Attorney Joe Colangelo explains to the Chronicle that the landlords had tried to say that Alkebulan-Ma'at's unit was not protected under the Oakland ordinance because the unit was "either fully or partially illegal." "And that turned out not to be the case," Colangelo said. "The city never made that determination that his unit wasn’t covered."
For his part, Gorelik tells the EBX, "I treat people the way I want to be treated," and insists that the building was in tear-down shape, and that Alkebulan-Ma'at was offered a relocation stipend. He also claims that Alkebulan-Ma'at was given soft notice of the new owners' intentions before they purchased the property, and that he has so far refused offers of tenant assistance.
The building, originally a single-family home, was at some point divided into three units, and it's unclear if that was done legally.
Meanwhile, a city zoning inspector is still mulling whether the Trump sign and barbed wire violate any codes. Gorelik says he's baffled by all the hate that the sign has inspired, saying to the EBX in an email, "What’s to complain about. Being patriotic?"