The two women who were arrested Tuesday morning for refusing to comply with a court-ordered eviction at the home in which they were squatting in West Oakland were released following misdemeanor charges. Now the group Moms 4 Housing is hoping they can keep the momentum going from their act of protest.
Not all of the mothers remained in the house to await the sheriff's arrival on Tuesday, and like many aspects of their occupation of the home at 2928 Magnolia Street, this seemed well planned. Following the judge's decision on Friday to allow the eviction to proceed, the women's children were all relocated to safer spaces. Lead organizer Dominique Walker, who was the first to occupy the home with her two children on November 18, was on hand to speak to the media but was not still in the house, and she was not arrested.
The two women arrested were 38-year-old Misty Cross and 46-year-old Tolani King, and there were two men arrested along with them — not one, as previously reported. As the Mercury News details, supporters Jesse Turner and Walter Baker were also booked into Santa Rita jail on Tuesday along with the women, and all four were released by afternoon following charges of obstructing an eviction and resisting arrest. A GoFundMe page to raise money for their bail has now raised over $38,000.
By the time the Alameda County Sheriff's deputies arrived Tuesday, the point that Moms 4 Housing was trying to make had been well heard across the country. As the New York Times reports, Chicago-based activist Fred Hampton Jr., whose Black Panther father, Fred Hampton, was killed in a police raid in 1969, flew in to join in the demonstration at the West Oakland house, and was there early Tuesday as well. As he told the paper of the moms' act of civil disobedience to highlight the housing crisis, "This transcends the borderlines of Oakland."
And Ms. Walker is not just a random homeless woman who took up residence in a vacant home that was not hers. Per the Times, she works for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, which has organized other housing protests and issues reports on vacant units in California.
Walker was claiming victory Tuesday despite the fact that her protest had ended in eviction — because clearly all involved knew that would likely be the outcome. "We’ve been in his house for 50 days of shelter for us and our children,” she tells the Times. "That’s a win and it’s a start and people are starting to realize that, ‘Hey, housing is a human right or it should be.’ So that to me, is the absolute success."
As for Wedgewood Properties, the real estate investment firm that plans to flip the home after purchasing it last July, the Alameda County Sheriff is considering billing them for eviction, to the tune of "tens of thousands of dollars." A spokesperson for the company, Sam Singer, tells KTVU he is "unaware" of any such bill.
The occupation of the home also garnered the sympathy of multiple politicians, including state Senator Nancy Skinner, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who told KTVU she was appalled by how the Sheriff's Department handled the pre-dawn eviction. "These are mothers; they're not criminals," Schaaf said, adding, "I applaud them for giving everyone a wakeup call that this is unacceptable that mothers have to go through these levels to put a roof over their children's heads."
As for what's next, the sheriff is allegedly on notice for a potential second occupation of a vacant home, though Moms 4 Housing hasn't yet indicated they will try this again.
Carroll Fife, the regional director of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, tells the Mercury News that Moms 4 Housing will continue to try to raise awareness about real estate speculators and their impacts on the housing market by "any and every means necessary."
As Walker told reporters on Monday, making the group's larger point, "We want speculators out of our community. They’re coming in, they’re profiting off harm that’s done in our community and we want them out."