Cops in Riot Gear Showed Up to Evict the Homeless Moms Occupying a Vacant Oakland House

“Sheriff is banging on the door right now please come to 2928 Magnolia Street right now to witness and film,” the moms texted to their advocates.
January 14, 2020, 4:14pm
“Sheriff is banging on the door right now please come to 2928 Magnolia Street right now to witness and film,” the moms wrote to the advocates who'd been guarding them.

Just before 6 a.m. Tuesday, the four homeless mothers occupying an investor-owned home in Oakland texted the supporters who’d been faithfully guarding them since a court ordered their eviction last week. They were about to be kicked out.

“Sheriff is banging on the door right now please come to 2928 Magnolia Street right now to witness and film,” they wrote.

Video later showed sheriff’s deputies with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office — who were ordered to carry out the eviction within five days after a judge ruled in the property owner’s favor Friday — trying to break down the door and return the property to vacancy. Advocates, who had been summoned to the home several hours earlier, appeared to surround the house on short notice. Marisa Kendall, a reporter for the Mercury News, said cops showed up in riot gear in turn to ward them off.

Dominique Walker, a 34-year-old mother to two young girls and member of the coalition that calls itself Moms 4 Housing, promised after Alameda County Superior Court Judge Patrick McKinney’s ruling that her cadre of moms and kids wasn’t leaving without a fight. They’d been there since November and celebrated the holidays there.

The sheriff’s deputies came when she was out of the home for a media interview, according to April Thomas, a spokesperson for Moms 4 Housing. Four people were arrested during the eviction — two mothers and two of their supporters, according to Thomas — but it wasn’t clear on what charges.

“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,” Walker said in a statement Tuesday. “We’ve built a movement of thousands of Oaklanders who showed up at a moment's 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.”

The moms had been illegally occupying the modest three-bedroom home since November, arguing that the property’s corporate owner should consider selling them the home at a fair price since housing has become so unaffordable in the Bay Area.

The mothers said they had a willing financier in the Oakland Community Land Trust, but that the homeowner wouldn’t come to the table to broker a deal.

The home is owned by Wedgewood Properties, a California-based company that buys and flips distressed homes. The company, which has called the mothers’ occupation “violent, dangerous, and unsuccessful,” urged the women to leave voluntarily. Saturday, the company released a press statement saying it had offered to pay the mothers’ housing and moving costs for two months so they could get back on their feet.

“Wedgewood is pleased this illegal occupation of its Oakland home has ended peacefully. That is what we have sought since the start,” Sam Singer, a spokesman for the company, said in a statement. “We will now work with a non-profit, Shelter 37, to renovate the home giving opportunities to at-risk Oakland youths and splitting the profits with the non-profit so that other youths may benefit.”

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has been threatening to remove the women from the home since last month. The women have warned that, if evicted, they’d simply rejoin the city’s 4,000 homeless who struggle every day to find space in a nearby shelter or a permanent home.

Cover: In this photo taken Dec. 30, 2019, Sharena Thomas, left, Carroll Fife, center, Dominique Walker, second from right, and Tolani KIng, right, stand outside a vacant home on Magnolia Street in West Oakland, Calif. (Kate Wolffe/KQED via AP)