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Homeless moms occupying Oakland house removed in late-night raid

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Mothers say the law values property over people; property owner says “justice is served”

Two women, one in a scarf, flanked by people with protest signs.
Tolani King, left, cries next to Sharena Thomas, both from the group Moms 4 Housing, as they talk with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf at a rally on Jan. 7.
Photo by AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Update: Sheriffs removed the families from the house 2928 Magnolia early Tuesday morning, prompting a confrontation between cops and protesters who arrived in hopes of stymying the eviction.

Police were heavily armed, dressed in fatigues and helmets, and even brought along an armored vehicle and battering ram, breaking down the door of the home to remove the occupants.

Alameda County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly justified the use of force by saying that the doors were barricaded, telling KPIX “We could not enter the home with a key or a locksmith.”

Four people were arrested as protesters jeered, but nobody attempted to intervene directly with the eviction.

“They came in like an army,” Dominique Walker (one of the original two occupying mothers and frequent point-person for the group), told reporters afterwards. Despite the removal, Walker predicted, “This movement is just beginning.”

Sam Singer, speaking for the SoCal-based company that owns the house, said that Wedgewood is pleased that the occupation “has ended peacefully.”

A group of homeless mothers who moved their families into a vacant house in West Oakland to protest the housing crisis now face an inevitable but disappointing ouster. A superior court judge ruled in favor of the company that owns the home and ordered a pending eviction on Friday.

The parents, collectively known as Moms 4 Housing, say they’re not surprised by the outcome but accuse owner Wedgewood Properties of profiteering at the expense of Oakland families and say that the housing market is rigged against working people.

Wedgewood spokesperson Sam Singer said, “Justice is served” after Judge Patrick R. McKinney’s ruling.

McKinney had previously put off eviction until after the mothers had their day in court. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has five days from the issuing of the order to serve the order.

Dominique Walker, 34, and Sameerah Karim, 41, moved into the house at 2928 Magnolia Street in November. Both women say they’ve been unable to find long-term housing even when working full-time, and say that the house has been vacant for years.

Attorneys representing the mothers argued that they have a legal right to remain in the home, citing both constitutional and international law. But the judge dismissed the claims, saying, “the court recognizes the importance of these issues but [...] they are outside the scope of this proceeding.”

The Oakland Community Land Trust, a housing nonprofit, offered to buy the house from Wedgewood on behalf of the occupying families and repeated the offer on Friday, evidently to no avail.

Wedgewood, meanwhile, made a variety of bids to remove the families while still saving face, including offering to pay for two months of shelter post-eviction through a local charity and tapping former Super Bowl champ James Washington of all people to petition them to leave of their own accord. (The company says they’ll employ Washington’s Shelter 37 nonprofit to rehab the home before selling it.)

After the judge’s order, Singer said on behalf of the company that Wedgewood sympathizes with the homeless families, but also called the ruling “correct legal, moral, and ethical” and the occupation “violent, dangerous, and unsuccessful.”

Leah Simon-Weisberg, Legal Director for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), a tenants group assisting Moms 4 Housing, said via email that “the courts’ hands are tied because in this country property rights are valued over human rights” and suggested that California’s constitution should be amended to address the housing crisis.

Moms 4 Housing attracted support from a variety of public figures in and around Oakland, including elected officials like Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan. As of Monday morning the city has not yet been removed them from the property.