Moms4Housing Shakes Up Movement For Housing Rights

by Stasha

Around 5 AM on January 14th, the Alameda Sheriff’s Department arrived to evict a group of black mothers — Misty Cross, Tolani King, Dominique Walker, Sameerah Karim — and their children from a house in West Oakland that they had been squatting for upwards of 50 days. Police arrived in alarming fashion: with an armored vehicle, fatigues, semi-automatic rifles, and a bomb-detecting robot. It’s incredible the kind of resources the state suddenly has at its disposal when it comes to mobilizing violence against black folks and the unhoused. This spectacle of force was unfortunately not an anomaly in an area where a hyperactive style of policing has become the primary state response to the neediness of the unhoused.

Moms 4 Housing, a collective of unhoused and marginally-housed women, along with the direct support of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), captured broad attention and support from a responsive network of people, including neighbors and local community organizers. The owner of the house, Wedgewood, a colonizer land speculation and eviction racket located in Southern California, acquired the property at a foreclosure auction and had been planning to flip it. The eviction came on the heels of a decision by the Alameda County Superior Court which denied the mothers’ claim of a right to possession and ordered that they vacate the property within five days.

Though they were ultimately removed from the property, the acquisition of the exact house itself was not intended to be the final goal and stopping point of the action. It’s worth noting that this is not ACCE’s first fight with Wedgewood or CEO Greg Geiser. In 2014, ACCE supported a couple in Los Angeles who had been evicted by Wedgewood and picketed outside of Geiser’s home. That said, the Moms pulled off an impressive demonstration of the kind of community power and energy that is active around housing justice in the Bay Area.

demonstration Moms4Housing

The tactic of this Moms’ action involved specifically targeting vacant houses being used as investment vehicles by “big banks and speculators,” according to the Moms website, rather than as lived-in homes for the growing numbers of people who need them. The messaging was straightforward: housing is a human right; vacancies outnumber the unhoused; the problem is distribution, not supply. The estimated number of unhoused residents in Oakland was just over 4000 in 2019, 70% of whom are black (in a city that is 25% black). The crisis in housing is a man-made, gross distortion in access to critically needed shelter and other basic resources for living.

As they navigated various court dates and the looming fear of eviction, the Moms were able to regularly mobilize hundreds of supporters to the house and to the court in Hayward, sometimes simultaneously. The night of the eviction, hundreds of supporters arrived to the house within minutes of a call for emergency support. Police waited until the crowd dwindled down to about 50 people, early in the morning, to carry out the eviction. The Alameda county sheriff department said the eviction cost “tens of thousands of dollars” – an amount which could house the mothers for the better part of a year if not longer. The moms, meanwhile, have relocated to a shelter. Politicians keep asking: just how much below the bare minimum do the poor deserve? This was a good way of telling them: we’ll just take the houses ourselves, thanks.

Author: lagai

LAGAI-Queer Insurrection is one of the oldest radical queer liberation groups in the U.S. We publish UltraViolet, a more or less bimonthly newspaper, which is mailed free of charge to over 1500 people, including over 800 prisoners. Our website is www.lagai.org.

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