UPDATED: 2:19 p.m. ET —
A standoff between a group of homeless mothers in northern California and law enforcement took a decidedly militaristic turn early Tuesday morning when the group of Black women was evicted from a vacant home they had recently moved into. Videos posted to social media showed cops from the Alameda Sheriff’s Office manning tanks and armed with high-powered rifles typically associated with war and terrorism to evict and arrest the women from the property in Oakland.
The development in Oakland came as the state tried to confront its growing homelessness crisis that has disproportionately affected Black people.
Four people were arrested and booked into Santa Rita Jail in the nearby town of Dublin in Alameda County. Misty Cross and Tolani King, members of the Moms 4 Housing collective that targeted by cops, and supporters Walter Baker and Jesse Turner were taken into custody. The group is led by Dominique Walker, a homeless mother of two and a survivor of domestic violence.
The mothers in the home had removed their children in anticipation of the raid, according to SF Gate, which reported that they “moved into the three-bedroom house without permission in November, partly to protest the methods of speculators who they say snap up distressed homes and leave them empty despite the housing crisis.”
That property was strategically chosen beginning last month because it is owned by a local real estate company that’s been accused of predatory practices. “Wedgewood Inc. bought the property for $501,000 at a foreclosure auction last year” and “had planned to flip the 1,500-square-foot property,” according to SF Gate.
“Instead of allowing us to buy this home through the Oakland Community Land Trust for exactly what they paid for it, Wedgewood CEO Greg Geiser has chosen to enact physical violence on us and our families,” Moms 4 Housing said in a statement released to the media early Tuesday morning. “We won’t leave our home, and our neighbors, friends and family are standing with us in solidarity.”
The episode was yet further proof of how America and California, in particular, have criminalized homelessness.
A crowdfunding account was started later on Tuesday to help pay for their bail and other related costs. The Moms 4 Housing GoFundMe was already at more than $10,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.
The Bay Area has consistently ranked high if not at the top of the most expensive places to live in the U.S. and the spike of homelessness in California has been credited for inflating national numbers.
While Black people make up just 6.5 percent of everybody living in California, they also account for a whopping 40 percent if the state’s homelessness population, according to Census data.
“Black people are more likely than White people to experience homelessness in the United States, including in Los Angeles County,” according to a report from Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority that was published in September. “…The impact of institutional and structural racism in education, criminal justice, housing, employment, health care, and access to opportunities cannot be denied: homelessness is a by-product of racism in America.”