Moms 4 Housing Members Evicted From Oakland Home, 4 Arrested

3 min
Dominique Walker and supporters speak to those assembled outside 2928 Magnolia St., a vacant house in west Oakland that Walker has lived in without permission from the owner since Nov. 18, 2019. (Kate Wolffe/KQED)

Updated at 5 p.m. Tuesday

With guns drawn, Alameda County sheriff’s deputies enforced an eviction order early Tuesday morning, arresting two mothers who had moved into an empty West Oakland home, along with two of their supporters.

Officials confirmed the arrests of mothers Tolani King, 46, and Misty Cross, 38, as well as protesters Jesse Turner, 25, and Walter Baker, 28. All were charged with misdemeanors for obstructing police officers in their duties and are being held at Santa Rita Jail.

By Tuesday afternoon, all four had been released. The two moms, who were released first, and greeted by a small crowd of supporters, called conditions inside the jail terrible, and said they were now more fired up than ever to continue their fight.

On Friday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Patrick R. McKinney ruled against Dominique Walker, a homeless mother who had moved into the West Oakland home, and directed sheriff's officials to enforce an eviction within five days.

Walker was being interviewed by the news show "Democracy Now!" in San Francisco when the eviction occurred, at around 5:15 a.m.

“They came in like an army for mothers and babies. They did this strategically while we were on 'Democracy Now!,’ ” Walker said. “I’m angry that my sisters are in handcuffs, our supporters are in handcuffs, all because we have the right to housing.”

A garage is boarded up at 2928 Magnolia St. after two occupants and two protesters were arrested on Jan. 14, 2020. (Molly Solomon/KQED)

Walker, 34, and other mothers began occupying the three-bedroom home on Magnolia Street in November to avoid living on the streets. The mothers said the house had been vacant for two years, and that they were acting partly in protest against speculators buying up properties in the Bay Area and leaving them empty amid a growing homelessness crisis.

Hundreds of supporters began gathering outside the house Monday night after they were alerted by the mothers who said they were informed by a locksmith who was planning to meet law enforcement at the house. The occupants’ children spent the night elsewhere for their protection.

A small group of supporters remained through the night, but many media outlets and supporters had left when the eviction occurred. The Alameda County Sheriff's Office said about 30 deputies and a half dozen tactical team members arrived at the scene with a substantial arsenal, including a BearCat, a wheeled armored personnel carrier resembling a small tank. The company that owns the home, Redondo Beach-based real estate investment group Wedgewood Properties, boarded shut the property with plywood.

When news of the deputies' presence went out to supporters through a text alert Tuesday morning, more than 200 assembled within an hour to protest outside the house.

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After the arrests, Wedgewood Properties released a statement through their spokesman Sam Singer. He said the company is pleased the occupation “ended peacefully.” Wedgewood said it plans to work with the Los Angeles-based nonprofit, Shelter 37, to renovate the home for at-risk Oakland youths and split the profits with the nonprofit.

“The solution to Oakland’s housing crisis is not the redistribution of citizens’ homes through illegal break-ins and seizures by squatters,” Singer said. “That is the violent, dangerous and unsuccessful path taken by this handful of activists and supported by three Oakland City Council members and the Oakland Community Land Trust.”

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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