A group of homeless mothers who took up residence inside a vacant home in the gentrifying neighborhood of West Oakland, California, were forcibly evicted by deputies early Tuesday, ending a two-month long effort that has drawn attention to the state’s ongoing housing crisis.
Before dawn, armed Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies arrived to the crumbling Magnolia Street home to boot the Moms 4 Housing group. The women — 38-year-old Misty Cross, 46-year–old Tolani King and 25-year-old Jesse Turner — were arrested and later jailed for resisting eviction.
All three were released Tuesday afternoon, along with a man also arrested in the early morning operation, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Video of the incident showed deputies take a battering ram to the home’s front door, breaking it down. The women were escorted out minutes later with their hands bound as protesters took to the street, chanting for police to “let the moms go! let the moms go!” footage showed.
Their removal comes nearly a week after an Alameda County judge ruled the women had no right to stay in the vacant home, which was purchased by an investment firm after going into foreclosure last year. Judge Patrick McKinney gave the moms five days to get out, but they refused.
“What did they think was gonna happen?” a Twitter user wrote in reaction to news of the forced eviction.
For many, the women’s occupation was just another sign of the region’s housing shortage, but others were less than sympathetic to their plight.
“They had several eviction notices, which gave them adequate warning to leave, but they wanted to remain. This was the only other option,” another agreed. “They won’t get much time, but u can’t have people just taking over property that’s not theirs and refusing to leave.”
Moms 4 Housing, which bills themselves as a “collective of unhoused and insecurely housed mothers organizing to reclaim vacant homes from real estate speculators,” has also gained tons of support these last few months, with many siding with their belief that “housing is a human right.”
“There are thousands of empty buildings in this country [and] instead of allowing houseless moms and children to live peacefully in shelter, this is what our government does,” one supporter wrote.”Wishing safety and continued strength for @momsforhousing.”
Another user called the women’s efforts “inspiring,” adding: “This is the kind of work that homeless and housing non profit professionals need to be championing. If we can get radical on healthcare, why can’t we make genuinely radical demands when it comes to our homes?”
The response by heavily armed deputies and SWAT team officers during the eviction has also come under criticism. Describing the scene early Tuesday, the women said they were met with “tanks, robots, AR-15s, and dozens of soulless white men armed to the teeth.”
Dominique Walker, 34, who began occupying the three-bedroom home with the three other women in November, said despite their evictions, they feel they’re one step closer to addressing the ongoing housing crisis.
“This house was a statement,” she said, according to local station KQED. “It was a symbol of what needed to happen in Oakland. This was an absolute victory.” Walker also added that the mothers’ children were not present in the home at the time of the eviction.
The company that owns the home, real estate investment firm Wedgewood Properties, has since boarded the property with plywood, and a deep trench has been dug out front to prevent anyone from accessing the residence. According to a NBC Bay Area investigation, the company is said to own over 130 properties across the city through multiple LLCs.
In a statement, a Wedgewood spokesperson said the company “is pleased the illegal occupation of its Oakland home has ended peacefully.”
Cross, King, Turner and others with the Moms 4 Housing movement said they will continue their efforts in the wake of the eviction and promised “we’ll be back.”
Watch more in the video below.