By David Sole
Breaking News: As we were about to post this article, a major victory was announced on the morning of Martin Luther King, Jr Day, January 20th. Wedgewood Properties, under tremendous national pressure, had made an agreement with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf to sell the property to the Oakland Land Trust. Misty Cross, one of the Moms, said on Democracy Now “We’re still skeptical… It went on with our mayor, Libby Schaaf, behind closed doors. We still don’t understand what the agreement was that brought them to the table, being as that we had City Council Representative Rebecca Kaplan and Nikki Bass to help negotiate agreements through the land trust from the beginning. So we’re still skeptical of what Wedgewood really wants to agree on and why are they now trying to settle things, after all of this trauma has been caused to us.”
Carrol Fife, Executive Director of ACCE, explained further: “The one demand that the moms had was to negotiate with the Oakland Community Land Trust. Since day one, November 18th, the position was that the organization, Wedgewood, that purchased this home in a foreclosure sale, sit down and negotiate for the sale of the house to the land trust so it would be permanently affordable.”
“And so, after the pressure — and I think it was the militarized response by Alameda County sheriffs — it was too much to bear, not only for Wedgewood, but also for our mayor, who had been silent on this issue up until then. We feel like it was all of that combined — the political pressure, the visible media — that made the parties want to come to the table, and also the moms calling out the governor for doing a homeless tour, bringing in trailers to address the crisis, 13 to 20 trailers to deal with the crisis, that really caused them to want to come to the table and negotiate.”
“But we’re getting word that Wedgewood may be getting cold feet on the offer, and they may be trying to do improvements to the property so they can sell it to the land trust for market rate, which is not what the moms are working to negotiate. They want to make sure that Wedgewood sells it to the land trust for no more than what they purchased it for. And so, if they are engaging in doing any repairs, we’re concerned that they may want to increase the sales price. And that’s just not — that’s just not tenable.”
Alameda County California Sheriffs in combat gear, armed with AR-15 assault rifles, along with military tanks and a robot, stormed a house in Oakland, California just before dawn on Tuesday, January 14. They broke down the door with a battering ram, then sent a robot inside. They weren’t going after a terrorist cell with weapons of mass destruction. No, the occupants of the formerly vacant home were three Black homeless mothers and their children. The Alameda County sheriffs were enforcing an eviction notice and arrested two of the mothers and two supporters. A third mother was doing a live interview on Democracy Now when the raid took place.
Misty Cross, one of the arrested moms said: “The mothers were treated like “a real terrorist threat”. It was like a movie scene. I had never seen anything like that.”
In response, Cat Brooks, former Oakland mayoral candidate and co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, one of many organizations who have spoken out in support of the Moms, said “I want the @ACSOSheriffs to state why they sent tanks and AR 15s for Black women and babies cause it was NOT because @APTPaction was involved. We’ve never provoked that type of response. EVER. So why??? For Black mothers and babies did you bring TANKS?” This in response to a KRON4 news report quoting the sheriff’s claim that they did this because an anti-cop organization was involved.
The Oakland organization #Moms4Housing had taken over the building which had been empty for several years. The group’s website ( https://moms4housing.org/) describes itself as “a collective of homeless and marginally housed mothers” who feel “no one should be homeless when homes are sitting empty.” They want to “reclaim housing for the Oakland community from the big banks and real estate speculators.” According to Moms4Housing “there are four times as many empty homes in Oakland as there are people without homes.” And with Oakland’s gentrified population, 25% of the city’s population is still African-American, but they make up at least 70% of the houseless population.
According to mercurynews.com (1/14/20) supporters of the mothers raised funds online and had gotten over $29,000 that same day, allowing those arrested to win release. Misty Cross, one of the arrested mothers, told Democracy Now “It was never about trying to stay in that house. The message we were trying to send out was to get people aware of policies and things that are in place that are making us not move forward in life.”
“This movement is just beginning, and we see what we’re up against, but we also see what they’re afraid of,” Dominique Walker, one of the Moms, said. “We all care and we all have humanity, and we want to change this system that has 4,000 to 6,000 people sleeping on the streets right now.”
According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (usich.gov/homelessness-statistics/ca/) California had approximately 130,000 homeless people as of January 2018. U.S. Department of Education data for the 2016-2017 school year reports that almost 250,000 public school students “experienced homelessness over the course of the year.”
The #Moms4Housing website proclaims “We are mothers, we are workers, we are human beings, and we deserve housing. Our children deserve housing. Housing is a human right.” See this video documenting their struggle: https://roarmag.org/films/moms4housing/
This post was updated on January 28, 2020. A photo was added and photo captions were edited.