Since Dominique Walker of Moms 4 Housing moved into a vacant house on Magnolia Street with her children and several other women from the advocacy group on Nov. 18, 2019, a movement began to build in support of their messaging.
Supported by multiple advocacy groups like ACCE, APTP and East Oakland Collective, a well organized, researched and strategized plan of action unfolded keeping the moms in the media with a clear message—housing is a human right that should be accessible to all, not just those with the most assets.
“The system is designed to protect the wealthy. It wasn’t designed for us so we never thought we would win in the unjust system. Yet we are here and we’re not leaving,” Walker said in a press conference after a judge ruled in favor of the corporate house flipping owner Wedgwood on Jan. 10.
“We are bringing awareness to this national and global housing crisis. And we don’t intend to stop. Housing is a human right,” said Walker. “We’re working to change not only the loss here but all over the world around housing. We want to create a housing registry. We want to outlaw short term rentals. We want to be able to use eminent domain to get housing from these corporate speculators out of our communities.”
Director of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action Carroll Fife spoke first at the press conference calling attention to a narrative she said she saw often in media that blamed the moms for being homeless.
”I really want to highlight how this particular situation has called into the forefront of how people are not valued,” Fife said. “I hear that they should work harder. That they shouldn’t have children.”
“They work two or three jobs,” Fife said of Moms 4 Housing advocates. “Some of them lost their partners through car accidents, or bad health because they didn’t have access to health care. So we want people to understand that this could be anyone.”
Fife continued to say the housing problems Moms 4 Housing face affects everyone. “The people who can save up enough for a down payment on homes have to compete with corporations like Wedgewood who have hundreds of shell organizations and limited liability corporations that buy houses in bulk,” Fife said.
According to NBC Bay Area, Wedgewood LLC is a southern California based real estate home-flipping giant with an extensive national portfolio and a business model “Centered around buying, fixing, and quickly flipping homes.”
What ACCE and Moms 4 Housing brought in their campaign to “stay by any means” regardless of their facing arrest by Alameda County Sheriff’s Department is more questions about how broken the system around housing is than media outlets could keep up with. Questions like, how many homes do shell companies like Wedgwood own in the Bay Area, CA, and how do cash buying shell companies affect the housing market as they keep a large market of houses vacant in order to create demand and fluctuate the housing market.
In response to Moms 4 Housing refusal to leave after asking the company to sell the house to them at a reasonable price, Wedgewood hired Sam Singer, president of Singer Associates Public Relations San Francisco to deal with their messaging in media. The messaging may have backfired as Singer took to Twitter after the court ruling responding, “Wedgewood will now renovate the Oakland home illegally occupied by squatters @moms4housing using at-risk Oakland youth who will benefit from learning new skills, improving neighborhood,” Singer said.
Much of the success of Moms 4 Housing’s grassroots movement could be credited to its messaging on Twitter. Throughout every day they used articles with evidence to back up their argument that the system is broken and needs to be fixed immediately.
Supporters who came to the moms aid included Fred Hamton Jr., the son of Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton who said, “One of America’s policies, whether it be Detroit, Oakland, San Francisco, where ever the case may be, is to create chaos and then restore order,” he said of the dismantlement of West Oakland’s historically Black population.
Moms 4 Housing advocacy group was evicted from a West Oakland home in the early hours of Tuesday Jan. 14 after judgment came in favor of corporate homeowner Wedgewood on Friday, Jan. 10. The advocacy group took the case to court in an attempt to stay in the home.
Bearcat armored vehicles descended on the neighborhood at approximately 5 a.m. while deputies in camouflage and other police dressed in full riot gear blocked protesters’ view of the arrests performed by Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies.
In a mass text alert Moms 4 Housing said, “2 moms (Misty & Tolami) and 2 neighborhood supporters (Jesse & Walter) were arrested, and are being held at Santa Rita Jail.”
Walker was not arrested because she and Fife were at KPFA in Berkeley for a live broadcast with Democracy Now! at the moment texts were sent notifying the moment the sheriffs were banging on the door of the house.
Despite being evited, despite dealing with heavy militarized police, Moms 4 Housing had a historical win today as news came in that Wedgewood would negotiate the sale of the house to Moms 4 Housing through Oakland Community Land Trust after speaking to California Governor Gavin Newsom and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. During a press conference after the news was revealed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Moms 4 Housing Misty Cross said the house will be used for Moms 4 Housing operations so the fight for housing for all can continue.
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