Police Brutality Reaches All-Time Low as Two Mothers Are Arrested for Taking Up Residence in Abandoned House
“You don’t get to profit because there’s a war going on.”
— Attorney Leah Simon-Weisberg, on the topic of Moms 4 Housing
There is undoubtedly a war going on. That much is evident.
In Oakland and across the nation, homeless encampments dot the cityscape, raising questions about what type of crisis we’re actually facing. Somewhere between the parked RVs, the withered billowing tents, and the slew of sleeping bodies on the pavement, there lies another emblem of injustice. To be more precise, there lie approximately 691,343 emblems of injustice in the state of California alone. These emblems are none other than vacant buildings, falling apart on city streets, posing hazards to residents, neighborhoods, and the environment alike.
In a cruel twist of irony, the number of empty, dilapidated homes quadruples the number of Oakland-based citizens currently enduring the horrors of homelessness.
Moms 4 Housing is one of many collective organizations that have done the math. They’ve decided the best approach to this modern housing dilemma is also the most obvious: housing homeless people in the neglected buildings. By doing so, structures that once served as eyesores and potential sites for community disasters, are immediately transformed into safe havens. They are beacons of hope for mothers who would otherwise be living unsheltered with their small and vulnerable children.
And in the spirit of war, battle lines were drawn.
Armed soldiers swarmed the residences, wielding their tanks and their power in the faces of those they’d already oppressed. In that moment, Moms 4 Housing leaders Misty Cross and Tolani King were arrested like prisoners of war. They were hauled off in heavy metal and intentionally relocated out of the eyesight of their watchful supporters and into trenches of the unknown.
Media sources are referring to this act as “forcible eviction.” But we, the world, know better. This is police brutality plain and simple.
What we are witnessing here is action mirroring statistics. This is what happens in real life when a national government spends $989 billion on military funding and just $2.36 billion on homeless assistance funding.
The end result is 2.5 million homeless children and an arsenal of guided missiles, stealth fighters, pistols, drones, and naval destroyers, all ready to wage war on America’s poor if they dare defend themselves against the peril of extreme poverty.
In a recent tweet, Mom’s 4 Housing announced that:
“Armed sheriffs (sic) deputies in military fatigues with a TANK arrested #Moms4Housing leaders Misty and Tolani. We don’t know where they are. Right now we’re working on locating them.”
Who Are Moms 4 Housing and What Are the Details Surrounding this Horrific Event?
Moms 4 Housing is a group of homeless and marginally-housed Oakland-based mothers. Together they seek refuge for themselves and their children. They oppose the oppression caused by banking institutions and real estate moguls who are known to hold off on selling houses at an affordable price. While the houses they possess bankrupt entire communities, these profiteers rake in huge amounts of money at others’ expense.
Recently, several members of the group took up residence in a Magnolia Street home in Oakland, California. Their attempt to protect themselves, their children, and community members by doing so invoked an inexcusable, martial-law inspired response. Several residents, members and supporters have already been arrested.
They are not alone and this is not an isolated event. Another group under the moniker “Take Back the Land” made similar attempts that were met with equivalent arrests, violence, and hostility.
Housing as a Human Right, Housing Upkeep as an Environmental Right
One of the biggest issues we have as a nation battling homelessness, a housing crisis, systematic racism, gentrification, extreme poverty, and climate catastrophe, is that we tend to view these matters separately when they are, in fact, inseparable. Each of these issues feeds into the other and separating them isolates important details that paint the entire picture.
For example, allowing properties to sit vacant for years at a time is profitable for big banks and real estate holders. This profit however, comes at a severe price for residents of the neighborhood. Abandoned homes wreak havoc on the environment, they serve as a breeding ground for criminal activity, and they lower the value of neighboring properties. Those individuals and/or corporate stakeholders who own the houses do not have to withstand any of these repercussions. However, their actions simultaneously fuel issues like:
- Environmental racism
- Youth and family homelessness
- Climate change
- Extreme poverty
- Rising housing prices and much more
Restoring these homes to a safe, livable state alleviates these issues. It creates a safe space for children and families who would otherwise be homeless to function and grow. It restores confidence and brings communities together.
It’s important to note that we can’t build new homes fast enough to end the affordable housing crisis. Restoring abandoned homes is a viable, humane, and cost-effective alternative that really could work. So, why is it that efforts to do so are met with hostility, arrests, and all-around brutality? Have we really reached a point in time where empty houses hold more value to us than human lives?
Houses End Homelessness
Be sure to tell your local representatives that you support Moms 4 Housing and other similar groups. By doing so, you will be standing up for the homeless population, the environment, and vulnerable communities that deserve your support.
Update: On January 20, 2020, Moms 4 Housing announced they had reached an agreement to secure the Magnolia Street home. Negotiating with the City of Oakland and Wedgewood Properties, the Oakland Community Land Trust will purchase the property at a price not to exceed the appraised value. The not-for-profit trust focused on securing affordable housing for Oakland residents will then fix up the home for the group of mothers.