FILE – In this Dec. 30, 2019, file photo, Sharena Thomas, left, Carroll Fife, center, Dominique Walker, second from right, and Tolani KIng, right, stand outside a vacant home they took over on Magnolia Street in West Oakland, Calif. (Kate Wolffe/KQED via AP, File)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Four homeless women ordered by a judge last week to leave a vacant house they illegally occupied in Oakland were evicted before dawn Tuesday by heavily armed sheriff’s deputies in a case that highlighted California’s severe housing shortage and growing numbers of homeless people.

Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies, some dressed in military-style fatigues, escorted the women from the home and bound their hands with plastic ties as dozens of community activists on the sidewalk chanted “Let the moms go! Let the moms go!” and recorded the chaotic scene with their cell phones. Video showed one deputy slamming a battering ram against the house’s front door.

 

“They came in like an Army for mothers and babies,” Dominique Walker, one of the mothers, told reporters. “We have the right to housing. This is just the beginning.”

The women and their children moved into the three-bedroom house in November, partly to protest the methods of speculators who they have claimed snap up distressed homes and leave them empty despite California’s severe housing shortage and growing numbers of homeless people.

Federal officials said last month that an uptick in the country’s homeless population was driven entirely by a 16% increase in California, where the median sales price of a home is $500,000 and is even higher in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Patrick McKinney ruled last Friday the women did not have the right to stay and had to leave within five days. McKinney had previously issued a tentative ruling in favor of Wedgewood Inc., the real estate investment group that bought the Oakland property at a foreclosure auction last year.

Still, McKinney allowed lawyers for Walker, and her recently formed collective, Moms 4 Housing, to make their case. They argued that housing is a right and that the court must give the women the right to possess the house, especially because it sat vacant for so long and because the alternative would be to send the women to live on the streets.

Wedgewood in a statement it was pleased “the illegal occupation of its Oakland home has ended peacefully.”

Moms 4 Housing claimed on its Twitter account that two of the four women who had been inside the home were arrested.

“We’ve built a movement of thousands of Oaklanders who showed up at a moments notice to reject police violence and advocate for homes for families,” the group said after the eviction. “This isn’t over, and it won’t be over until everyone in the Oakland community has a safe and dignified place to live.”

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