Alameda County prosecutors dropped charges against the group Moms 4 Housing and its supporters on Thursday, nearly a month after they were forcefully evicted and briefly jailed from the vacant West Oakland home they were squatting in.
“This is the right result; the just result,” EmilyRose Johns, an attorney representing Moms 4 Housing, said in a press release. Johns also called for the sheriff to release the arrest reports to the public.
“Residents of Alameda County have the right to know the County’s justification for such an audacious display of force to remove mothers practicing non-violent civil disobedience from a previously vacant home, and to know the cost to the taxpayers for such terrorizing behavior,” Johns said.
Four people were arrested during an early-morning eviction in January, reports The Mercury News: Misty Cross, Tolani King, members of the Moms 4 Housing Group, and two of their supporters, Jesse Turner and Walter Baker. Moms 4 Housing began living in the vacant home in November not as an act of desperation, but as an act of protest: They wanted to call attention to the Bay Area’s housing crisis, which has driven many low-income families and residents out onto the streets.
As VICE noted in its writeup of the collective action:
In the 57 days between occupation and eviction, the mothers attracted an immense amount of local media attention, highlighted the inherent injustices of a housing system delivered through capitalism, and became symbols for people around the country and world who are experiencing their own forms of housing insecurity.
After the high-profile eviction and arrests, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf brokered a deal with the housing company that purchased the vacant home. The Magnolia Street property will now belong to the Oakland Community Land Trust—a victory for Moms 4 Housing, since the trust converts properties into affordable housing.
But the work of Moms 4 Housing extends well beyond one home in Oakland. As KQED reports, the group is now having preliminary discussions with California State Assemblyman Rob Bonta to make safe, affordable housing protected under the state constitution. The two parties are currently working out details for legislation that would establish “a fundamental human right to housing,” according to one of the Moms 4 Housing attorneys.
Osha Neumann, an attorney with the East Bay Community Law Center and longtime advocate for the homeless, explained the thinking behind such legislation:
“It has to begin with the recognition of what it takes to be a human being,” Neuman told KQED. “If someone has a right to life, someone has a right to what is required to live that life. And housing, shelter is certainly one of those things.”