Will L.A. Housing Activists Launch an Oakland-Style Movement?

The story of four homeless Bay Area moms occupying a vacant house has inspired some Angelenos to consider more radical solutions to the housing crisis

Four homeless mothers occupying a vacant house in Oakland were forcibly evicted by police armed with riot gear and a tank on Monday morning, ending a 57-day battle over the property that sparked court proceedings, protests, and widespread coverage by local and national media.

Aside from a desperate attempt to seek shelter in an area where rent prices are skyrocketing, the occupation by the four black mothers—who call their group Moms 4 Housing—was a form of protest, intended to highlight the injustices of a capitalist housing system. Despite the eviction, they’ve called the action a success, insisting that it’s only the beginning of a much larger movement.

“We’ve heard from people all over the world who are inspired by our nonviolent civil disobedience. People who say that our action has shifted their perspective and helped them understand that housing is a human right,” Dominique Walker, a group member and spokeswoman, said in a statement in Tuesday. “This isn’t over, and it won’t be over until everyone in the Oakland community has a safe and dignified place to live.”

The moms’ fight against Wedgewood Inc., the Redondo Beach-based house-flipping giant that owned the Oakland property, certainly caught the attention of housing advocates in Los Angeles. In a city with a similarly strapped housing market that is helping fuel an ever-worsening homelessness crisis, many organizers had already been pushing the need to use more direct forms of action to prevent displacement, floating ideas like eviction blockades or the reclamation of publicly owned property.

Pete White, director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, says he expects Moms 4 Housing will serve as a “spark plug” for a growing takeover movement on the West Coast, similar to the Occupy Homes movement that attempted to prevent the foreclosure of peoples’ homes following the early 2000s recession.

“I mean, people need shelter,” says White. “We might as well marry shelterless people with housing and or shelter. We see Moms 4 Housing and their tactics as something that is well in line for what we believe we’re going to see in the near future in Los Angeles.”

On Thursday, LACAN and several other L.A. advocacy groups will stage a candlelight vigil in solidarity with Moms 4 Housing in Arlington Heights. “We want to extend acknowledgement that we see the birth of this journey, of the housing takeover movement, happening in Oakland,” says White. “And we want to say, yes, we want to support you from down South, but also to say that one house is just the beginning.”

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