Roosevelt and Lumumba hadn’t been able to contact their landlord for three years when he showed up on the front porch one day, angrily demanding rent and even going so far as to lay hands on one of the tenants. Given the conditions of the apartment and the lack of proof that the man was indeed the absentee landlord, the residents of the four unit West Oakland building refused. Since a local developer bought the building in October of 2013, the company has directed employees and contractors to physically cut the power line running to the house, take the front door of the four unit building off its hinges (and then put it back on without a deadbolt), board up the windows and sabotage the mailboxes. A work crew had been hired to remove fixtures and appliances from the upstairs units, filling the backyard with trash before the tenants had even been legally evicted. One tenant was served with an eviction notice and has already lost in court. Roosevelt, a worker at SMAAC Youth Center, a drop in program for for GLBT kids and young adults in Oakland, has yet to even be served an eviction notice with his name on it.
On February 9th, the next door neighbors sent a callout to squatters and activists: our neighbors, the last Black tenants on the block, are being illegally evicted. The next morning, sheriffs circled the block but did not confront the tenants or their crowd of supporters in order execute the eviction.
Roosevelt and Lumumba want to stay and pay rent to their new landlord, but only if the following demands are satisfied:
1) Provide a front door that locks properly
2) Reconnect the electricity
3) Unblock the side yard so the tenants can resume off-street parking
4) Restore the mailboxes so that mail can be received
5) Bring the units up to code to provide a reasonable standard of living
6) Stop intimidation and illegal eviction tactics
This eviction defense is ongoing, and this post will be updated with ways to support in the coming days.
**Note: An earlier version of this post stated that the building had been acquired by REO. It was actually acquired by smaller local developer with an apparently similar agenda.