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Mothers who squatted in West Oakland house released from jail

Homeless mothers ordered to leave residence

Two homeless mothers in California, who were arrested Tuesday for continuing to squat in a vacant house, have posted bail and returned to the privately owned property in West Oakland they've occupied since November. 

Tolani King and Misty Cross were arrested in the early hours of Tuesday by Alameda County sheriff's deputies. They are part of a larger group of six mothers who call themselves Moms 4 Housing, a group that has garnered national attention for pushing for affordable housing in the Bay Area. Two Moms 4 Housing supporters, Jesse Turner and Walter Baker, were also arrested.

Dominique Walker, another Moms 4 Housing member, said the moms have grown close in recent months while living together and have formed what she described as an unbreakable sisterhood. Walker said Tuesday that she was concerned about how King and Cross were being treated while in police custody and vowed the women wouldn't stay in jail for long.

"I'm angry that my sisters are in handcuffs," Walker said. "Our supporters are in handcuffs all because we have a right to housing. We're coming to get you."

King, Cross, Turner and Baker were booked into Santa Rita jail in Dublin on misdemeanor obstructing offenses. They were released after posting $5,000 bail each, according to jail records. Surrounded by supporters, the Moms 4 Housing members returned to the home and held a barbecue outside the fences while they contemplated their next move.

An Alameda County ruled last week that Moms 4 Housing had "no valid claim of possession to" the three-bedroom home on Magnolia Street. The ruling meant Moms 4 Housing had five days to vacate the house or deputies would be allowed to forcibly remove the mothers. 

Walker said she was being interviewed for a radio segment about the case when deputies converged on the house. Children were not in the home during the incident, Walker added. 

The home's owner, Redondo Beach-based real estate investment firm Wedgewood, bought the West Oakland home for $501,078 in a foreclosure auction late last year. Wedgewood officials stepped inside the home for the first time on Tuesday. The company has said it plans to renovate the home in hopes of selling it to a first-time homebuyer. 

Wedgewood officials condemned local lawmakers for supporting Moms 4 Housing in a statement this week, saying city council members in particular have spent too much time grabbing media attention alongside the mothers.  

"Instead, they should concentrate on finding a non-violent and progressive way to address the Oakland housing crisis that doesn't rely on the theft of other people's homes to solve their problems and address this serious issue," Wedgewood said. 

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