SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Two homeless women and a group of community activists attempted to move into a vacant home in San Francisco’s Castro District Friday in protest against the city not using available housing during the coronavirus pandemic before SFPD officers took swift action to stop them.
At least three individuals were led away by police from the home they claimed has been vacant for years. Video shot by Chopper 5 showed one of them in handcuffs.
Earlier Friday, activists with the group ReclaimSF moved to occupy the home at 4555 19th Street in the Castro in protest as they demanded housing for all people and the right to shelter in place during the global pandemic.
“We want to make this vacant house — which, again, has been vacant for four years — a home for two unhoused women in San Francisco who haven’t had a home in a very long time who need a safe and healthy place to live in this pandemic,” said Sam Lew with Reclaim SF.
The group said that they took inspiration from the success the activist group Moms 4 Housing had in Oakland earlier this year when they occupied a vacant home on Magnolia Street that was eventually purchased by the group.
Using a megaphone, ReclaimSF activist Couper Arona — a disabled firefighter — spoke from a window at the home, saying the global pandemic made this action necessary.
“London Breed, this is what I had to do — what we had to do — to find housing. We needed to. I had nowhere to go,” said Arona.
A large police response brought about 15 SFPD units to the scene that blocked off 19th Street.
Shortly before 3 p.m., San Francisco police declared the protest an unlawful assembly and moved in on the house, ordering the protesters to disperse.
— Andria Borba (@AndriaKPIX) May 1, 2020
Police would not confirm any arrests, only releasing a statement that said, “some individuals made entry into an unoccupied residence and locked themselves inside” and that officers were in contact with the individuals.
The activists say the mayor has empty hotel rooms at her disposal to house the homeless and other tools she has not used.
“In 2018, voters passed Prop C with 62 percent of the vote, which should’ve opened 4,000 homes to homeless people,” said Quiver Watts with ReclaimSF. “It has yet to be respected and we are still waiting on those homes, but we can’t wait another day. It’s unconscionable to leave people outside anytime, but during a pandemic, it’s absolutely inexcusable.”
The activists with ReclaimSF said they would not stop with Friday’s action and planned to continue to target vacant homes in the city and county of San Francisco until they are being properly used to house the homeless in accordance with Prop C.