Homes Not Jails seizes a vacant apartment that was recently an elderly man's home
After a few hours, the rally dispersed with much appreciation from those inside the apartment and what started as a group of seven SFPD squad cars dwindled to two. Tim, Elihu, Scott, Aaron, and Matt decided to remain in the building while the rest of us said goodbye and climbed out an open window.
The remaining members spent their second night in the building, but this time they didn't have to be quiet. Supporters brought the group pizzas and a neighbor offered to supply water to the group as long as they didn't mind if it came from her tap. They huddled in the same room playing cards and joking until Tehlirian and the SFPD made it through the front door, ending the occupation.
Each member was cited and released on the premises at 1:35 p.m. April 5 under penal code 602m for trespassing. Tehlirian stood by and observed while his lawyer, Zach Andrews, unsuccessfully pressed him to charge the group with breaking and entering. When the group dispersed, Tehlirian and a few members of the SFPD broke through a second door to gain access to the bottom level of the property.
When Tehlirian came out for a break, I tried to speak with him but he refused to answer my questions. Shortly afterward, I met up with the HNJ group at the Tenants Union and asked Tim if he thought they were successful in accomplishing their goals. "Not completely," he said. "But we made the most with what we had."
Tenants may not have the law on their side in many cases, but in a city that is two-thirds renters, they have each other. And for a few days, they had one more home. The group's feelings seemed to be summed up by this quote on a HNJ pamphlet: "We are too valuable to live huddled in the rain, in the parks, in dangerous unhealthy shelters. Freezing, dying so that others can realize profits."
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