LOS ANGELES (CN) — Hundreds of protesters blocked the entrance to a Los Angeles County Superior courthouse on Friday morning to highlight the burgeoning eviction crisis in California as relief put in place in the early days of the pandemic is set to end.
This month, the Judicial Council of California dissolved emergency eviction and foreclosure protections issued in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic fallout the virus.
Roughly 66,000 people are homeless in LA County — 41,000 in the city proper — according to data released January, before the novel coronavirus arrived in the United States. An impending rent and eviction crisis would exacerbate an already volatile situation in LA County.
On Friday morning, protesters blocked virtually everyone from entering the Stanley Mosk Civil Courthouse in downtown LA for the first few hours of the business day. They held a physical line at the main entrance with their bodies, banners and a camping tent.
The site was targeted because all evictions in LA County are processed at that courthouse.
Isaiah Garcia got into a shouting match with organizers as he tried to get to a hearing in his child custody case.
“I have nothing against these people,” said Garcia. “Let me get in. You’re keeping me from my child.”
A man who identified himself as an attorney was physically blocked from entering the building as he marched along the line of protesters.
“I want to just say they are blocking mothers and children from entering,” said the man, who shouted for the police. Sheriff’s deputies watched the protest from inside the courthouse and only allowed court staff to enter the building after they showed their county IDs.
By 10 a.m. protesters left the entrance and marched around the building.
Organizer Danny Gresham called Friday’s protest a preliminary action, as statewide protections are set to expire on Sept. 1.
Gresham, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, said the protest was the byproduct of multiple advocacy groups concerned about the impending eviction crisis.
When asked about the frustrated people who were kept from their court hearings, Gresham said, “Some reactions were mixed. There are a lot of working-class people. Some were angry and others understood why we were there. Not everyone is an organizer and we have to go where the people are at.”
Cassandra Palmer patiently waited outside the courthouse and even though she was going to miss her court appointment, she said she understood the importance of bringing attention to the rent crisis.
“I think it’s good. It would be to see something done. They still want to evict people during all this Covid-19,” said Palmer.
Jonah Friedman missed his 8:30 a.m. trial-setting conference. He’s representing himself in a court matter.
“It’s kinda scary,” said Friedman. “It’s a very unfortunate situation with the rent and the virus. Of course I’m sympathetic.”
Shahrouz Jahanshahi had an appointment to file a writ of mandate with the court clerk. He said he didn’t know if he was going to be able to reschedule.
“You don’t get people’s attention by holding a gun to their head,” said Jahanshahi as he motioned to the protesters.
Manny Limaco, 35, says his family owes three months back rent to their landlord. He carried a sign in the protest of his family, including his late father, Paul Pogue, who recently died from Covid-19 complications. His brother has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair bound.
If his family was evicted there is nowhere to go that could accommodate his brother, who uses a wheelchair. The family rent a 2-bedroom home in Sunland-Tujunga and pay $2,500 in rent.
“This is an issue that is affecting everybody. Quarter million will be impacted if nothing happens on the first of the month,” said Limaco.