Rent Strike Protest Ends with Occupation of Vacant House in the Castro

'I would love to be inside. I would love not to be cold at night.'

A protest calling for a statewide moratorium on rent, mortgage and utility payments during the coronavirus pandemic culminated in a police standoff Friday afternoon, with two unhoused locals holed up in a vacant Castro District home.

The protest started at 10 a.m. with a car caravan that drove from Pier 50 in Mission Bay to the state building at Civic Center (see a slideshow of the protest here). There, protesters staged a brief demonstration, waving signs that read “Cancel Rent” and “Debt Free Future.”

The caravan then drove to 4555 19th St. in the Castro, where two people experiencing homelessness had taken refuge in a house that had been vacant for years, according to Reclaim SF, which organized the protest.

A San Francisco police office stands guard at 19th Street and Douglass Street as members of Reclaim SF occupy a long-term vacant property at 4555 19th Street on May 1, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Chris Victorio | Special to S.F. Media Co).

“Being unhoused, and this house being empty, it seemed to go together because I needed a place to be,” Couper Orona, one of the people occupying the house, told SF Weekly from inside by phone.

Orona, 47, said she is a disabled Sacramento firefighter who has been homeless for almost five years, following her divorce. Over the course of her life, she estimated she had spent about 15 years unhoused, altogether.

“I’m hoping that I get to stay,” she added.

But authorities had different ideas. After the caravan blocked access through 19th Street, San Francisco police officers arrived in force.  Roughly 15 officers blocked access to the house for hours, before clearing protesters from the street and shutting down the block.  At least one protester was arrested.

A protestor defies SFPD commands to clear the area is arrested as members of ‘Reclaim SF’ occupy a long-term vacant property at 4555 19th Street on May 1, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Chris Victorio | Special to S.F. Media Co).

Officers then entered the home, cited the occupants, and released them.

“I would love to be inside,” Orona told reporters afterwards. “I would love not to be cold at night.”

“I love my city,” she added.

Tags: , , , , ,

Related Stories