Occupy DC and U.S. marshals clashed today at a residence in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC. Marshals were executing an eviction ordered by the DC Superior Court. Members of the Occupy movement locked arms and legs and blocked the path of law enforcement with the intention of forcing the cops to physically remove them from the property.
“We came to try and at least stall the marshals while [home occupant] Dawn was in court,” said Sophie Vic, representing Occupy Our Homes DC. “Dawn was trying to appeal a decision. They weren’t given the right to buy the home when it was being sold, which is a DC law. The court is saying they weren’t technically tenants even though they have a lease.”
Dawn Butler, who had lived at 917 Maryland Avenue, NE since 2006, was seeking to exercise a right to buy the property, claiming she had been a tenant with a lease.
“We expected to prevail because of the documentation that we had,” Anne Butler, Dawn’s mother, told The Washington Times.
“The type of lease that we had is the type of lease where both the owner and I agreed that if I put in money into the house for renovations, that would be my rent, renovations in lieu of rent,” Dawn Butler said.
But the court didn’t find her lease valid.
“The judge found that it’s not a lease. Because it’s not a lease, she’s not a tenant. So she doesn’t have a right to have the lease continue or right of first refusal,” an official close to the case told The Washington Times.
“We took that lease that she had, and Judge Wright looked at it and he’s a very experienced landlord-tenants judge … He looked at it and decided it did not have the attributes of a lease. That even though there was consideration and she was supposed to make repairs, she wasn’t paying monthly rent and he held her to be an invitee or a guest,” said Ann Wilcox, Ms. Butler’s attorney.
The house was foreclosed upon in 2009. The eviction was ordered in late November 2011. Legal wrangling over the past eight months delayed its execution until the Superior Court’s decision yesterday and denial of appeal this morning gave the green light for marshals to carry out the court’s decision.
The eviction started out with a stand off, with protesters blocking the entrance of the property. A huge sheet emblazoned with “Save this Home” was draped over the stoop, behind which protestors had erected a barricade of plastic cartons to block the front door.
The marshals began by telling the protestors that they had to leave.
“We’re here to do a court-ordered eviction so I ask that you guys move out of the way,” a marshal told a group sitting on the front steps of the property.
“No,” one man replied.
“We were invited to be here by the homeowner,” another responded.
“The homeowner is the bank, actually,” the marshal replied. “The bank owns the house.”
“We don’t believe that,” a woman in the group said.
“The bank doesn’t live here. The bank doesn’t live here,” a third man said.
“Ok, so we’re going to move you guys out of the way,” the marshal declared.
The marshals proceeded to physically remove the protestors amid chants of “Homes, not banks!” and songs of “Solidarity forever.” The marshals made their way to the front door, removing protesters along the way. Because the bank owns the home, the protesters on the property are considered trespassers.
No one was arrested, though one marshal was hurt when shards of the front door apparently hit him in the head. A protestor became unconscious after a marshal removing him pulled on his head, according to another protestor on the scene. Both received medical attention.
The Butlers will put their belongings in storage and plan to pursue their case civilly. Representatives of Bank of New York who pursued the eviction did not respond to request for comment by the time of posting.