Missouri Advocacy Group Shuts Down Courthouse to Stop Pandemic Evictions

Demonstrators hold signs during a KC Tenants rally outside the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City, Missouri, U.S., on Thursday, July 30, 2020. (Getty Images)
Demonstrators hold signs during a KC Tenants rally outside the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City, Missouri, U.S., on Thursday, July 30, 2020. (Getty Images)

An advocacy group in Missouri banded together to chain themselves to the doors of the Jackson County Courthouse this week to try and stop evictions in the county during the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of KC Tenants effectively shut down eviction dockets that were supposed to take place on Thursday because they say the county  isn't adhering to the moratorium issued by the CDC last month to “temporarily halt residential evictions" in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Since the CDC's moratorium, Jackson County landlords have reportedly filed 607 evictions. On Thursday, there were 138 evictions on the court’s docket.

“People's lives are way more important than landlords’ profits. The only prescription for this pandemic is to stay at home and wash your hands. And how can you stay at home with no home?” Tiana Caldwell, one of the organizers, who faced eviction a few months ago herself, told Fox 4.

The advocacy group, which is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed a lawsuit in federal court earlier this month against Jackson County Presiding Judge David Byrn for violating the moratorium.

In response, the court issued a statement saying: "The Court has been and will continue to enforce and follow existing laws, including long standing landlord tenant laws, rules and procedures. The Court has been and will continue to act in compliance with the recent Order issued by the CDC.”

The KC tenants have argued that evictions are dangerous as the pandemic continues in the U.S., especially for people at high-risk of COVID-19, and they are hoping to see them stop. The group alleges that the court is prioritizing “profit over people.”

“There's no room in the shelters. People are on the street. People are crowding in with other family members, making everybody more vulnerable to this pandemic right now. It's a violent thing,” Caldwell also told the station.

The group has also pleaded with the Kansas City mayor to stop the evictions, but nothing has been done yet. No one was arrested at Thursday’s demonstration. Two people were reportedly detained and then released.

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