Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Family occupying vacant home in Pittsburgh told to leave

Posted By and on Wed, Dec 12, 2012 at 3:05 PM

Renika Wheeler and Michelene Meusa moved into the home on Windsor Drive last week
  • Clay Duda
  • Renika Wheeler and Michelene Meusa moved into the home on Windsor Drive last week

The family of four who last week moved into a vacant, bank-owned home in southwest Atlanta today was told to leave the property.

An APD spokesman says the bank that owns the home "issued a criminal trespass warning" this afternoon to the family of four who occupied the house on Windsor Drive in the Pittsburgh neighborhood. Renika Wheeler, one of the occupants of the house, was arrested for criminal trespassing after she refused to vacate the property. Three others, including Wheeler's partner Micheline Meusa, were later arrested on the same charges.

Tim Franzen and "Copper," both Occupy Our Home Atlanta (OOHA) members, were taken into custody after they climbed on the home's roof and displayed an "Occupy Homes" banner, refusing to leave.

LaShawn Hoffman of the Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association talks with reporters
  • Clay Duda
  • LaShawn Hoffman of the Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association talks with reporters

"The Pittsburgh neighborhood has spoken," Franzen said from atop the house. "We're not going to leave these crime havens vacant in the neighborhood."

"I think it's really hard to talk for the entire community, but I can tell you there have been residents on both sides of this issue," said LaShawn Hoffman, a representative the Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association, or PCIA, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing that serves as the community's de facto neighborhood association. Hoffman was on hand to offer relocation and possibly housing assistance to the family - an offer OOHA declined.

"We just think it's important to do things ourselves," OOHA's Bekah Ward said as she helped pack the family's belongings.

Atlanta Police spokesperson Carlos Campos said the department made the decision to remove the occupants after being contacted by the owners, Buffalo, N.Y.-based M&T Bank. A bank representative was onsite during the ouster, but declined to comment.

Wheeler, Meusa, and their two children moved into the house on December 6, with the help of Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, after bouncing around homeless shelters for several months. The two children were reportedly attending school at the time of the removal.

Activist Rob Call said OOHA already had a "general civil disobedience fund" set up to help cover the cost of bail, and the organization was already working to raise additional money online.

"It's not over," Shabnam Bashiri of OOHA said. "We don't have a game plan quite yet, but it's not over. That's for sure."

NOTE: This post has been altered numerous times to include additional information as the story developed.

No disrespect ... but youre going to have to arrest us, Tim Franzen (left) said to the officer before himself and Copper were placed under arrest for criminal trespassing.
  • Clay Duda
  • "No disrespect ... but you're going to have to arrest us," Tim Franzen (left) said to the officer before he and "Copper" were handcuffed and charged with criminal trespassing.

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