Protesters demand no evictions during pandemic, blockade courthouse steps

Protesters in Santa Clara County are demanding a halt to all evictions and better protection for renters statewide. They blocked the entrance to the courthouse in order to stop proceedings and to send a message to legislators.

In front of the Santa Clara County courthouse, protesters made a blockade: a human barrier to keep everyone out.

The idea: if the state and county won't stop evictions, they will.

"No evictions during a pandemic. Evictions are deadly. Evictions are violent," says protestor and advocate Betty Gabaldon.

30 tenants rights groups showed up, pushing for stronger protections.

Police pushed back, explaining if protesters didn't move to the sidewalk, they risked arrest.

Protesters say evictions are still happening here, despite the current eviction moratorium.

In Santa Clara County, the sheriff says she is powerless to stop the ones unrelated to the pandemic saying, "The Sheriff's Office does not have the discretion to fail to enforce a valid court order."

"People need safe stable housing during the pandemic and we need real relief for the debt that tenants are building up over the course of the last year," says Tony Samara of the Regional Tenant Organizing Network.

The questions is will a new proposal at the state level bring real relief.

It will extend the eviction moratorium through June. And would use federal funds, paying off 80-percent of unpaid rent if landlord's will forgive the remainder.

"So we do believe that this is something we need to do for tenants that really are eligible and are really hurting. But we haven't provided a good balance for landlords that haven't received the rent either for a year, and where we have tenants who have cheated the system," says Debra Carlton of the California Apartment Association.

Cheating the system: landlords say that needs to be addressed in the state's proposal.

Tenant's wish it covered all evictions. Both sides say it is far from perfect.

"At the end of the day, none of us are being treated the right way," says protester Derrick Sanderlin of San Jose.

And they say that's why they're demanding officials to do better.

"I don't want to wait until it's my turn to be evicted," Sanderlin says.

The sheriff's office released a statement saying while most of the protesters were peaceful a few were not. A total of nine arrests were made for violating a court order.

The affected courthouses were closed for the morning, and resumed normal business by the afternoon.