Kansas City: Evictions Suspended After Protest at Judge’s Home in Response to Deputy Shooting Tenant

By Brian Martel

On January 8, Donald Eric Smith was shot by Civil Process deputies enforcing an eviction on behalf of Smith’s landlord, Kelly Gallegos. That night, the housing struggle organization KC Tenants held an action outside of presiding 16th Circuit Court judge J. Dale Youngs’s home. Soon after, in response to the organized resistance, Youngs ordered evictions to be suspended until January 24.

Due to mental health issues, tenant Donald Eric Smith had recently lost his job and had been unable to pay rent for the past four months. Smith’s family say they told the court that he was in the midst of a mental health crisis and they requested counselors be sent. However, only armed deputies were sent to enforce the eviction. The deputies shot Smith, who is now hospitalized in critical condition. Deputies claim that Smith pointed a rifle at them, which according to his family is a BB gun.

KC Tenants condemned the deputies and the court system for shooting a tenant “while trying to force him out of his home and into the cold during a pandemic.”

That afternoon, KC Tenants called for an emergency action in response. Only hours after their call, nearly 100 people marched in the street to Judge Youngs’ home. Activists gathered in Youngs’ yard, delivered speeches, and chanted, with some neighbors joining in with the chants.

Members of KC Tenants knocked on Youngs’ door and demanded he face the people. When he refused to come out, a banner was hung on his porch reading, “Judge Youngs, You Have Blood On Your Hands.”

KC Tenants said in a press statement, “Presiding Judge Dale Youngs, the Associate Circuit Judges, the Office of Civil Process, and the Civil Process Deputies defend property, not people. They are so committed to the protection of private property that they will sacrifice human safety.”

On January 11, Judge Youngs signed an order to stop all evictions until January 24, citing “significant, and at times violent, social and political unrest” and “risks facing Civil Process Deputies.” KC Tenants recognize this two-week stop on evictions as a victory won by their organizing. They have taken numerous actions since the beginning of the year in their campaign for their “Zero Eviction January.”

KC Tenants celebrated their victory but made clear, “this order is not at all sufficient. … Our work is not done.”

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