A group of tenant rights activists attempted to disrupt a Contra Costa County virtual courtroom Friday to protest ongoing evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group of 70 or so joined in the protest whereby they attempted to gain entry, via Zoom, to Superior Court Judge Rebecca Hardie’s proceedings.

By signing on to the teleconferencing platform using hashtags such as #StopEvictionsSaveLives, #CloseTheCourt and #AltoALosDesalojos or using aliases close to the names of real people on the docket rather than their own names in order to confuse the judge, the protesters hoped to gain entry to the court’s 1:30 p.m. video call.

Once inside, the plan was to read statements calling for an end to the court’s eviction proceedings during the pandemic, for Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston to stop eviction lock-outs, to close loopholes in state law and for the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to enact stronger tenant protections.

A few people were able to briefly get into the meeting by calling in on their phones and at least one gained access using video chat, said Katie Martin Selcraig, an organizer with Concord-based nonprofit Monument Impact.

“I think it’s a win for us that we were able to cause some level of chaos, make their jobs a little bit harder and not make it business as usual.”

Katie Martin Selcraig, Monument Impact

“We had one person who was able to gain entry and read at least once sentence from the statement calling for evictions to be halted before they were kicked out and permanently banned from the meeting,” Selcraig said.

“I think it’s a win for us that we were able to cause some level of chaos, make their jobs a little bit harder and not make it business as usual,” she said.

After a year of pandemic-related economic body blows that have led to high unemployment rates, and despite local and statewide eviction moratoriums, activists say Contra Costa County continues to process evictions at an unacceptable pace.

Landlords are using loopholes in the law, like owner-move-in evictions and taking properties off the rental market, in order to force people from their homes, according to activists.

Selcraig said 135 evections took place in the county between March and December of 2020, compared to just eight in Alameda County and 17 in San Francisco.

In Santa Clara County, which had roughly 145 evictions, the same group of tenant-rights groups, coordinating through the Regional Tenant Organizing network, held an in-person rally to temporarily block access to a courthouse hearing evictions cases in January.

A call to Judge Hardie seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned Friday.