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Democracy

When people move in and refuse to move out, what do you do?


Squatters' rights laws are some of the most bizarrely misused legal realities we have, and something no one seems to have a good answer for. Most of us have heard stories of someone moving into a vacant home and just living there, without anyone's permission and without paying rent, and somehow this is a legal question mark until the courts sort it out.

According to The National Desk, squatters' rights are a carryover from British property law and were created to ensure that abandoned property could be used and to protect occupants from being kicked out without proper notice. It should go without saying that squatter law isn't meant to allow someone to just take over someone else's property, but sometimes that's exactly what happens.

It's what happend to Flash Shelton's mother when she put her house up for rent after her husband passed away. A woman contacted her with interest in the property, only she wanted to do repairs and look after the home instead of paying rent. Before anyone knew it, she had furniture delivered (which she later said was accidental) and set up camp, despite Shelton's mom not agreeing to the arrangement.


But since the woman had expressed her intention and already moved in, the matter was out of police hands, as Shelton found out when he tried to contact the local sheriff.

“They said, ‘I’m sorry but we can’t enter the house, and it looks like they’re living there, so you need to go through the courts',” he shared in a YouTube video.

Shelton rightfully didn't want the expense of a court battle, so he took matters into his own hands—not with violence, but with logic. He had his mom lease the home to him, and then told the squatter that she had to move everything out because he was moving things in.

“If they can take a house, I can take a house," he said.

He was calm and clear about her having to get everything out within the day or he would have people come and take it, and thankfully, she didn't put up a big fight.

That experience made him realize how squatter law can be abused, but that there's a faster system for removing a squatter than to go through the court system. If a squatter can move in and force a homeowner to take them to court to prove they are living there illegally, then he could simply move in alongside the squatter, putting the squatter in the position of having to take the homeowner to court instead.

"The legal process is so slow, and at some point when they're in there, you're going to feel like they have more rights than you do and that's how you're going to be treated. So even though you it's your house and you're paying the mortgage or whatever, at some point squatters feel like they have more rights than you, so they don't have an incentive to leave until a judge tells them to, until they're actually ordered to, and that could take months."

After successfully removing the squatters in his mother's house, Shelton has been tackling similar squatter situations for other homeowners in California, earning him the nickname "The Squatter Hunter."

"All I'm doing is becoming a squatter and flipping this process on them," Shelton told CBS News. "I figured if they could take a house, I could take a house."

According to CBS, he's successfully removed a dozen squatters in the past year. ""I'm not going in and I'm not hurting anyone," he said. "I'm not kicking them out, I'm not throwing them out." He's literally just moving in himself, setting up cameras, and then creating small annoyances until the squatters get fed up enough to move out.

California isn't the only state that has seen issues with squatters. There are squatter stories from all over the U.S. of people moving into a property and refusing to leave without a court order, tying owners up in lengthy, expensive legal battles.

Shelton even has a Change.org petition to try to get squatter laws changed to "make squatting in residential maintained homes criminal." Making squatting illegal "will shift the burden of proof onto the squatter and make the crime punishable with restitution an option for damages," the the petition states.

Watch Shelton share his personal story:

This article originally appeared on 4.5.24

Democracy

How this protest image became an instant icon

She was arrested shortly after the photo was taken.

A photo by Jonathan Bachman.

A woman confronts the police at a Black Lives Matter rally.

A stunning photo of an African-American woman confronting police at a Black Lives Matter rally blazed across social media this weekend, with some calling it a touchstone image that will stand as a powerful symbol for many years to come.

The photo, captured by Jonathan Bachman of Reuters, comes from a Black Lives Matter rally outside Baton Rouge police HQ this weekend. Police in full riot armor are shown descending on a poised, well-dressed woman, apparently about to be cuffed.


Her name is Leshia Evans, according to the Daily Mail, a 28-year-old nurse from New York who had not been to a protest rally before this one. The AP says Evans was arrested for blocking a public roadway shortly after the image was taken.

DeRay McKesson, one of the most prominent voices of the Black Lives Matter movement, was also arrested at Saturday's rally. McKesson was released after 16 hours in a cell; he told the New York Times that he felt Saturday's mass arrests were unlawful, as the protesters were peacefully assembled on the side of the highway.

"What we saw in Baton Rouge was a police department that chose to provoke protesters to create, like, a context of conflict they could exploit," said McKesson. Over 100 other protesters were also arrested Saturday.

The protests were a direct response to the killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge last week, after two officers shot him repeatedly outside a Baton Rouge convenience store. Shortly after Sterling's death, a school cafeteria worker was shot and killed by police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. And at a protest rally in Dallas following Falcon Heights, five police officers were killed by snipers.

Last week's violence is already proving to be an intensely raw and revealing piece of American history. Bachman's photo will surely be one of the images that lasts.

This article originally appeared on 10.23.17

There's not a woman alive who hasn't suffered through an unwanted come-on from a creep. Some women are so afraid of these encounters they feel they can't be as nice to men as they'd like, for fear their friendliness will be mistaken for flirtation.

One woman's encounter with a creepy come-on has received over 110,000 likes on Twitter because of her flawless response.

Twitter user @LovableAndKind recently shared screenshots from a text exchange between her sister and a Jiffy Lube employee who found her phone number and sent her an unsolicited text.


The woman received a text from an unfamiliar number that read: “You are gorgeous." When she asked who it was he responded, “Your favorite oil change guy."

The woman could have responded with anger or ignored the creep and blocked him, but instead she decided to create a teachable moment.

“While I know you were wanting to give me a compliment, it was completely unnecessary and unsolicited," she replied. “I am a customer, you are a service provider, and there should be no communication outside of that unless I, the customer, express interest."

She then explained why his text was so violating.

“It is a violation of my privacy for you to contact me from your personal phone with information that you got without my permission," she continued.

“And now I know that you are the type of person to go back in someone's file to find their personal information, what is to keep you from going back and getting my address? There are men who stalk, rape and murder women this way."

She then wrote that she could call Jiffy Lube human resources to report his actions, but she'd rather he learned from the incident.

“Sorry about that yes ma'am," he responded.

Then she hit him back with one final diss.

“Oh, and you didn't tell me what the tire pressure was on the rear passenger tire like I asked, so you're definitely not even in my top five favorite oil change guys," she wrote.

Here's the entire exchange.

assets.rebelmouse.io

This article originally appeared on 08.09.19

Democracy

Teacher tries to simulate a dictatorship in her classroom, but the students crushed her

"I’ve done this experiment numerous times, and each year I have similar results. This year, however, was different."

Each year that I teach the book "1984" I turn my classroom into a totalitarian regime under the guise of the "common good."

I run a simulation in which I become a dictator. I tell my students that in order to battle "Senioritis," the teachers and admin have adapted an evidence-based strategy, a strategy that has "been implemented in many schools throughout the country and has had immense success." I hang posters with motivational quotes and falsified statistics, and provide a false narrative for the problem that is "Senioritis."


I tell the students that in order to help them succeed, I must implement strict classroom rules. They must raise their hand before doing anything at all, even when asking another student for a pencil. They lose points each time they don't behave as expected. They gain points by reporting other students. If someone breaks the rule and I don't see it, it's the responsibility of the other students to let me know. Those students earn bonus points. I tell students that in order for this plan to work they must "trust the process and not question their teachers." This becomes a school-wide effort. The other teachers and admin join in.

Photo by Diana Leygerman used with permission

I've done this experiment numerous times, and each year I have similar results. This year, however, was different.

This year, a handful of students did fall in line as always. The majority of students, however, rebelled.

By day two of the simulation, the students were contacting members of administration, writing letters, and creating protest posters. They were organizing against me and against the admin. They were stomping the hallways, refusing to do as they were told.

The president of the Student Government Association, whom I don't even teach, wrote an email demanding an end to this "program." He wrote that this program is "simply fascism at its worst. Statements such as these are the base of a dictatorship rule, this school, as well as this country cannot and will not fall prey to these totalitarian behaviors."

Photo by Diana Leygerman used with permission

I did everything in my power to fight their rebellion.

I "bribed" the president of the SGA. I "forced" him to publicly "resign." And, yet, the students did not back down. They fought even harder. They were more vigilant. They became more organized. They found a new leader. They were more than ready to fight. They knew they would win in numbers.

I ended the experiment two days earlier than I had planned because their rebellion was so strong and overwhelming. For the first time since I've done this experiment, the students "won."

What I learned is this: Teenagers will be the ones to save us.

Just like Emma Gonzalez, the teen activist from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, my students did not back down nor conform. They fought for their rights. They won.

Adults can learn a lot from the teens of this generations. Adults are complacent, jaded, and disparaged. Teenagers are ignited, spirited, and take no prisoners. Do not squander their fight. They really are our future. Do not call them entitled. That entitlement is their drive and their passion. Do not get in their way. They will crush you.

Foster their rebellion. They are our best allies.

This story originally appeared on Medium and is reprinted here with permission. It was originally published on 2.21.18.