FLDS families evicted from Colorado City neighborhood

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“This is genocide, absolute genocide,” Norma Barlow said as she and some of her children stood on the side of a dusty dirt road in Colorado City.

Across the road, three men were busy serving a final eviction notice and taking possession of a home, which was once occupied by a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) family.

“I have a lot of love for these people,” Barlow said. “It’s very hard to see them go through that much pain.”

In recent weeks, the pace of the so-called eviction team has quickened in the Short Creek community.   

“When they started these evictions, they were doing it on a case-by-case basis,” said neighbor David Bistline, who stopped on the side of the road to watch. “Now they are doing them every day.”

On one recent blustery day in the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, the eviction team went to more than a dozen homes.

A bearded constable from Mohave County pounded on the doors.

“Constable’s office!” the lawman shouted after several solid knocks.

At most of the homes, the FLDS occupants had already gone.

When no one responded, the eviction team quickly went to work-- they changed the locks and posted brightly-colored fliers on the doors, which detailed the court-ordered evictions and announced that the property was under the control of the community’s large land trust, also known as United Effort Plan (U.E.P.).

“They’re stealing these houses,” said an FLDS woman, identifying herself only as Esther. “We feel like everything is being taken away from us.”

The State of Utah began seizing the homes more than a decade ago after a court took control of the U.E.P. away from FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs, fearing that Jeffs was mismanaging the multi-million-dollar land trust.

Since then, most FLDS faithful have had a deep-seated mistrust and adversarial relationship with the U.E.P.  

U.E.P. officials have repeatedly stated that no one must be evicted. But to stay, all residents must sign an “occupancy agreement” and pay a monthly $100 fee, which can be deferred in cases of hardship.

In keeping with long-standing FLDS tradition and the teachings of Prophet Warren Jeffs, most FLDS families have refused to deal with the outside authorities. The ongoing evictions are the result.

As the cold and windy day stretched into late afternoon, the eviction team approached a home where an FLDS mother and her nine children had recently taken refuge after being evicted from another nearby home.

When asked why the mother and her children came to the home in the first place, Barlow said they had nowhere else to go.

“It was a matter of desperation,” Barlow said.

Suddenly, a group of people gathered at the front door, and voices started getting louder.

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