Foreclosures and evictions stopped
By Kris Hamel – Detroit
Published Feb 12, 2012 10:25 PM
Activists in this devastated city have scored four significant victories in the last eight weeks, each time stopping evictions and foreclosures by engaging in mass mobilizations. In each case, the courts had ruled against the homeowners and evictions were imminent.
The Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions & Utility Shutoffs worked in conjunction with Occupy Detroit, the People Before Banks Coalition — which is officially endorsed by the United Auto Workers union — and Occupy Our Homes to initiate and carry out broad-based campaigns to stop these evictions.
In each case, the banks quickly caved in when faced with mass pressure. One bank, when it backed down, expressed apprehension because the Occupy movement was involved. The financial institutions — which have destroyed city after city with their racist, predatory, subprime mortgages — have shown a great fear of mass struggle and further bad publicity.
Two of the cases involved Citibank. After months of litigation and stubborn refusal to do loan modifications or other workouts, this bank rescinded the evictions and worked out arrangements to keep the owners in their homes permanently. The bank conceded almost immediately after calls for rallies went out, and email and calling campaigns were initiated to demand it deal equitably with the homeowners.
One of these campaigns was to save 1515 Broadway in downtown Detroit. This location is a well-known community center, theater and coffee house that is also the residence of proprietor Christopher Jaszczak and his son. Jaszczak had opened the doors to 1515 Broadway as a place for Occupy Detroit to hold its meetings. When the bank got wind of a scheduled press conference and community rally, it immediately set in process negotiations. The talks allowed Jaszczak, after months of futile dealings in the courts, to void the foreclosure and remain in the establishment.
Support also poured out for Debra Henry and Robert Henry in the downriver Detroit suburb of Southgate. The Henry family faced an imminent eviction by Bank of America and by Fannie Mae, a government-owned enterprise and infamous for being among those initiating the most evictions in the United States.
A rally at the home and a subsequent demonstration took place with strong union participation. The demonstration included a march to a local Bank of America branch. Fannie Mae and Bank of America then backed down, stopped the eviction and worked out an agreement that keeps the Henrys in their home.
During the last couple days of January, activists helped stop the eviction of the Garrett family in northwest Detroit. William Garrett used to be a hairdresser for many Motown singers. Now, he is blind and disabled after suffering four strokes. He and his spouse, Bertha Garrett, were facing eviction from the home where they had lived for many years.
The mortgage on the home was held by their son-in-law and put into foreclosure and sold at a sheriff’s sale to Bank of New York Mellon Trust for only $12,000. This megabank had reneged on an agreement to allow the Garretts to purchase the home for the sheriff’s sale price.
The bank was moving forward with their eviction and actually had a dumpster placed in front of the home on Jan. 30 — meaning the eviction was scheduled for that day. Activists kept vigil at the Garretts’ home, blocked the dumpster, demonstrated in downtown Detroit at a Bank of New York Mellon branch office and started emailing the bank and servicer.
Within about 48 hours, the eviction was canceled, and the bank agreed to allow the Garretts to repurchase the home for the $12,000 redemption amount.
In early December, housing activists saved the home of tenant Kyra Williams on Detroit’s near eastside. They moved against Citi Mortgage after the bank reneged on an agreement to allow Williams to purchase the home after they had placed its owner in foreclosure. The bank was proceeding full-steam ahead with plans to evict until public outcry and mobilization caused it to about-face and allow Williams to remain in her home.
In light of these victories and the increase in anti-foreclosure and anti-eviction activity across the U.S., the Moratorium NOW! Coalition is hosting a national conference in Detroit on Saturday, March 31. This gathering will offer an opportunity for anti-foreclosure activists in different localities to share their experiences with stopping foreclosures and evictions through direct action. It will also discuss ways to step up the national campaign for a two-year federal moratorium to halt all foreclosures and foreclosure-related evictions across the U.S.
For more information or to register for the March 31 conference, visit nationalmoratorium.org or call 313-680-5508.
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