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People occupy home, open battle against banks

Published May 4, 2012 8:37 PM

Occupiers try to help save the Shelton home.
WW photo

The people’s movement has occupied its first home here in North Carolina. This is the home state of Charlotte, “Wall Street of the South,” where more financial capital is concentrated than in any other U.S. city but New York. The occupation challenged Wells Fargo’s unjust foreclosures of millions of families in the last few years.

On April 9, people occupied the Shelton family home at 2633 Pebble Ridge Rd. in southeast Raleigh. It had been taken over by Wells Fargo due to a racist, predatory, subprime, adjustable-rate loan. Home owner Nikki Shelton, whose family lost the home to foreclosure in late 2010, received notice in March that any belongings left in the house had to be collected before April 8.

Shelton reached out for support to her neighbor, Marcella Robinson, a leader in the fight against unjust foreclosures. Nearly a dozen homes on her block in the predominantly Black community of Raleigh are also facing foreclosure, and the families have been meeting to develop a strategy to fight back, organized by MortgageFraud, N.C.

Supported by Occupy Raleigh, Occupy Greensboro, Save Our Homes, Raleigh-Durham FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together) and others, the family agreed to call for an occupation to reclaim their home. This step drew immediate support. The occupiers say they have uncovered evidence of robo-signing, an illegal practice where banks sign off to transfer a mortgage, as part of a bundle, to sell to another bank without permission from the homeowner.

Shelton told Workers World that her interest rates had shot up from 7.5 percent to 11.2 percent, which made her mortgage payment unaffordable. The family fell behind a few payments at the end of 2007 when Shelton’s husband was in a head-on car collision that forced him out of work for 18 months. The banks refused to help her with a loan modification, even though federal legislation should have covered her.

On April 9, soon after the media left the home occupation in the early afternoon, a large squadron of armored police officers stormed into the house, busted the door down and arrested five occupiers who had refused to leave. Later that evening, two more were arrested after they showed up in solidarity.

“Housing should be a basic human right,” FIST member Ben Carroll told WW. “We are going to continue to expose the racist, predatory nature of these banks that turn to the cops to throw people out of their homes, while getting bailed out by the government and making record profits.”

On April 13, a few days after the protest, Wells Fargo reported record profits of more than $4 billion in the previous quarter.

This home occupation is part of a major, nationwide 99% spring offensive in which Occupy movements are linking up with labor, community, civil rights, environmental and student groups around the country to protest at several major banks and corporate shareholder meetings.

In North Carolina, the recently formed N.C. Coalition Against Corporate Power is organizing a major protest, including civil disobedience, on May 9 at the Bank of America shareholders’ meeting in Charlotte. This city is also home to the Wachovia skyscraper, which became Wells Fargo’s eastern headquarters after it acquired the Wachovia bank in 2008.

Demonstrators on May 9 will demand a moratorium on home foreclosures and an end to financing mountain-top removal, private prisons and right-wing politicians.

Activists will also demand an end to the attack on public workers — last year 30,000 public workers were laid off here — by declaring a moratorium on state and local government debt and an end to student debt and financing of the war machine.

In September, Charlotte will host the Democratic National Convention. Organizations plan major demonstrations, including a March on Wall Street South and a People’s Tribunal on the Banks to challenge the banks for the damage and destruction they have inflicted on millions of workers and families across the world.

Organizers say that only a fighting, militant, mass movement in the streets and in the workplaces will stop the devastation caused by the major banks and corporations.