Foreclosure struggles escalate in U.S. cities
Anti-foreclosure activists and foreclosed homeowners escalated their struggle against the federal government during the week of May 20. In Washington, D.C., and in San Francisco, activists occupied the Department of Justice offices and demanded that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder jail the banksters. Holder enraged homeowners in early March when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the banks were too big to prosecute.
In Detroit, homeowners, foreclosure fighters and unionists rallied against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government agencies which now do most of the foreclosures and evictions in the Motor City and around the U.S.
For two days, foreclosed homeowners and supporters, led by the Home Defenders League and Occupy Our Homes, rallied in Washington, demanding the prosecution of the banks. The banks and financial institutions created the foreclosure and economic crises through criminal actions such as race- and sex-based predatory lending and other schemes.
On Monday, May 20, about 500 protesters surrounded the DOJ building in Washington, closing down Constitution Avenue and blocking the three main entrances.
Despite the nonviolent nature of the protest, several people were violently tased by cops, including Carmen Pittman, an activist from Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, whose grandmother’s home had been foreclosed. In a video seen around the world, several large police officers can be seen subduing the slender African-American woman while another officer sadistically and casually jolts her with 50,000 volts of electricity.
By Tuesday, more than two dozen protesters had been arrested. Activists noted that in contrast, not one banker has ever been arrested for the massive fraud and racist criminal acts that have caused millions of families throughout the U.S. to lose their homes.
The Home Defenders League reported on May 22, “All 34 arrestees are now free and are not being charged with anything! Their courage and bravery [are an] inspiration to all of us.”
Bay Area and Detroit activists vs Feds
On May 20 in San Francisco, anti-foreclosure activists occupied the northern California office of the DOJ in support of the actions in Washington. They attempted to get bureaucrats in that office to fax a letter to Holder demanding the prosecution of “bankers too big to jail.”
That same day, Detroit Eviction Defense, in collaboration with the United Auto Workers union, held a people’s hearing and rally of several hundred people targeting Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Finance Agency for the role they have played in the destruction of neighborhoods due to mass foreclosures throughout metropolitan Detroit.
The FHFA is the agency that controls Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-owned mortgage giants that have evicted families from more than 15,000 homes since 2008 in Detroit alone.
At the insistence of UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, the FHFA had agreed to send a delegation to Detroit to witness the destroyed neighborhoods in the city — FHFA officials repeatedly claimed that they were successfully helping families stay in their homes. The UAW planned to rent a bus to take the FHFA officials on a tour of several neighborhoods to see firsthand how ineffective the federal programs to “help homeowners” really are. Following the bus tour, the FHFA officials were to arrive at UAW Local 600’s headquarters for a people’s hearing where they had agreed to listen to the testimony of many homeowners victimized by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
In a press release, the UAW stated, “Fannie and Freddie have declared a moratorium on foreclosures in areas stricken by Hurricane Sandy. Estrada and organizers from Detroit Eviction Defense argue that they should do the same for Metro Detroit, flattened by banking fraud, mass unemployment, and the resulting storm surge of foreclosures. They are also calling on Fannie and Freddie to reverse their current policy of refusing to lower the principal on ‘underwater’ loans where the balance owed is higher than the plummeting market value of the home.”
At the last minute, just days before the May 20 scheduled tour and hearing, the FHFA withdrew and said it would not be sending a delegation to Detroit. The agency cited concerns from their legal counsel that it would be “awkward” to hear testimony from homeowners who are in litigation, fighting eviction by the federal government.
“They can run, but they can’t hide,” said Steve Babson, an organizer with Detroit Eviction Defense. Actions by anti-foreclosure protesters in Washington and San Francisco have proved this point.