The struggle to stop mass tax foreclosures and water shutoffs continues in Detroit, along with the political struggle to place the onus of these outrageous acts squarely on the banks and the bankers. Many activists see this struggle as part of the worldwide fight against finance capital and its bloodsucking thirst for ever-greater profits at the expense of the world’s workers and oppressed.
A broad coalition has come together in Detroit and adopted a program for a moratorium on tax foreclosures, which the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs has been advancing.
A letter drafted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan called for the Wayne County Treasurer to enact “an immediate moratorium on all tax foreclosures of occupied homes until your office can ensure that they are done fairly and in accordance with the law.” Many groups and individuals signed it, including Moratorium NOW!, Sugar Law Center, ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) and Detroit People’s Platform.
The following statement summarizes the 10-page letter: “Carrying out the planned tax foreclosures will cause an unprecedented human rights catastrophe.” A well-covered press conference and demonstration outside the treasurer’s office in downtown Detroit on May 12, the day the mass tax foreclosures were to go into effect, announced the letter’s call for a moratorium.
As a result of community pressure and demonstrations, led primarily by Moratorium NOW!, the county treasurer was forced once again to delay the home seizures. The foreclosures of 20,000 to 25,000 occupied homes are now scheduled for June 8.
Community efforts to stop this wholesale displacement of 25,000 families have already twice postponed the original March 31 foreclosure date.
Fighting for water, against banksters
At the same time that this struggle to stop mass tax foreclosures is in full swing, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has started shutting off water to another 25,000 homes. Last year, because of the struggle, the water department was forced to offer payment plans that were slightly better than those previously in place.
But the plans were unrealistic for low-income, unemployed or impoverished families, which make up the bulk of this oppressed majority-African-American city. They just delayed the crisis through the winter, when subfreezing temperatures stopped water shutoffs anyway. Of 24,000 people enrolled in the plans, all but 300 are now in default and facing shutoffs once again.
To add insult to injury and human suffering, in the midst of this double crisis facing tens of thousands of families, JPMorgan Chase is arrogantly having its board of directors meeting in Detroit on May 19.
Chase way of handling housing loans is a prototype for the racist, subprime mortgage fraud that robbed and devastated cities and communities across the U.S. starting around 2006. Chase is also the leading holder of interest rate swaps worldwide, including the swaps that bankrupted the Detroit water department and are behind the city’s mass water shutoffs.
A Moratorium NOW! leaflet for a demonstration outside the bank’s annual meeting states that Chase has made “trillions of dollars worldwide through its derivative unit, robbing cities and whole countries through its interest rate swap swindles. In Detroit, Chase and its fellow banksters were given $537 million out of the water department’s $1.1 billion bond deal in 2011-2012 marked for infrastructure repairs. These banks are the real culprit in the mass water shutoffs.”
Moratorium NOW! is demanding that Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and all the banks be made to pay to remove the blight and destruction they caused and to rebuild Detroit.
Currently federal monies earmarked for the Helping Hardest Hit Homeowners program, intended to keep families out of foreclosure and in their homes, are being used to tear down abandoned and vandalized structures. Administering these millions for further destruction is none other than Dan Gilbert, head of Quicken Loans, which is being investigated by the federal government for mortgage fraud.
The demonstration at the Chase annual meeting is set for May 19 starting at 9 a.m. outside the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel, corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Boulevard, in downtown Detroit. For more information, call 313-680-5508 or visit moratorium-mi.org.
The International Social Movements Gathering for Water and Affordable Housing will be held in Detroit from May 29-31 at various locations in the city. Coordinated by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and the Detroit People’s Water Board, to which Moratorium NOW! belongs, the three-day “gathering of regional, national and international allies [will] draft solutions and strategize on efforts to demand water and housing affordability and access for all people.” For more information, go to socialmovementsgathering.info.