A recap of our day of action at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac HQ in Washington, D.C. with allies from around the country.
On Thursday we began the day by shutting down Wisconsin Avenue in front of Fannie Mae HQ. It was inspiring to join folks from around the nation in this fearless protest. Homeowners, renters and homeless folks all joined in. Demands ranged from firing Ed DeMarco to principal reduction, to allowing vacant properties to be used as affordable rentals, to turning over vacants to community land trusts. Interesting side note: Sidwell Friends is a private school attended by the Obama girls. It's also directly across the street from Fannie Mae HQ. Some 4th graders peering through the fence were impressed enough by the action that they offered to join us. "...but we're kind of in the middle of PE." Most importantly, 5 brave fighters were arrested in acts of civil disobedience. All were released by the end of the day. Long live our 5 brave Freedom Fighters who laid their bodies on the line and led the way!
After we left the Fannie Mae roadblock we headed for Freddie Mac HQ in northern Virginia. 20+ police officers and private security were waiting for us. We requested a simple meeting with a Freddie Mac staffer to review the complaints of our homeowners from around the country. When that didn't happen a 1 hour picket followed at their barricaded entrance.
We then went as a group to the nearby home of Ed DeMarco. He knew we were coming and, of course, was not home. What he did do is ask that 15 public police officers surround his property, at taxpayer expense. Homeowners from around the nation had the chance to confront power directly. Bobby and John gave fiery speeches and fired up the crowd. 2 hours into the rally and as the day turned to evening we all agreed that 1) we weren't ready to leave and 2) folks needed to eat (especially the young children that were with us). So we decided to order pizza. Literally at that moment, Jerome Jackson from Detroit called to check in. He couldn't make the trip because of recent health issues, no doubt worsened by his foreclosure at the hands of PNC/Fannie Mae. As a gesture of solidarity he offered to buy 40 pizzas for the group. We decided to celebrate Jerome's generosity by having a pizza party on Mr. DeMarco's front yard while acknowledging the struggle of all those who couldn't make the trip. We left after cleaning every scrap of paper from the yard. Unlike FHFA, we know how to clean up after ourselves once the party has ended.
Shout out to Becky (communications), David (logistics), Matthew (Livestream), and all of us for making this trip happen. Onward.
This week, a delegation of homeowners and organizers headed east to Washington, D.C. to join our allies from around the country in national protests at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac headquarters, in addition to Ed DeMarco's home. Anthony kept us posted with these updates.
On the way to DC we made a short pit-stop in Chicago's Southwest neighborhood. It's a predominantly African American neighborhood that has been decimated by the foreclosure crisis. Nearly every block has some degree of vacant properties and some have blocks where 50% of the homes are now empty. Our friends with Occupy Homes Chicago gave us a crash course in their housing justice strategy and a tour of a once vacant home now reclaimed by a family (pic below). "I used to look at these vacant properties and get straight up angry," said our friend with OOHC. "Now, all we see is opportunity."
On Wednesday afternoon the homeowners decided they wanted to stop by the offices of our MN elected Congress and Senate persons. Folks made the rounds to Keith Ellison, Erik Paulsen, Amy Klobuchar and even Michele Bachmann. None were in their office but all were open to letting us meet with their top in-house staffers. All seemed generally sympathetic, took lots of detailed notes and were generally supportive (at least verbally). All, except for Michele Bachmann's office. Hers was staffed by a handful of recent college grads who had no clue or opinion about the foreclosure crisis. "We just work here and....ahhhh, I'm not really sure when she'll be back in the office. And, ahhh you should probably call tomorrow and talk to Sandy about stuff like this." Homeowners decided to raise their fists in protest outside of her office (pic below).
We ended the day by stopping by the Brother Ali concert. Occupy Homes DC had an info booth at the show, raised a nice bit of money from donations and got a ton of new volunteers' contact info (pic below). Ali also gave massive shoutouts to the work we're doing during the show of about 1,000 people. Good stuff.
A full day is planned for tomorrow and we'll keep you posted on our progress.
Minneapolis, MN--Thanks to 116,000 signatures on a Change.org petition, a campaign with Occupy Homes MN, and widespread community support, Woodlands National Bank President Ken Villebro will meet with foreclosed homeowner Anita Reyes Wednesday afternoon.
“I think we can change the way banks deal with people, get them to operate on a more personal level, an untraditional way of keeping homeowners in their homes,” said Anita, remembering Woodlands’ motto.
Homeowner of 17 years Anita Reyes’ problems began when her employment hours were cut. Then uncontrolled diabetes plus vertigo reared its ugly head, making her problems even more complicated, and she fell three months behind in mortgage payments. She offered to make current payments plus half a payment until the balance was satisfied, but the bank refused. Foreclosure was imminent. An eviction notice was posted in June.
Anita reached out to Occupy Homes MN and spoke with organizer Anthony Newby, who told her, "I won't give up if you don't." These words gave Anita her first words of hope.
After Anita's eviction notice was posted, she made calls to the bank with the support of Occupy Homes MN. Shortly afterward, she received a call from bank Vice President Cindy Koonce with a rent-to-own offer. But the next day she was told the offer was off the table—ostensibly because she had called four minutes too late. Anita and supporters headed to Woodlands National Bank’s headquarters in Onamia to ask for a meeting with Cindy Koonce. Instead of arranging a meeting, the bank called the police.
Troy Amlee, a member of the American Indian Movement who supports Anita's campaign, told her, "I see homeless people every day. I don't want to see you homeless."
When Anita returned to the Minneapolisbranch of Woodlands Bank last week, carrying over 100,000 signatures from a petition on Change.org, the bank quickly changed its tune and set up a time for Anita to meet with President Ken Villebro.
“After enduring months of health issues complicated by the stress, worry and depression brought on from possibly facing homelessness I cry in relief…my health issues have been resolved, I am working full-time and can afford mortgage payments AND finally Woodlands National Bank is going to negotiate with me and give me my dreams, my memories and most of all my security back!” exclaimed Anita.