As 50 community members gathered for a Native home blessing ceremony for the wrongfully foreclosed Ceballos home last night, the Minneapolis Police Department forced an extrajudicial eviction of a neighboring home on the next block, citing two residents for trespassing. The community reclaimed the home, and the charges were dropped later that evening.
Community blesses Ceballos house, reclaims neighboring home illegally evicted by police
"This demonstrates that what we're fighting is real," said Jonathan Ceballos, whose family is fighting their impending eviction in Occupy Homes MN's Eviction Free Zone. "Thank you all for your support. We're going to keep fighting and we won't give up."
As community supporters brace for imminent eviction defense at the home of Sergio Ceballos, who was illegally dual tracked by JPMorgan Chase Bank, they have also reclaimed a vacant house half a block away for people experiencing housing instability. The home at 4207 14th Avenue South belonged to the grandmother of Mike McDowell, a community supporter who has moved back into the home. Immediately before the ceremony, the police evicted Mike's home extrajudicially, detaining two people and citing them with trespassing before releasing them--even though the police admitted they didn't know who had rights to the property. The charges were dropped later that evening.
Community supporters had already gathered to participate in a Native home blessing ceremony. Elders performed drumming and smudging rituals to bless the wrongfully foreclosed Ceballos home with sacred cedar. "We use the special cedar when we need to bless our homes in times of strife, when we need help," said Ernie Whiteman, an Arapaho elder who led the ceremony. "As many of you know, for the last 500 years, Native Americans have not really had a place because of colonization. We know what it is to lose. We know what it is to have things removed from us. But if we give up, we are defeated. So we have to band together as one people and unite. That's the only way we're going to survive."
Jamie Gulley, the president of Sergio's union, SEIU Healthcare, spoke powerfully. "There is a principle we try to live by in the labor movement: an injury to one is an injury to all. In my union, we pledge an oath that we will not stand by as another member is injured. I pledge to you that we will do what we can to see justice for this family and our community. We are here for the long haul, and will do whatever we can to support this family."
Internationally acclaimed hip-hop artist Brother Ali shared some words from the Koran and his own blessing for the family. "These people are loving enough to open up their homes to us so we can have a place to struggle. These are our neighbors, these are our brothers and sisters, this is our community. They do a lot when they open our lives up to us like this. That contribution is valuable and precious, and will never be forgotten."
The community marched half a block down the street to Mike's house where they reclaimed the home again. City Councilmember Elizabeth Glidden received word from the police that they would not return unless there was a civil disturbance.
U.S. Bank's management company had previously attempted to board up the property several times and called the police to remove residents. However, because the home was occupied when the redemption period ended, an eviction cannot take place without a court summons under Minnesota law. Nevertheless, the police have repeatedly harassed and detained residents at the home and extrajudicially evicted it three times.
"I've been homeless, too," said Jessica English, a single mother who made headlines this winter when she moved into a reclaimed vacant home with Occupy Homes MN. "Fortunately, I was able to move into a vacant home. We reclaimed it with the community and fixed it up--a home that had been robbed of its pipes and left in complete disaster--and then I was able to get back on my feet and move into an apartment with my children. It's scary to have the management company and police harassing you. But we came back and we came back and we came back. Six months later, that house is a home for a man whose shelter closed as homelessness rates have soared. And we're going back into this house, too."
"We're back in this house because we took it," said Nick Espinosa, an organizer with Occupy Homes whose family narrowly avoided foreclosure last year. "Last year at the Cruz house, we showed the banks and the police how far we're willing to go to keep people in their homes. Without that house, the Ceballos family wouldn't be fighting. We wouldn't have won a lot of the homes we've won in the last year. With every fight, we are building power. And when the sheriffs come for Sergio's house, we'll have 150 people there to defend it."
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