Thirteen people were peacefully arrested Wednesday afternoon as they marched on Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, demanding turnover of vacant homes to community control and fair banking practices.
The march, organized by Occupy Homes MN, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, and allies from faith and labor communities, began at the home of Gayle Lindsey, fighting her foreclosure with Occupy Homes and her neighbors in the Foreclosure and Eviction Free Zone. It proceeded to Jessica English’s reclaimed vacant home, which had been abandoned by Wells Fargo and turned into a drug house. Jessica, a single mom of four experiencing homelessness, has rehabilitated the house with Occupy Homes as a place to raise her children.
“As a homeless mom, it’s sickening to see all the vacant homes Wells Fargo owns that attract crime in Minneapolis,” Jessica told the crowd. “Wells Fargo abandoned this home, letting it turn into a drug house that brought blight on the community. Now the community has come together to welcome my family home and demand that Wells Fargo turn over vacant homes to community control for affordable housing. We are restoring what Wells Fargo destroyed.”
From there, the crowd of 200 took the streets and marched through the gates of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, where they were joined by a heavy police presence. They brought 20 bags of trash cleaned up from their neglected vacant home, demanding Wells Fargo clean up their own mess. They rallied in front of the building where Patrick Russell, an employee at the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Center, came down to join the crowd and to speak out against his employer. “I know people who’ve been stuck in prisons that Wells Fargo owns, seen communities wracked by poverty, homes foreclosed on, to stand vacant like weeping sores,” said Patrick. “It is embarrassing to see that Wells Fargo as an institution has been so unwilling to work to rebuild our communities, but if that’s the case, maybe it’s time for the individuals within Wells Fargo to step forward.”
The crowd then continued to the 26th Street bridge over I-35W, where internationally renowned hip-hop artist Brother Ali performed from the back of a pickup truck. After about 20 minutes, police moved in to ask the crowd to disperse. Thirteen sat in the middle of the road linking arms in an act of civil disobedience, and were arrested.
“Today was living proof that the housing justice movement is alive and well. It's inspiring to see people from so many communities--Somali families trying to send money home, security guards on strike, college students, neighbors reclaiming their neighborhood from crime and blight, even Wells Fargo employees--all coming together to stand for a change to Wells Fargo’s practices,” said Anthony Newby, executive director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC). “Minnesota deserves better, and it’s time Wells Fargo stepped up to the challenge.”