Sheriffs and police retreated today after over 100 community members surrounded a foreclosed home while others locked themselves to half-ton concrete barrels to prevent the eviction. Six sheriffs attempted to evict the Cruz family home around 3:30 this afternoon, which members of Occupy Homes MN have been defending in a round-the-clock eviction blockade for over three weeks.
Protesters surround and defend the Cruz home after sheriffs retreat. Photo: Peter Leeman
"Sheriff Richard Stanek should be ashamed of himself for authorizing the eviction of the Cruz family's home just days after we sent a delegation to his office to inform him that PNC was negotiating with the family. It appears he would rather throw families on the street at the banks' request than work with our communities," said Martha Ockenfels-Martinez, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN.
When sheriffs arrived to evict the home, protesters locked themselves to structures inside the home with bike locks. Sheriffs attempted to cut them out, but within 30 minutes over 100 supporters had arrived, and sheriffs retreated from the home. Police blocked traffic at either end of the street for over an hour, then also left the home to the activists who had gathered to defend it.
Shortly afterward PNC Bank contacted Occupy Homes MN to request the necessary documents for a loan modification for the Cruz family. However, the home remains under threat of imminent eviction.
The Cruz home went into foreclosure in 2011 when PNC failed to withdraw an online mortgage payment and then demanded two months’ payment as punishment. Unable to pay more than the current month’s payment, the family home fell into foreclosure.
"We're asking PNC Bank to correct their error and negotiate a mortgage that allows the Cruz family to stay in their home," explained Ockenfels-Martinez. “We’ll do whatever it takes for them to come to the table."
Today's attempted eviction took place despite the fact that a representative from PNC Bank reached out to Occupy Homes last week and committed to ask Freddie Mac to hold off on the eviction.
Alejandra and David Cruz have been active community members in the Twin Cities who have tirelessly advocated for the DREAM Act and educational equity for immigrant students.
"My family and I have been fighting for justice all our lives,” said Alejandra Cruz. “Now we stand together with other homeowners across Minnesota fighting unjust banking practices. Change is coming, and we’re going to make that change happen."
Tomorrow morning a delegation from Minnesota will deliver a giant letter to PNC Bank's national headquarters in Pittsburgh from supporters asking them to negotiate with the family.
This action comes fresh off Occupy Homes MN’s precedent-setting victory of Monique White’s mortgage renegotiation after a public seven-month struggle that garnered national and international media attention.
- Half-ton barrel replaced. Photo: Peter Leeman
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