On Saturday morning 70 organizers from United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) in Washington DC marched on Wells Fargo in solidarity with Occupy Homes MN and Macalester Kick Wells Fargo Off Campus (KWOC) to demand Wells Fargo negotiate with the Garcia family and end their predatory practices toward communities of color.
At about 11:30 am, USAS students began to march from the AFL-CIO office to Wells Fargo on Connecticut Street. They chanted anti-bank slogans as they took over the streets holding banners and signs. When they arrived at Wells Fargo, USAS students packed the lobby where they then proceeded to deliver the Garcias’ petition of over six thousand signatures and share the family’s story with the branch manager.
After Arturo Garcia was laid off from his job in 2009, the family made a heroic effort and paid what the bank demanded to rescue their home from foreclosure. Arturo signed what he believed to be documents confirming the family was current in their payments to stave off foreclosure. When they later applied for a modification, however, Arturo learned that the documents he had previously signed were actually a loan modification that the family never even asked for. The new rates rapidly escalated into payments the family could not afford, and their requests for a second modification—or even any contact from the bank at all—were consistently denied. The home went into foreclosure in 2012, despite attempts to contact the bank and secure an actual modification.
“It was incredible to see diverse groups of USAS students from all across the country come together to stand up for this family,” said Tom Yoshikawa from Ohio State University. Luz Elena Nuñez from University of California-Riverside was amazed at the support and encouragement from passersby. “At a lot of protests I've been to the crowds have been confused about what we're doing and why we're protesting. But everyone we encountered had heard of Occupy Homes and were with us in our fight against Wells Fargo.” The students were even joined by Larry Cohen, president of Communication Workers of America (CWA).
In the years from 2005-2009, Wells Fargo notoriously used predatory lending practices which targeted black and Latino homeowners. The bank has been fined hundreds of millions of dollars since the collapse, which represents only a small fraction of the wealth extracted from communities of color during that time. The Garcias' story, the fact that they were misled and never provided language appropriate materials, are part of the systematic targeting of people of color by the banks.
USAS started fighting foreclosures last summer when they adopted Macalester's KWOC campaign into a national campaign targeting the big banks responsible for the foreclosure crisis. Now Kick Wall Street Off Campus (KWOC) is a national USAS campaign with schools in Colorado and New York also targeting banks on their campuses.
The Garcias, who face a move-out date of August 28, ask only that they be given the opportunity for an actual, good faith negotiation and a chance to remain in the home that they have worked so hard for. An eviction would ruin their credit and make it difficult for them to send their daughter, Juquila, to college. The student movement will continue to stand with the Garcias and all families facing unjust evictions.