Brother Ali speaks to the student protesters outside Macalester's administrative building

COMMUNITY VOICES | Brother Ali visits student protesters at Macalester College

Minnesota-based hip hop artist, Brother Ali, made an impromptu visit to a group of student activists protesting the administration’s relationship with Wells Fargo bank on Wednesday. Brother Ali, who continues to be active in the Occupy Homes MN movement, spoke to the students on the steps of Weyerhaeuser, Macalester College’s administrative building.The contingent of student protesters is associated with Occupy Homes MN and opposes the college’s partnership with Wells Fargo due to the bank’s foreclosure practices. The students launched a sit-in earlier this week, occupying the administrative building since 10 a.m., Tuesday.“What we’re really supposed to be doing is educating leaders for the future,” said Ali of higher education, “so what you’re doing is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.”He added, “Students were the bulk of energy in the civil rights movement; students ended the war in Vietnam effectively; students have done a whole lot throughout time, and so this is a part of a legacy that you’re adding onto.”The student group brought their grievances to the attention of the administration months ago, beginning a yearlong dialogue about potential divestment from Wells Fargo and a reallocation of funds to a community bank. Dissatisfied with the pace of reform, the students issued a deadline to the administration for a final decision to be announced on Thursday, April 18.In response to the demands Macalester CFO, David Wheaton and Assistant Vice President for Finance, Kate Walker released a memo on behalf of the administration describing in detail their reasons for maintaining their business with Wells Fargo. While accurate data is difficult to access, they acknowledged that Wells Fargo may be the biggest forecloser in the state of Minnesota, but added that this may be a factor of Wells Fargo’s large market share, as opposed to a matter of aggressive policies particular to the bank.The memo noted that 70% of Wells Fargo’s mortgages are owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and that those institutions are responsible for setting policy regarding foreclosure. Continue Reading

Bank president to meet with foreclosed homeowner

It’s taken time and a lot of community support, but a Minneapolis woman trying to prevent Woodlands National Bank from evicting her from her home is getting a face-to-face meeting with the bank’s president to discuss a proposal that is more favorable than the bank first offered her.Woodlands National Bank President Ken Villebro has agreed to meet with Anita Reyes-LeRey at her home in Minneapolis. The meeting is to include her choice of supporters and Minneapolis Council Member Gary Schiff.“We won!” announced Andrew Crow, OccupyHomes MN to the crowd outside the bank building, “we got exactly what we were asking for which is a sit-down meeting with Ken Villebro, the president of this bank.” Reyes-LeRey was pleased with the outcome and she said, “I am so happy they came!”Reyes-LeRey had a series of negotiations with Woodlands National Bank after health problems caused her to miss mortgage payments. The issue came to a head when the bank withdrew a financing offer because she was four minutes late in calling the bank.Community support helps turn things aroundAt the urging of a friend from Alabama, Reyes-LeRey contacted OccupyHomesMN, which in turn contacted the American Indian Movement (AIM) in Minneapolis. A series of meetings and barbecues were held to build support.On July 26, 2012, a group of supporters from OccupyHomesMN and AIM accompanied Reyes-LeRey to Woodlands National Bank main office in Onamia, MN, and requested a meeting with bank VP Cindy Koonce, who had been negotiating with her. Ms Koonce declined to meet with her.Left: 100,000 petitions delivered to Joanne Whiterabbit, Woodlands National BankWith the help of OccupyHomesMN, Reyes-LeRey set up a petition on Continue Reading

Activists accuse City of Minneapolis of using riot charges to discourage Occupy protests

City of Minneapolis prosecutors would like the protests calling attention to unfair evictions of homeowners to stop, says an attorney representing one of protesters. Attorney Jordan Kushner (right) says prosecutors are trying to intimidate the Occupy Homes protesters who have been arrested for trespassing by elevating the charges to rioting. Rioting carries the possibility of jail time, a criminal record and several thousand dollars in fines.Recently, a judge hearing the case about the October 2011 Occupy Homes arrests at US Bank wouldn’t allow the new rioting charges saying they cannot be increased without new evidence. That allowed the protesters to agree to a plea bargain equivalent to a traffic ticket. Occupy Homes supporters are celebrating that victory. Continue Reading

Son and Occupy stave off foreclosure on Minneapolis mom

Citibank has called off a sheriff’s auction of a home belonging to the mother of one of Occupy Homes MN organizers says a press release from the group that has been fighting the foreclosure for months.Colleen McKeen Espinosa is the mother of Nick Espinosa, who has been organizing actions to prevent foreclosure on Minnesota homes. Espinosa’s mother was reluctant to accept help from the group because she felt “humiliated” by not being able to make the payments on her Minneapolis home. She said she overcame that shame when she came to realize it was the banks, not homeowners that should be ashamed for the mortgage foreclosure crisis.Occupy Homes MN says the agreement allows her to stay in her home and reduces her monthly payments by one-third.The home was scheduled to be sold at sheriff’s auction tomorrow (June 13). The UpTake has called Citibank for comment, but so far they have not returned our call.Click here for an earlier story on the fight to save Colleen McKeen Espinosa’s home.Press release from Occupy Homes MNCitibank Cancels Foreclosure Auction of Minneapolis Mom’s Home; Commits to Loan Modification With Reduced PaymentsMinneapolis, MN — After a several month campaign pressuring Citibank to negotiate with Colleen Mckee Espinosa and a last minute blitz of social media, petition signatures, and calls to the office of CEO Vikram Pandit, Citibank canceled a scheduled sheriff’s sale and approved a loan modification for the Espinosa’s home. An official with CitiMortgage’s Executive Response Unit contacted the Espinosa family with news that Citibank had approved a loan modification that would keep the family in their home and reduce their payments by one-third on a 7.5 year payment plan. The dramatic news came less than 24 hours before the house was to be sold at auction on Wednesday, June 13.“I’m so relieved that my family’s home of 16 years will not be on the auction block tomorrow,” said Colleen McKee Espinosa, a nurse and single mother who received widespread support after she pledged not to leave her home without a good faith negotiation. Continue Reading