Demonstrators confront the banks


On a bright sunny Saturday, June 13, about 100 people gathered at Lake and Clinton to march to Wells Fargo and US Bank to protest the foreclosures of people in South Minneapolis.

Organized by the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout, the group marched first to the Wells Fargo branch at Lake and Nicollet. They chanted: “WELLS FARGO GOT BAILED OUT. WE GOT SOLD OUT.” “STOP FORECLOSURES NOW!”

At the bank Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (whose ward includes many of the foreclosures in South Minneapolis) told the demonstration she was in solidarity with their goals and objectives. The Minneapolis City Council passed a resolution that urged banks and mortgage companies to allow homeowners to stay in their homes after foreclosure and to allow tenants to
remain in their rental homes: “

Minneapolis homeowners, tenants and neighborhoods have suffered a growing number of foreclosed and vacant homes. These foreclosures destabilize families and neighborhoods in many ways.”

In a press release the organizers recognized that the City Council Resolution was a “recommendation,” and “It will take the power of the people to demand that the banks and mortgage companies institute policies that stop putting people on the street through foreclosures and evictions.” The demonstrators then marched down 31st Street to Chicago Avenue and over to Lake and 10th Avenue to the US Bank.

At a rally in front of the bank, Peter Brown, a lawyer from The Lawyer’s Guild and an attorney for the Tenant’s Union, told the crowd “Housing is a human right.” With reference to the Rose-mary Williams eviction, he said the basic argument in the case is that if Rosemary Williams is evicted it will create a public nuisance in the neighborhood with the continuing escalation of vacant and boarded homes. CANDO, the neighborhood organization and members of the community have testified through affidavits that the eviction of Rosemary Williams would constitute a public nuisance. GMAC (the company that holds the mortgage and is pressing for eviction) says, “Until she is evicted, we’ve done nothing wrong.”

But there is a 1910 Minnesota law that says it is a crime to threaten a nuisance. [Unfortunately, since then, the judge has ruled against her and ordered her to be evicted. She cannot appeal this decision unless she can post a $50,000 bond.

State Representative Jeff Hayden said his family has known Rosemary’s family for 20 years, “The foreclosure crisis is as devastating as the crack epidemic of the 1980s. They are taking away our heritage. Keep up the fight. I’m with you 100 percent.

Ann Patterson, who has good credit and has never missed a mortgage payment is trying to renegotiate an adjustable rate mortgage with Wells Fargo that has spun her monthly payments out of control. They refuse to negotiate with her. She said, “We’ve lived in the house for 12 years. We don’t want to be martyrs, but we’re not going to let these houses go without a fight.” Dave Bicking, a candidate for City Council in the 9th Ward, said, “We are here today because we know we have a crisis in our city. We have a crisis of foreclosures, we have a crisis of evictions, and we have a crisis of demolition of salvageable affordable housing. This is tearing apart entire neighborhoods, leaving empty holes in the fabric of our communities. It is forcing people into homelessness while hundreds of homes stand vacant. It is uprooting families, it is causing children to move during the school year, and it is tearing old neighbors apart from one another.

“Like all crises, there are those who are suffering, and there are those who are profiting off of that suffering. The banks, like the one we are standing in front of, profited greatly while creating this crisis. Now the government is saving them from the risks they took, while these banks continue to squeeze homeowners with adjusted mortgage payments that they cannot afford.

“Where has our government been? We can see that the federal government is still far more interested in saving the banks than in saving people’s homes.”

Deb Konechne, of the Welfare Rights Committee, said, “The banks would rather give back the money to the federal government, than give it to people to stay in their homes. They are sucking the blood out of our community.”

At this point, Deb Konechne and Mick Kelly led the group to the front door of US Bank to go inside and present a petition to the bank manager calling for a moratorium on foreclosures. The Minneapolis police at the door would not let them in. The police called for reinforcements. At that point, Deb and Mick asked the rest of the demonstrators to go back to the street, thinking that since there were now only the two of them, they would pose no threat to the police or the bank manager. The police still refused to let them in. Four police arrived in a squad car. They stood around the outside of the ring of police surrounding Deb and Mick. Finally, one of the police reinforcements walked through the ring past Deb and tore the petition from her hands. He gave it to the officer in charge who quickly crumpled it up and threw it on the ground. [So much for “peacefully petition the government for redress of grievances.”] The officer in charge said the bank manager was “too scared” to meet with them, so Deb and Mick went back to the group and the demonstration ended.

Update on evictions:
There will be a Fundraising Dinner for Ona Kingbird at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 7, at the Indian Center at Bloomington and Franklin Avenue. Cost is $10 for all the spaghetti and meatballs you can eat. Ona is a Twin Cities Ojibwa elder who has taught for 36 years in Minnesota public schools and prisons. As a Red Lake tribal member and bearer of the pipe given by her father, a medicine man, she preserved the culture of her students at Heart of the Earth school in South Minneapolis. She is facing homelessness due to foreclosure on her home.

Friday, July 10, there will be a “People’s Party” at Rosemary’s house at 3138 Clinton Ave. S. from 6 p.m. until midnight. There will be $5 bottomless cups of beer, dollar dogs (meaty and vegan), watermelon and jammin’ tunes. Plain ol’ donations are also encouraged. Enjoy the evening with your fellow people of conscience. Let’s put the fun in fundraiser! Bring friends and family.

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