Demonstrators sit in at the Sheriff’s Office to protest foreclosure sales


On Wed., March 11, about 60 to 70 demonstrators marched outside Room 30 in City Hall, the office that handles home foreclosures, to publicly demand that Rich Stanek, the Hennepin County Sheriff, stop conducting forclosure sales that are driving people out of their homes.

In Detroit and Chicago, the Wayne County and Cook County sheriffs stopped holding foreclosure sales because they recognized the harm they were doing to local communities, and, at a time when all government budgets are strapped for funds, those sheriffs felt there were better places to spend their money than throwing people out onto the street.

After about a half hour of marching around outside the office, five of the demonstrators went inside to witness the foreclosure sale. After a few moments, Cheri Honkala was thrown outside the door by two deputies. She had exercised her right as a witness to offer a bid on one of the foreclosed properties, but, rather than consider her bid and challenge the bank’s right to repossess the property, the Sheriff’s Office threw her out.

Outside the office, she said to the group, “Let’s go on a little field trip,” and she led the people into the lobby of Sheriff Stanek’s office. She told the sheriff at the desk, “We need to speak to Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. It’s an emergency. People are being thrown out of their homes.” The sheriff said Stanek couldn’t see them. Cheri said, “If we’re not important enough for the sheriff to meet with us, then we’ll just sit down out here until he has the time.” At that point all 60 to 70 people sat down on the floor in the lobby.

The group sat down and almost immediately began singing old Civil Rights songs like “We Shall Not Be Moved.” They sang an old Black spiritual, “Enemy’s Camp,” that was adapted to the occasion:

”Went down to the Sheriff’s office And took back what belonged to me

Took back my dignity

Took back my humanity

And now it’s under my feet

And now it’s under my feet

And now it’s under my feet

And now it’s under my feet

Ain’t no system gonna walk

All over me!”

After about a half an hour County Commissioner Gail Dorfman (probably the most progressive of the county commissioners) came down and went into the Sheriff’s Office. After a few moments a delegation was invited in to speak with Commissioner Dorfman and Deputy Chief Mike Carlson.

After meeting for more than 40 minutes, Dorfman, Carlson and Cheri Honkala came out and told the people sitting in the lobby that they agreed there is a serious problem about home foreclosure and there will be a workshop sponsored by the County on how to avoid foreclosure on Saturday, April 18, at 11 a.m. at Augsburg Park Library, 7100 Nicollet Ave., Richfield, 952-847-5300. There will also be a workshop on Thursday, May 7, at 6:30 p.m. at Pierre Bottineau Library, 55 Broadway St. N.E., Minneapolis, 612-630-6890.

Although the group was satisfied that they had impressed upon the Sheriff’s Office and the county commissioner the urgency of the problem, they had hoped that the County would have supported at least a three month moratorium on foreclosures to allow Obama’s mortgage relief plan to go into effect.

The groups that participated in the event were ACORN, 651-642-9639,; Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign, 267-439-8419,; Economic Crisis Action Group,
651-283-3495, and the Twin Cities IWW (the Industrial Workers of the World), 612-339-1266,; and Homes Not Jails.

Thanks to Michelle Gross, Michele Rockne and Dave Bicking for correcting drafts of this article. – Ed Felien