Rosemary Williams is, technically, a squatter. On August 7, Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputies showed up to evict her from a residence in the 3100 block of Clinton Avenue South. But within 10 minutes, by Williams’ own account, she was back in the home that she’s lived in for nearly three decades.
“Somebody found an open entrance, so we went back in and unlocked the door,” Williams recalls.
Since then Williams and a rotating cast of allies have been living at the home in defiance of the law. They’re seeking a new, affordable mortgage for the 60-year-old grandmother. In addition, they want a federal moratorium on foreclosures so that more families don’t end up on the streets.
Williams’ house went into foreclosure after her monthly mortgage payment increased from $1,200 to $2,200 and she could no longer afford to pay the bills. The property was sold at a sheriff’s auction last September and Williams was ordered to vacate the premises by March 30. Instead she’s vowed to stay put. According to Williams, GMAC Mortgage, the company that now owns the property, recently offered her $5,000 to vacate the premises.
“Sell my soul to the devil for $5,000?” she asks rhetorically. “This isn’t about $5,000 and me going away. This is a movement. We’ve got to keep it going until homeowners are treated right and justly.”
There doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm among law-enforcement officials to force a showdown with Williams. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office believes it’s already handled its obligations in the matter and is deferring to the judgment of the Minneapolis Police Department.
“It’s our understanding that it’s their responsibility to remove her from the home if that’s what the current owner of the property is wanting to happen,” says Lisa Kiava, communications director for the sheriff’s department. “That’s what we’ve determined in this case.”
But the MPD doesn’t seem enthusiastic about forcibly removing Williams from the property.
“At this point we don’t feel it’s an appropriate use of police resources to address the issue,” says Sgt. William Palmer, an MPD spokesman. “We don’t want to become the issue. This is an issue that’s much larger than the police department or even the city.”
Williams says she’s not surprised that the cops aren’t willing to roust her from the home permanently.
“Law enforcement are human beings,” she says. “They know people who are being evicted. People are real sympathetic to this cause.”
On Monday afternoon, roughly three dozen supporters of Williams gathered in her front yard to protest the ongoing wave of foreclosures and evictions. Another rally is slated for Thursday.
“This is one of the first people in the nation taking a stand to stop foreclosures and stop evictions and make sure that we can save our neighborhoods across the country,” said Linden Gawboy, an activist with the Minnesota Coalition for the People’s Bailout. “It’s a great honor to be here in support of Rosemary.”
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