Friday, September 26, 2008

US Economic Crisis Bulletin: Struggle Against Foreclosures Spread From Michigan to Los Angeles and Boston

People tell Michigan legislators: ‘MORATORIUM NOW!’

By Bryan G. Pfeifer
Lansing, Mich.
Published Sep 25, 2008 9:38 PM

Chanting “Bail out the people, not the banks,” hundreds of poor and working people from across Michigan converged on the Capitol here on Sept. 17 demanding the State Legislature enact SB 1306, a two-year foreclosure moratorium bill. The action was sponsored by the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions.

Protesters were outraged that the federal government has pledged hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out the same mortgage, banking and insurance companies that caused the foreclosure crisis. Activists were serious and determined to win relief by forcing the state and federal governments to pass a moratorium to immediately halt foreclosures.

The very diverse, multinational array of people came from Detroit, Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Flint, Lansing, Ypsilanti, Adrian, Sault St. Marie and other cities and towns across Michigan. Many face foreclosure and eviction or are already victims of the home foreclosure epidemic.

Dozens of UNITE HERE union members came from Detroit on a bus sponsored by the Change to Win labor federation. Other unionists included United Auto Workers, Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of Teachers.

The Green Party of Michigan, Detroit Greens and the Cynthia McKinney presidential campaign were represented, as were Students for a Democratic Society, National Lawyers Guild, Workers World Party, Food Not Bombs, the independent newspaper collective Critical Moment, Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, Michigan Welfare Rights, Call ’Em Out, Latinos Unidos of Michigan, Grand Rapids Latino Community Coalition, Joint Religious Organizing Network for Action and Hope, and the Adrian Dominican Sisters & Associates for Peace.

After leaving buses, vans and carpools, protesters began marching in a huge picket line. Sandra Hines and Abayomi Azikiwe of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition led chants of “We the people demand relief–Moratorium NOW!” and “A home is a right–We’re gonna fight, fight, fight!” The chants echoed loudly from the Capitol and other buildings in downtown Lansing.

“We must have the moratorium and we must have it now!” declared Azikiwe as he and co-chair Kris Hamel kicked off the rally on the Capitol steps. “We’re going to build the people’s movement. We have to mobilize and organize. The solution must come from the people!”

Fight, fight, fight!

Reverend Ed Rowe of Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, one of the coalition’s initiators, said, “We’re fired up and ready to go. No more bailouts to the rich.” Rowe said all faith-based organizations should be supporting SB 1306. He pledged ongoing support to the coalition, whose office is in his church. Rowe worked with state Senator Hansen Clarke in drafting and sponsoring SB 1306. Clarke told the crowd he was “outraged” over the bailouts to the banks and demanded that the moratorium bill be passed.

State Representatives Gabe Leland, Shanelle Jackson, Bettie Cook-Scott and Steve Tobocman also addressed the crowd, as did state Sen. Martha Scott.

Speaking from her wheelchair, Rubie Curl-Pinkins declared, “I don’t want anyone else to lose their home. Keep on fighting!” Her home was saved from foreclosure after two large, militant demonstrations targeted Countrywide and Bank of America, demanding they accept her mortgage repayment. Nikki Curl, Pinkins’ daughter, said, “When we come together as one, we can make a difference.”

Sandra Hines, whose family home of 40 years was seized by the bank, said, “This is a national fight. We’re going to force elected officials to move. We have to win this moratorium.”

Jerry Goldberg, people’s attorney and coalition leader, said, “We can’t wait one more day for a moratorium. We need an executive order from Governor Granholm. We need to stop every foreclosure block by block. We need action now. Let’s fight for the moratorium. Let’s win it.”

Juan Daniel Castro of the Grand Rapids Latino Community Coalition connected the struggles of poor and working people in the United States to those in Latin America. He stated, “People united will never be defeated. We want people’s needs addressed, not corporate welfare!”

Linette Crosby from rural St. Johns told how her family’s 140-acre mint farm, which has been in existence since 1912, is now in foreclosure. The bank intends to auction off the farm’s inventory on Nov. 1. Crosby said some people told her not to speak out, but she was going to anyway. “Foreclosures and evictions touch everybody. We’re not ready to give up.”

Larry Holmes of New York City, a leader of the Troops Out Now Coalition and the Ad Hoc National Network to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions, told the crowd: “When the rich want something, nothing is ever enough. When it comes to poor and working people, we get nothing. It’s an insult, a shame, a scandal, a crime that your legislators haven’t passed SB 1306. You are the working-class heroes of today, fighting for everyone else, against not just foreclosures and evictions but cuts in jobs, pensions and wages. Keep doing what you’re doing. Power to the people. Moratorium NOW!”

Robert Pratt of UNITE HERE was put in foreclosure when he couldn’t pay the mortgage after his 12-year-old son was tragically shot and killed. His lender refused to work out a payment arrangement after Pratt explained he needed to pay for funeral costs. Pratt, with dozens of union members in red shirts behind him on the steps of the Capitol, pledged to organize to help make the moratorium a reality.

Rosendo Delgado of Latinos Unidos of Michigan stated: “If we can get a moratorium passed in Michigan, it will spread like wildfire. Therefore we must fight to make this bill a reality.”

People’s hearing

After the rally, dozens lined up at a people’s hearing to give testimony on how foreclosures, evictions, job losses, lack of health care, racism and other ills have affected them and their families and why a moratorium is sorely needed in Michigan.

They gave heart-wrenching details about the criminal activities of the bankers and lenders who tossed them and their loved ones out on the street. The majority had lived in their homes for years but fell into dire economic straits due to such catastrophic personal crises as losing a job or having a major family health crisis.

The entire hearing was videotaped. DVDs will soon be available from the coalition. Organizers plan to deliver them to members of the State Legislature in a further effort to move SB 1306 out of committee and force public hearings around the state.

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition meets next on Sept. 27 at 11 a.m. Weekly open staff meetings are held on Mondays at 7 p.m. at the coalition’s office at Central United Methodist Church, 23 E. Adams, 4th floor, Detroit. Call 313-887-4344; email; or visit to send a donation or get involved.
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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LOS ANGELES: ‘Bail out Main St.—not Wall St.’

By LeiLani Dowell
Los Angeles
Published Sep 25, 2008 9:10 PM

In the middle of a work day on Sept. 17, more than 60 people attended a protest and press conference at the downtown Los Angeles Federal Building to demand a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. The event was organized by the Labor/Community Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions, under the theme “Bail out Main Street—not Wall Street.”

John Parker, West Coast coordinator of the International Action Center and member of the Harvard Blvd. Block Association, explained that “The mortgage companies have been playing with and gambling on people’s lives.” He urged: “We have to change the government’s priorities by demanding what we need. They don’t count on the will of the people.”

Father Richard Estrada, associate pastor of Placita Olvera Church, described how many of the people who attend his church have recently had their homes foreclosed by the banks. He told the assembled crowd, “The only way the people will get through this is to stand up and march.”

Gloria Saucedo of Hermandad Nacional Mexicana said: “We all know families who spent years saving money to pay for their mortgage. Months later the banks tell them they have to pay exorbitant interest rates. All they are doing are working and trying to have a home for their children. The government is giving money to the rich, but what about the communities?”

Fernando Fernando of BAYAN-USA said about the world’s largest insurance company: “AIG was bailed out for $85 billion, but there are more homeless. Where is the justice? This country’s taxpayers demand a moratorium on foreclosures!”

Sharon Black of the Ad Hoc National Network to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions explained the legal basis for the moratorium demand: “The law says that every time there is a disaster, there is supposed to be a moratorium on foreclosures. This economic crisis is clearly a state of emergency.”

Marta Rojas, a member of the Service Employees International Union who narrowly avoided the foreclosure of her home this year, denounced the auctions of people’s homes taking place throughout Los Angeles, calling them “vultures preying on the community.” The Ad Hoc National Network to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions had protested one such auction a week before the Sept. 17 action.

A representative of the youth group FIST—Fight Imperialism, Stand Together—described how the foreclosure crisis has extended to affect students, who are seeing student loan offers disappear. This is occurring particularly at community colleges, where working class youth and youth of color often begin their higher education.

Other speakers included Rosie Martinez and Marva Burgess of SEIU Local 721’s executive board, and Caroline Hughes of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, a non-profit community advocacy and counseling agency that fights discriminatory and predatory lending.

Dowell represented FIST at the Sept. 17 demonstration.

Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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BOSTON: ‘Foreclose the war, not our homes!’

By Julia Morse
Published Sep 25, 2008 9:21 PM

Activists from the Women’s Fightback Network, Fight Imperialism, Stand Together and the International Action Center rallied in front of the Countrywide Bank in Boston’s Lower Roxbury/South End on Sept. 20 to protest evictions and home foreclosures affecting thousands of people in Massachusetts.

The protest was part of the Emergency Moratorium Campaign demanding that Gov. Deval Patrick use his executive powers to declare an economic state of emergency to halt all home foreclosures, evictions and utility shutoffs.

Shouting “Foreclose the war, not our homes,” the moving protest then marched up Massachusetts Avenue to South Bay Jail, which houses men and women serving sentences for mostly crimes of survival. The protesters stood on the street in front of the prison and confronted police and prison staff while directing chants of solidarity upward to the prisoners, who heard and saw them, banged on the windows of their cells and raised their fists in acknowledgment.

On the women’s side of the prison, women on several floors put “NO WAR” signs in their windows, using toilet paper and socks.

“We stand in solidarity with you,” said Miya Campbell, member of the WFN and FIST. “We will continue the fight on the streets because the Wall Street bankers are the ones who should be in prison and not you! Food, fuel and housing are a right. They can bail out the banks for a trillion dollars while they throw us on the streets!” Solidarity messages were also given by FIST member Jon Regis, WFN member Rachel Hassinger and Bishop Felipe Teixeira.

The moving rally continued down Massachusetts Avenue to the South Bay Shopping Plaza across the street from NSTAR, a utility that recently sent out 125,000 shutoff notices to Massachusetts consumers. At the same time they are endangering the poor with electricity shutoffs, NSTAR executives and board members are fattening their paychecks with multi-million-dollar salaries and stock options.

According to an NSTAR income statement, stockholders have been awarded more than $900 million over the past year. All along the march, drivers eagerly accepted literature on the economic crisis and honked their horns in support.

Activists then brought the rally to shoppers at Stop & Shop, where, despite harassment from the cops, nearly 100 people signed a petition to declare an emergency and took copies to have others sign. Copies can be downloaded from . The protest was part of the campaign launched by the Ad Hoc National Network to Stop Moratoriums and Evictions
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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