Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Henry Home Eviction Protest - Occupy Our Homes

We were scheduled to spend an hour in front of the Henry house, from 10am-11am. That became about 30 minutes instead as the group of protesters gathered in temperatures cresting at 20 degrees. Red noses, shivers, and warm smiles peppered the group of protesters. The predominant group appearing were UAW Local 600 workers making over half those coming out in support. 

Speakers from Moratorium Now, Occupy Our Homes, People Before Banks, UAW Local 600, United Steel Workers, and Occupy Detroit spoke to the crowd, and reporters from most news agencies were on site collecting stories. Cameras were clicking and video rolling with battery life marginalized due to the cold. I was there to cover the story with streaming coverage, and photos (when I could find time). I couldn't get the cell phone running ustream to respond to my frozen finger poking through a hole in my knit gloves. The only way to stop the stream was to get inside for the phone to warm, then respond to touch.

Occupy Our Homes encouraged those protesting to come into the house and make calls to Bank Of America. The calls flooded their call center. It was effective - a representative from Bank of America called asking to speak with the Henry family.

Debbie spoke to the representative and was asked to switch the call from speaker phone so they could talk one on one. "Well we've been to the media before, this isn't the first time. This is why we're going to the media, because Bank of America won't help us. Somebody called and offered us a phone call last week and we haven't heard back from them. And its got to end. You've got to get Fannie Mae to help us," Debbie explained to the BoA representative.  

She was told that since the media and public was now involved the situation would go through a different level of interaction in Bank of America - to call their hotline now. I suppose that is like moving from a board room into a war room to handle the mounting situation.

Outside the home Rob Henry was speaking with Channel 7 News and Debbie came out to be part of that conversation. (video) The chants "Bank of America, Bad for America" and "What do we want, JUSTICE, When do we want it, NOW" echoed through the interview being conducted. You can tell the gathering of support was a fragile but warming time for the Henrys as they will be working with Bank of America through this stage of pending eviction.

I came to the protest with Joe Astro who is headed into foreclosure with Bank of America via Countrywide on his home on January 5th. (video) He speaks for a moment with the reporter from Channel 7 News about the need for a five year moratorium on foreclosures. This is how it was handled in the Depression of the 1920s.

The march from the Henry home to the nearest Bank of America branch crossed 6 blocks quickly, receiving honks of approval from passing traffic. Once the group got to the front of the bank the picket line occupied the sidewalk in front of the bank. 

Justin Clark from Occupy Our Homes lead the introduction to the press conference. "Enough is enough - every hard working American family deserves a place they can call home." The bank has said that the decision to allow them to stay in their home is in the hands of Fannie Mae, Bank of America says they are no longer in control.
Debbie addressed the press conference, "Good morning. At last month's hearing we were ordered to move our things from the house by yesterday January 2nd. Now each time we leave the house we can't be sure that our things will still be there when we get back. The banks just keep us in limbo. Its like they forget that we're real people. It would be nice if they could look past the numbers for a moment. But no matter what they decide. This is our home and we aren't leaving. We don't want a hand out, we never asked for a hand out. All we've asked is where do we go for a solution to keep paying on our mortgage and stay in our home. But there is some good news, we have lots of friends four weeks ago there were less than 20 of us. And that was enough, at least to get the bank's attention. Now there are probably over a hundred of us."

"United Auto Workers from Local 600 is there in force.  Once again we are standing up for our families. Even though we might not all be union members, you guys are fighting with us for justice. We would also like to thank Moratorium Now, People Before Banks, and the Occupy movement for coming out here in this very cold morning to show your support. We are one and you are all on our side. We won't lose hope and we won't give up. Our next hearing is on January 19th, please join us there. Thank you all so very much for our support and being there for us."

Steve Babson of People Before Banks spoke next at the press conference, declaring the obscene double-standard. "The banks that trashed the economy are rewarded with subsidies and bonuses for their executives while innocent homeowners like the Henrys are thrown out on the streets." Bank of America took $45 billion in bail out money in 2008-9 and paid $15 billion to their top executives. These were tax payer paid bonuses. The federal government has now assumed Fannie Mae in a silent bailout. 

We need a moratorium for the people to protect them from the banks.

As coverage came to an end I spoke with Joe. He is calling for another march on the main Bank of America branch on Griswold in downtown Detroit.

--story reported by Stephen Boyle
Show support fill out the linked form at Occupy Our Homes.

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