[URBANTH-L]NEWS: Leaders Link Arms Against Evictions
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Wed Feb 18 13:24:25 EST 2009
Leaders link arms against evictions
Wed, Feb. 18, 2009
By Fernanda Santos
New York Times News Service
NEW YORK - As resistance to foreclosure evictions grows among
homeowners, community leaders and some law enforcement officials, a
broad civil disobedience campaign is starting to support families who
refuse orders to vacate their homes.
The community organizing group ACORN unveiled the campaign with a
spirited rally Friday at a Brooklyn, N.Y., church and will roll it out
in at least 22 other cities in the coming weeks. Through phone trees,
Web pages and text-messaging networks, the effort will connect families
facing eviction with volunteers who will stand at their side as officers
arrive, even if it means risking arrest.
"You want to haul us out to jail? Fine. Let the world see how government
has been ineffective," Bertha Lewis, ACORN's chief organizer, said in an
interview. "Politicians have helped banks, but they haven't helped
families in the way that it's needed, and these families are now saying,
enough is enough."
At the onset of the foreclosure crisis, the problem was regarded by some
as one of a homeowner's own making, the result of irresponsible
decisions made by families who chose to live beyond their means. But as
foreclosures spread across the country, devastating even solidly
middle-class communities, the blame has slowly shifted to the financial
companies that made questionable loans and have received billions of
dollars in federal aid to stave off collapse.
In recent months, a budding resistance movement has grown among
Americans who think they have been left to face their predicament on
their own - and the ACORN campaign is an organized expression of that
frustration, Lewis said. Instead of quietly packing up and turning their
homes over to banks, homeowners are now fighting back.
On Feb. 9, a man scrawled a message on the roof of his house in a suburb
of Los Angeles: "I Want 2 Be Heard." Then he barricaded himself inside
when deputies showed up to evict him, surrendering after a few hours. In
October, a woman in San Diego chained herself to her front porch after
the bank that held her mortgage refused to renegotiate the terms. She
remains in her home, but has received a second eviction notice.
And last year in Boston, neighbors and activists locked arms outside
eight buildings that had been foreclosed upon to prevent the authorities
from forcing residents onto the streets.
Sheriffs in some places have also taken a stand. In Wayne County, Mich.,
Sheriff Warren C. Evans suspended all evictions starting Feb. 2 until
the federal government implements a plan to help home-owners facing
In Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart
directed a lawyer to review all eviction orders to protect people who
kept on paying rent after the buildings where they lived had been seized
by banks. In Butler County, Ohio, Sheriff Richard K. Jones ordered his
deputies not to evict people who had no place else to go.
"This is a cold place in the winter and I will not give people a death
sentence for not paying their debts," Jones said in an interview. "These
are human beings, responsible middle-class people who fell on hard
times, and I just can't toss them out onto the streets."
The movement against eviction has found a supporter in Rep. Marcy Kaptur
of Ohio. During a discussion last month about the $700 billion bailout
package for financial companies, Kaptur took to the floor of the House
and instructed people to "stay in your homes - if the American people,
anybody out there, is being foreclosed, don't leave."
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