When your house is invaded by insects, everyone knows it's time to call the exterminator.
But when your house is invaded by banksters? The Federal government is of no use. Calling Jaime Dimon produces a recording of hysterical laughter. Prayers have not been shown to have any efficacy in stopping the sheriff from tossing your kids out onto the street. Lawyers cost the money you don't have and usually can't do much anyway. And even if they want to seek help, people are often ashamed.
What to do?
It's not for the faint of heart, but those who are angry enough to be willing to fight back on the edge of the law have one last resort -- calling Occupy and friends.
"Unruly mobs" of Occupy activists and other home defender groups such as ACCE have formed all across the country, pledging to draw a line in the sidewalk to not allow foreclosures, auctions and evictions by invasive banksters to take place -- not without a fight anyway. From Minnesota to Atlanta, from Eugene to Brooklyn, from Detroit to Los Angeles and Anaheim, From San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento and Stockton to Maine, auctions have been disrupted, evictions prevented, people organized, and sufficient publicity generated to force banksters into modifying loans they once claimed were impossible to rework and unevict people they thought they had removed.
Here are two ongoing stories of people seeking help and getting it.
In Oakland, Zaki Alshalyan comes to the Occupy Oakland Foreclosure Defense Group and tells his story.
My name is Zaki Alshalyan!Within a week we had organized and executed a bank action at a local Bank of America branch in conjunction with an ACCE Home Defenders action at a nearby Wells Fargo. (Zaki's loan is serviced by BofA).
I am Iraqi-American and I was a prisoner of war in Operation Desert Storm 1991. I am one of thousands of Iraqis who stood up with the American army to fight with them against Saddam Hussein.
I spend 5 years in the prison. It was the worse place in the Saudi Arabian desert. I spent days and nights... months and years in this place without exit to anything. I can't see anything except the sand and the sky...no plant, no bird, no animal can live there. Everyday my body was totally covered with sand because my tent where I slept was broken from the storms and sometimes I can't see or breathe and the days turned to darkness. I suffered torture by Saudi guards many times. After seeking freedom for 5 years, I had the chance to meet the American delegation. They check my story and they accept me to live in the USA as a refugee.
I arrived in San Francisco on 1/15/1995. I had hope for my future and family I left behind. After one month in San Francisco, I started working two jobs 16 hours a day, 6 days a week... working hard and paying my taxes. In May 2005, I had saved my money and put down payment to buy this property, a small four unit building in East Oakland.
Four years later, my hardship started when the bank started raising my mortgage payment until it reached 5000 dollars a month. I couldn't pay the high payment. I ask the bank for help, for a loan modification. It took two years and the bank kept asking me for documents and paper work and I send them everything they ask for over and over. Finally, the bank denied my loan modification for no reason. The loan modification and hardship has negative effect on me and my job, on my wife and my three kids. Now I live in tough times.
After I spend all the money I had, after I borrow money from friends and family to fix the property, now the property is worth nothing - I owe more than the property is worth.
Bank of America sent me a letter saying they want to sell my property at auction on October 4th. I can't lose my property. This is my only income. I have no other support for myself and my family.
I am now seeking help from you to put pressure on the bank to modify my loan and help me save my property.
Thank you very much,
Yours truly in white holding our banner with other Occupy Oakland peeps
outside of a BoA branch in Oakland's Chinatown.
Needless to say Bank of America was not amused. In fact, the branch manger called Oakland Police on their own customer, Mr. Alshalyan, his friend, and a few of our representatives who had gone inside the bank to politely and peacfully ask them simply to fax a letter to the executive in charge of Zaki's case demanding that BofA negotiate a loan modification.
In a small victory, BofA has postponed the auction date until November 4th. But this is just the first step is what could be a lengthy battle. Or BofA could do the sane thing and give Mr. Alshalyan a loan modification -- e.g., reducing his mortgage rate to close to market levels would likely be more than sufficent to allow him to make his payments.
But they will most probably have to be dragged into the streets kicking and screaming (metaphorically, of course) and in front of the press before they will be willing to negotiate a reasonable plan. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, A Fort Is Built in Los Angeles.
Several hundred miles south of Oakland, Ulises Hernandez has also been having trouble with -- you guessed it -- Bank of America. BofA screwed his family over by claiming to be willing to accept a loan modification application with their left hand, all the while foreclosing on them with their right hand.
"We applied for one and they denied us. We applied for a second time, and they denied us again," he said, sitting outside the home at 14620 Leadwell Street.Like Zaki Alshalyan, they decided not go peacefully into the night. The Hernandez' reached out to Occupy Los Angeles and Occupy San Fernando Valley and...
As the family was in the process of applying a third time, the bank sold their house out from under them to Bank of New York Mellon. After four years of slogging unsuccessfully through bank paperwork and being denied assistance, the family got notice that they were to vacate the property by August 26.
Ft. Hernandez, Van Nuys, CA
Presto! As you can see from the photo, they drew a line in the sidewalk around what is now known as 'Ft. Hernandez' saying "This far and no further!"
Their front lawn is a colorful mélange of banners, posters and human activity. Couches are lined up just beyond the front walkway, where they casually perch and watch the perimeter of what's now known as "Fort Hernandez."The Hernandez' credit Occupy Los Angeles and friends with their more than month-long so-far-successful defense.
Ulises Hernandez lives in the home with eight members of his family, including 4 children... Occupiers from Los Angeles... are there in support of the Hernandez family... ((Hernandez)) says the Occupiers are the first people who have stood up for him and his family... The Hernandez family credits the attention received from the Occupy encampment as the reason authorities haven't evicted them yet. They say millions of families across the country aren't so lucky as the banks are using fraudulent tactics with no oversight to stop them.Or, as Ft. Hernandez Occupier Adam Rice puts it not quite so delicately
They ((the banksters)) don't give a fuck about people. They just want the land.To the banksters eternal
Obviously individual home defenses are not going to solve a problem endemic across the nation, affecting millions of people. But without homeowners and home defenders willing to put themselves on the front line, saying "thus far and no farther!" and drawing a line in the sidewalk, the continued theft of millions of homes by the same banks who precipitated the financial crisis in the first place would be going unnoticed, save by each family one by one, as they found themselves out in the street.
Daniel, frequent photographer and videographer to Occupy Oakland, took the first picture.
The Ft. Hernandez picture is labeled (Watchara/LAist) here.