August 1, 2012: Green Party vice presidential nominee Cheri Honkala hugs her son as she’s taken away by police after being arrested at a sit-in Wednesday in downtown Philadelphia. Matt Moore, © AP
The criminalization of protest continues.
On the same day that their campaign overcame insurmountable odds and qualified for the Pennsylvania ballot, Stein & Honkala were out in direct action in protest over the foreclosure crisis.
The protest was originally called for by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign to demand that the giant mortgage company halt foreclosure proceedings against two Philadelphia residents in danger of losing their homes.
Stein joined the protest after Cheri Honkala joined her as Stein’s vice presidential running mate. Honkala, a former homeless single mother, has been confronting banks and mortgage companies for decades demanding that they adopt policies that will, “keep families in their homes.”
At 1pm today about 50 protestors gathered outside of Fannie Mae’s Philadelphia headquarters. They heard from Miss Fran and Rhonda Lancaster, the heads of two families evicted by Fannie Mae in its refusal to negotiate an alternative to foreclosure.
Fannie Mae executive Zach Oppenheimer had previously promised in writing to meet with the two women in order to discuss other options. Yet no followup meeting ever took place, and so protestors today entered the Fannie Mae building and vowed to stay until Mr. Oppenheimer’s word was honored.
At about 2:30pm, an hour after entering the building and beginning a sitdown protest, lower level Fannie Mae officials agreed to meet with Miss Fran and Ms. Lancaster.
These meetings proved inconclusive, ending only with promises of more meetings. With Philadelphia police on hand with six paddy wagons and plainclothesman, a smaller subset of protestors stayed inside the building and risked arrest. Five were arrested, including Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala.
Noting that the Obama administration has only released 10% of the aid that Congress had promised to homeowners, Stein asserted that “There is much more interest in Washington in protecting the profits of banks than in getting this aid out to the families whose lives are falling apart.
President Obama held a big press conference to announce a program that would supposedly help 1.5 million homeowners and so far it has actually helped only 1 per cent of that number. Real help goes to the CEOs who play golf with the President and the people get lip service. This will change only if the people stand up and say we’re not going to put up with it anymore.
One woman, Miss Fran, who has been sleeping in her car since being evicted, had this to say about her situation:
I have lived in Philadelphia all my life, and in this house since 1988. Once when I was forced to file for bankruptcy, my mortgage holder, Chase Bank, suddenly came to court and objected to my bankruptcy plan. Although the law requires them to notify me in advance, I had no warning of their action, so I had no lawyer and no time to prepare my evidence. The judge dismissed my file for bankruptcy and Chase began foreclosure proceedings.
I participated in Philadelphia’s Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program, so I was able to keep my home off the sheriff sale list. Then they claimed I missed a Conciliation Conference even though they had never notified me about it. When I complained, the court rescheduled the sheriff sale of my home from July 1, 2008, to September. I attended that sale on July 1 and was shocked to hear them put my house up for sale anyway. I was in the back of the auditorium and ran to the front making so much noise the sheriff’s lawyer had to stop the sale. Finally they brought in a letter from the sheriff saying they had obtained a court order that same day to sell the house. They had gone to court without even notifying me. The same judge who postponed the sale in the first place had turned around and vacated his own order, all without telling me.
The sale of my home went through on July 1, but my battle was just beginning. Although Chase Bank foreclosed on my home, I found out the sheriff changed the name on the documents to Fannie Mae. There is no bill of sale from Chase to Fannie Mae and no record of any transfer. Fannie Mae has no legal standing to evict me. But that didn’t stop them from trying. They sued to evict me in April 2011. I filed an objection, it was overruled, I answered them, and we were supposed to go to trial in February 2012. Then they filed for a summary judgment against me, which is only supposed to be granted when there is no dispute in the matter. I told them we most definitely do have a dispute: a district court order was ignored and Fannie Mae has no standing. But the judge granted the summary judgment anyway. They obtained a writ of eviction and scheduled my eviction for June 12.
The other homeowner, Rhonda Lancaster was talked into a reverse mortgage to pay for her sick mother’s health care bills. After her mother died, the bank refused to accept her as the executor of her estate, although the proper papers had been filed at City Hall. From that point on it was a complete nightmare.