Refusing to be put out of their home

September 30, 2008

RECENTLY, FRANCES Louis and her husband, parents and three children were going to be evicted from their home in Mattapan, a neighborhood in Boston, by a mortgage company owned by none other than Bear Stearns--the failed investment bank that was recently saved by a government bailout and sale to JPMorgan Chase.

However, the Louis family fought back and organized an eviction blockade with the neighborhood organization City Life/Vida Urbana (CLVU) on September 22. Over 45 people came out to picket outside of--and literally block--the entrance to the Louis home. The blockade was deemed victorious at 10 a.m., an hour after the eviction was to take place, and word from the constable for the bank was that he had not received notice to evict the family that morning.

By leafleting and canvassing target neighborhoods for foreclosure, CLVU has been able to work with families to prevent evictions. In the past year, this kind of organizing has prevented at least three other evictions.

As with many of the victims of the current crisis, Louis' mother, Yvonne Price, bought the home in Mattapan through a sub-prime loan with increasingly expensive mortgage payments. When the mortgage company foreclosed on the property, Louis offered to buy the house back at current market value. The mortgage company refused and proceeded with evicting the family.

The hypocrisy of Bear Stearns in this case is particularly glaring given that the Louis family is merely asking for time to acquire a loan to be able to buy the home at market value, not for the tax dollars the Bear Stearns received for its bailout. As Louis commented in an interview with the local ABC station, "They're bailing out these companies, but they're throwing out the little people."

The hypocrisy of the banks and politicians who protect them was the focus of the eviction blockade. Jim Brooks, a CLVU organizer whose wheelchair was chained to the porch of the house, said that Bear Stearns/JPMorgan have no investment in African American communities like Mattapan, and thus are willing to watch those communities fall apart.

Soledad, also an organizer in CLVU, argued that "the banks get to start all over again with our money," while ordinary people are never given a second chance. This sentiment was echoed during the picket as people shouted "Our money, our say! We demand to stay!"

Veteran civil rights activist Mel King called out local politicians, in particular, Gov. Deval Patrick, for voicing sympathy for those losing their homes, but not signing legislation that could put a moratorium on foreclosures.

As the economic crisis deepens, victories like these have the ability to not only secure people's livelihoods, but also build a larger struggle against the rulers of this country, who want ordinary people to pay for the economic disaster they created.
Akunna Eneh, Boston

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