Rochester activists want foreclosures to end

Rochester activists James Kolb and Brian Lenzo report on a march for housing rights and the mayor's attempt to evade responsibility for evictions of homeowners.

Rochester activsts march against eviction and foreclosureRochester activsts march against eviction and foreclosure

MORE THAN 200 people marched to Rochester's City Hall on October 16 to demand an end to police evictions of homeowners whose property is in foreclosure. The march assembled at Washington Square Park, the site of Occupy Rochester's former encampment, before snaking through downtown on its way to a city council meeting.

The rally was organized by Metro Justice and Take Back the Land Rochester under the banner "Housing is a Human Right" and co-sponsored by 17 other groups, showing the depth of support in the Rochester community for those facing the harsh prospect of losing their homes in this economic crisis. Workers from the University of Rochester Hospital, who are struggling to resist drastic cuts to their benefits and harassment by management, also joined the march in an inspiring show of solidarity.

Rochester Mayor Tom Richards, in an obvious attempt to counter the message of the anti-foreclosure march, abruptly called a press conference about homelessness the morning before the rally. Claiming that significant progress was being made, the mayor added, "If a mother and kids find themselves homeless, there is aid...There is no reason for [them] to be on the street."

But a United Way report paints a different picture. It found that "close to 20 percent of foreclosures are rental properties, and there is no assistance for that. Adult homelessness is chiefly caused by poverty and the lack of affordable housing."

So contrary to what Richards said, there is a reason mothers and kids are put on the street--his own policies. The Rochester Police Department regularly enforces eviction orders, which are a consequence of the banks' relentless (and sometimes even fraudulent) pursuit of profit. The recent case of the Windom-Bey family reveals that the city is directly colluding with corrupt developers and real estate speculators to throw people out of their homes.

In response to the mayor's absurdity, the march took on a more militant tone, with chants like, "Hey, we're taking over! No eviction, no foreclosure!" and "Fight! Fight! Fight! Housing is a human right!" Following a spirited rally, marchers entered City Hall to attend a city council meeting and push for a resolution that really would address the chief cause of homelessness--people being evicted from their homes!

The resolution, presented over a year ago and long ignored by city council, calls for an end to Rochester Police Department participation in foreclosure evictions.

Nearly 30 people spoke before the council. Many expressed their willingness to continue defending homes even if the city doesn't pass the resolution as well as their frustration with the mayor's obvious attempt to deflect attention from the real problem.

There was a lot of good energy and chanting between speakers. Cathy Lennon and Lee Windom-Bey, both victims of the foreclosure machine, spoke about their experiences and in favor of the resolution. Everyone left feeling energized and vowed to defend any family who faces foreclosure or eviction.