Monday, June 9, 2008

Campaign to stop foreclosures reaches out!

By Caleb T. Maupin

Published Jun 7, 2008 12:18 AM
The Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions has been undertaking a growing campaign over the past few weeks to win passage of SB1306. This bill, which would put a two-year moratorium on mortgage foreclosures, was introduced in the Michigan Legislature by state Sen. Hansen Clarke.

Activists have been doing phone banking, outreach and leaflet distributions from the coalition’s office located at Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit. They are holding almost daily street meetings and distributions at the nearby 36th District Court, the scene of many eviction and foreclosure proceedings.

At these street meetings, two organizers hold a banner as another member of the team agitates and gets the attention of those going into the court. Meanwhile the remaining activists distribute leaflets and engage people in a dialogue about the campaign and its goals. So far, they have distributed thousands of leaflets and many people have signed up for more information. Police harassment of the street meetings has gradually increased as the courts and bankers see that the campaign to challenge the free reign of the predatory lenders is picking up steam.

A job fair in downtown Detroit this week was also the site of the Moratorium Now! Campaign’s mass leafleting. As rows of unemployed workers dressed in their best clothes awaited a chance to get inside and try to get a job, moratorium activists distributed fliers and talked with some of the hundreds of people waiting in line.

The campaign is currently publicizing and preparing for a march through the banking district of Detroit on June 6 from 4 to 6 p.m. to highlight the crimes of predatory lenders. A statewide organizers’ meeting to discuss strategy for building a movement to pass SB1306 is scheduled on June 14 from 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the UAW Local 7 hall on Detroit’s east side.

Sen. Clarke will then chair an official town hall meeting from 2 to 4 p.m. Clarke will take testimony from community members about foreclosures, evictions, neighborhood blight, lowered property values, increased homelessness and other problems facing the community because of the mortgage foreclosure crisis. During the meeting, a simultaneous free legal clinic, hosted by the Coalition’s legal committee, will provide practical advice to those facing foreclosures and evictions.

Coalition organizers hope to rally support in cities and towns throughout Michigan in order to build the necessary movement that will force the politicians to put a halt to the foreclosure epidemic. Community activists in Benton Harbor and Battle Creek have already expressed interest in holding meetings on the moratorium in western Michigan. The campaign has been contacted by people as far away as Traverse City and Cheboygan in northern Michigan.

Direct action stops eviction

On every front, Coalition activists are committed to stopping foreclosures and evictions. These organizers rapidly switched gears one morning last week when the office received a call that an illegal eviction was about to take place. A woman who had paid her rent and done everything expected of her, awoke that morning to find a sheriff knocking on her door informing her that she had two hours before bailiffs would rip her belongings to shreds and dispose of them in a large dumpster, already waiting outside of her home that morning.

Several Coalition activists, including members of Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI), Michigan Welfare Rights and the Green Party, made their way across town to the property. Alan Pollock of MECAWI photographed the bailiffs assertively, much to their chagrin. As a woman from Michigan Welfare Rights stalled the bailiffs, several activists arranged themselves on the porch so that they blocked the entrance to the woman’s home.

Activists were able to stall the bailiffs long enough to contact a judge and get a stay placed on the eviction by the court. According to Coalition attorneys, landlords whose homes are foreclosed must still follow the law by giving tenants proper notice when preparing to evict them.

Readers wanting more information or to get involved can contact the Moratorium NOW! Coalition at 313-964-5813, e-mail, or visit the group’s Web site at Donations can be sent to the Moratorium NOW! at 23 E. Adams, 4th Floor, Detroit, MI 48226.

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