Foreclosure sit in results in arrest of ACORN activists

OAKLAND, Calif. The Brass Liberation Orchestra could be heard for blocks through the West Oakland neighborhood, as ACORN Home Defenders and supporters gathered July 31 outside the now-vacant house that was once home to Tosha Alberty and her family.

Through three previous actions, the team from the Oakland chapter of ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), had saved the Alberty home from the sheriff’s padlock. But the bank had refused to modify the Albertys’ loan. Finally, in an early morning raid July 20, sheriffs’ deputies rousted family members, changed the locks before Home Defenders could arrive, and hammered plywood over the windows.

Now the Home Defenders were back, preparing to peacefully reoccupy the home and assert the right of the Albertys and others in the same situation to remain in their homes until a fair solution to the nation’s foreclosure crisis can be fully implemented. Oakland police officers were there, too, parked on the sidelines, watching…

As the Home Defenders prepared to occupy the front steps, Tosha Alberty, a lifelong West Oakland resident, told how she bought the home over three years ago from a real estate broker who said payments would be $2,800 per month and promised to help her refinance after six months. Then she discovered a second loan was involved. Payments ultimately soared to $5,000 a month. Even so, the family kept payments current for two years.

Meanwhile, First Franklin bank sold the loan to National City Homes, which sold it to Merrill-Lynch, which was then bought by Bank of America.

“They told me that if I paid for two years, they would help me,” she said. “When I called them to get help, they said, ‘You never missed a payment. You don’t need help.’ But when I started missing payments, guess what? My credit was bad, so they were not going to help me.

“Things like this will continue to happen if people do not stand up and fight for what our president has put into force,” she added, referring to President Obama’s Making Home Affordable program to help struggling homeowners.

The way the deputies took the home was especially outrageous, Alberty said. She had already left for her job with the county when they banged on the door, threatening to throw her 23-year-old son in jail “for sleeping in his own bed” and watching her 21-year-old daughter as she dressed. “Whoever is this person who took the house,” she added, “I pray that it never happens to him.”

Also addressing the crowd was East Oakland ACORN activist Annie McKinzie, who put the action in context of civil rights struggles she participated in during the 1960s as a Mississippi youth registering voters with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. In those days, McKinzie said, “we broke the law because the law was unjust. Because of our actions we have seen many changes in our country. Now we are in the midst of an economic crisis and we cannot continue to have our families pushed out of their homes.”

Meanwhile, eight Home Defenders had taken their places on the steps. As she and the others settled in to await the inevitable arrests, West Oakland ACORN chapter chair Shirley Burnell summed up the afternoon: “There’s no reason we should have to get together like this to save our homes, when the banks could sit down with people and work things out.”

Moments later, the police moved in, arresting all eight Home Defenders and citing them for trespassing.

More information about ACORN’s Home Defenders program is available at stopforeclosures.oakland@gmail.com, or through other local ACORN offices.

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