By LeiLani Dowell, FIST
In the middle of a work day on Sept. 17, more than 60 people attended a protest and press conference at the downtown Los Angeles Federal Building to demand a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. The event was organized by the Labor/Community Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions, under the theme “Bail out Main Street—not Wall Street.”
WW photo: LeiLani Dowell
John Parker, West Coast coordinator of the International Action Center and member of the Harvard Blvd. Block Association, explained that “The mortgage companies have been playing with and gambling on people’s lives.” He urged: “We have to change the government’s priorities by demanding what we need. They don’t count on the will of the people.”
Father Richard Estrada, associate pastor of Placita Olvera Church, described how many of the people who attend his church have recently had their homes foreclosed by the banks. He told the assembled crowd, “The only way the people will get through this is to stand up and march.”
Gloria Saucedo of Hermandad Nacional Mexicana said: “We all know families who spent years saving money to pay for their mortgage. Months later the banks tell them they have to pay exorbitant interest rates. All they are doing are working and trying to have a home for their children. The government is giving money to the rich, but what about the communities?”
Fernando Fernando of BAYAN-USA said about the world’s largest insurance company: “AIG was bailed out for $85 billion, but there are more homeless. Where is the justice? This country’s taxpayers demand a moratorium on foreclosures!”
Sharon Black of the Ad Hoc National Network to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions explained the legal basis for the moratorium demand: “The law says that every time there is a disaster, there is supposed to be a moratorium on foreclosures. This economic crisis is clearly a state of emergency.”
Marta Rojas, a member of the Service Employees International Union who narrowly avoided the foreclosure of her home this year, denounced the auctions of people’s homes taking place throughout Los Angeles, calling them “vultures preying on the community.” The Ad Hoc National Network to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions had protested one such auction a week before the Sept. 17 action.
A representative of the youth group FIST—Fight Imperialism, Stand Together—described how the foreclosure crisis has extended to affect students, who are seeing student loan offers disappear. This is occurring particularly at community colleges, where working class youth and youth of color often begin their higher education.
Other speakers included Rosie Martinez and Marva Burgess of SEIU Local 721’s executive board, and Caroline Hughes of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, a non-profit community advocacy and counseling agency that fights discriminatory and predatory lending.
Dowell represented FIST at the Sept. 17 demonstration.