Fed up with the banks, a group of families facing foreclosure and eviction were arrested Thursday, Dec. 16, in Los Angeles when they refused to move their furniture and themselves from the front of a Chase Bank branch, where they had staged a protest.
"Myself and other families facing foreclosure over the holidays went to jail," Peggy Mears, one of 22 arrested protesters, said, "while the real criminals - the executives of JP Morgan Chase and other major banks - are free and on track to pay themselves over $143 billion in bonuses!"
Bank security locked the building after protesters tried to move furniture from a truck into the bank branch at 4th and Hope Streets in downtown Los Angeles. The families then set up a mattress, chairs, a rug and an end table in front of the bank and held a 120 person-strong rally with their supporters.
After the rally, Mears and group of the homeowners moved the furniture in front of the building's doors and sat down, refusing to move until they were arrested.
Mears and the other protesters are members of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, a statewide community organization, and the Home Defenders League.
Millicent "Mama" Hill, writing in an ACCE email blast, explained that the organization's members started the Home Defenders League so that "anyone who has been a victim of the foreclosure crisis has a chance to fight back."
The movement to protest foreclosures and evictions is expected to gain momentum and militancy while foreclosures and evictions continue unabated.
Peter Dreier reports in the Huffington Post that 3 million families are facing foreclosures this year and 500,000 families have already been kicked out of their homes.
Meanwhile, in the face of record profits, the major banks are refusing to modify mortgage loans or to make loans to businesses that would result in new jobs.
The largest six banks - Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, CitiGroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley - are sitting on $9.4 trillion, which represent 79 percent out of $12 trillion in total assets, according to Dreier.
Through the Home Defenders League, ACCE members aim to compel banks to stop evictions and advocate for government at all levels to adopt tougher laws.
The group convinced the city of Los Angeles to adopt the LA Foreclosure Registry Ordinance requiring banks to register properties in foreclosure with the city or face penalties of up to $1,000 per day per property, Hill said.
In California, ACCE is calling for legislation to require banks to negotiate with homeowners to modify loans before beginning foreclosure proceedings.
ACCE and groups in other states also have their sights on national legislation to further contain the abusive banking practices that continue despite the new federal financial regulations and the Obama administration's attempts to encourage banks to voluntarily renegotiate delinquent mortgages.
Applying public pressure, ACCE and other groups nationally have forced lenders to agree to permanent loan modifications for a number of individual homeowners facing foreclosure.
This latest action aims to up the ante by bringing together the collective power of the homeowners themselves in alliance with their supporters among labor unions, the religious community and community organizations. Among those arrested was John Tanner, Executive Director of SEIU Local 721.
Video courtesy ACCE.