SAN FRANCISCO - On Occupy Wall Street's first anniversary, dozens of anti-foreclosure campaigners gathered in front of the Veterans Memorial Building Sept. 17 to demand that banks stop foreclosure proceedings against a group of elderly veterans - most in their 90s - who are threatened with the loss of their homes.
Standing behind her godfather, Alfred Richardson, Rita Hall told the crowd, "He is a retired veteran. For four years he has been trying everything he possibly can to get a loan modification on his home, and has never been successful."
Hall said Bank of America told Richardson it would work with him on a loan modification, "but he's never gotten it, and his house was sold last week. Now Fannie Mae owns his home. All we ask of them is to send the house back to Bank of America so he can get a modification and stay in his home. He's worked all his life to be there."
Also sharing their stories were Don and Tina Baird. Don Baird, who will turn 90 this month, served for three and a half years with the U.S. Coast Guard in the Pacific. The two have lived in the same Redwood City home since 1966, and refinanced to help their daughter. He faces heart surgery on Sept. 27. Their loan is with Chase.
Robert Moses, 92 and a Navy vet, has lived in his home in San Francisco's Visitation Valley neighborhood since 1972. He was given an adjustable rate mortgage to bring his home up to code, but had to stop paying last December when the mortgage payments doubled. Moses' wife is in a nursing home; he is disabled. His loan is with Deutsche Bank.
Other speakers reminded the crowd that banks specially targeted African Americans and other communities of color for predatory loans, with devastating effects on working-class areas of the city.
As the rally concluded with a song, "We shall overcome the banks" - sung to the tune of the traditional civil rights anthem - the crowd set out for the Chase branch across the street.
Once there, several demonstrators entered the bank bearing a letter on behalf eight homeowners whose mortgages are with Chase. Another dozen demonstrators crowded into the bank's lobby, while others remained outside on the corner, across the street from City Hall.
The eight emerged to say their letter was accepted by the bank manager, who promised to relay it to the proper departments. "We'll have to kick their butts to make sure they do pass it on," said a woman member of the delegation.
With that, the group moved on to the rest of the afternoon's activities.
Among many other anniversary actions planned here: a "compost your debt" action, a mobile street party, a march, debt burning and a street festival.
The veterans' demonstration was organized by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Occupy Bernal and Occupy Noe.
Photo: Rita Hall standing behind her godfather, Alfred Richardson, as she addresses the crowd. Marilyn Bechtel/PW