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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Seattle Police Arrest Foreclosure Protesters at Downtown Bank

Posted by on Tue, Jul 2, 2013 at 5:32 PM

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I've reported previously about Jeremy Griffin, a construction worker who's been fighting foreclosure and eviction from his South Seattle home. A week after our story on him appeared in the paper, King County Court granted him a stay on the eviction. (The judge who had authorized the eviction seemed to sympathize with Griffin, saying, "I'm kind of stuck with what the law says.") That stay expired last Tuesday, June 25.

Griffin returned to court and tried to get the eviction order thrown out, but the judge refused to listen to his argument. He expects another eviction notice from the King County Sheriff soon, but his supporters from Standing Against Foreclosure and Eviction (SAFE) plan to blockade the house once again.

In the meantime, Griffin and SAFE aren't waiting for another eviction notice. Today, three SAFE organizers, a volunteer for the Kshama Sawant campaign, and renowned 86-year-old progressive activist Dorli Rainey were arrested during a sit-in at a Wells Fargo branch downtown. They sat down in a row across from the bank tellers, pledging to stay until Wells Fargo came to the negotiating table with Griffin. Several dozen protesters outside, including Sawant herself, shouted, "Corporate crime scene! Banks got bailed out, we got sold out! You're arresting the wrong people!" Griffin, who had just finished work, arrived as Rainey was led into a paddy wagon outside. The police did not handcuff (or pepper-spray) her.

The five arrestees have been released, but Wells Fargo could still press charges and drag them into court—as Bank of America tried to do to a guy who protested with washable chalk. "We're not going away," Rainey told me by phone.

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Griffin has repeatedly tried to negotiate with Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley so that he could stay in his home (I'll explain the Wells Fargo connection in a minute). Those turned out to be dead ends. Griffin, drawing on his experience for the Cannabis Defense Coalition working to change state laws, tracked down an 800-page financial document on the Securities and Exchange Commission's website called the prospectus. After poring through the document, Griffin identified Wells Fargo as the master servicer of the mortgage—with the power to accept his offer of a rent check, to negotiate with him, or to continue with the foreclosure and eviction process.

A Wells Fargo spokesperson would neither confirm or deny trying to evict Griffin when I reached her last week. She issued a statement and refused to say any more: "Wells Fargo offered Mr. Griffin financial relocation assistance numerous times to help him transition to a new residence. We view foreclosure as a measure of last resort, but unfortunately, in some cases it cannot be avoided." Griffin finally received correspondence today that states unambiguously, "The Property has been foreclosed on in a proceeding conducted by or on behalf of Wells Fargo."

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At the 47-story Wells Fargo Center downtown, security officers have repeatedly locked down all eight or nine entrances to prevent Griffin or his supporters from coming inside, sometimes closing the branch early. The bank rebuffed an attempt by Griffin yesterday to deliver an oversized (but real) check for $7,000.

Here's my thought about all this: During Occupy Seattle, a lot of liberals, including some at this paper, complained that the group didn't have concrete enough objectives. They said the group became too chaotic and drifted away from the raising the most resonant issues of the day—financial malpractice by the banks and economic inequality.

Well, here's what they were looking for. SAFE is an outgrowth of Occupy Seattle. Its focus is on working class people being victimized by banks. And its methods fall firmly within the tradition of non-violent civil disobedience.

Reporter Chris Hayes calls the country's foreclosure crisis a "nationwide crime scene." The impacts are being felt locally by homeowners. A study by United Black Clergy and the Washington Community Action Network found that "42,000 Seattle homeowners (one in three) are $3.9 billion underwater on their mortgages." Many face foreclosure—at least 16,000 already have since 2008. A search of Seattle on Foreclosureradar.com—a site for people looking to snap up cheap, auctioned homes with recent or pending foreclosures—returns 1059 results. Dozens of homes are auctioned off every week.

Marliza Melzer, an herbalist and mother of three who lives near the airport, says a bank is in mediation with her but is proceeding with foreclosure anyway. I asked her why she was protesting with SAFE. "I'm tired of being fucked, alone," she told me.

Look out for an animated video explainer of Griffin's foreclosure process coming to your friendly neighborhood Slog tomorrow.

 

Comments (29) RSS

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Sargon Bighorn 1
The solution is VERY VERY SIMPLE. Pay what you say you will pay. If you do not live up to what you said you will, and then scream FOUL, you're not being honest. You are being dis-honest. If you can not afford a home, which is not a statement of self worth, many people can not afford a home; then you must rent a space to live. Nothing demeaning about that. Americans seem to think they are entitled to what ever they want and those that deny them are mean monsters. Grow up.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on July 2, 2013 at 5:44 PM · Report this
4
@3: I love you too, friend!
Posted by Ansel Herz on July 2, 2013 at 6:08 PM · Report this
Sam Levine 5
@1 protecting people from unnecessary foreclosures is in the public interest. It's much better for someone to miss a couple payments, catch up, and then stay in their home rather than go through foreclosure and then eviction.

The courts cost taxpayers money. The use of law enforcement costs taxpayers money. And frequently the bank that has the mortgage isn't in a great position to figure out what the house is worth and they have to unload it at a bargain price after the home has set idle for months or years.
Posted by Sam Levine http://levinetech.net on July 2, 2013 at 6:38 PM · Report this
7
@1: It is so impossibly far from that simple. Apparently you didn't bother click this link.
Posted by Ansel Herz on July 2, 2013 at 6:44 PM · Report this
8
Sargon,

I'm sorry that you feel that way. However, my understanding is that the world is a lot more complicated than that. Jeremy didn't purchase his home thinking he'd lose his business, or wife. He bought it intending to make the payments, and he did so for a very long time. When the economy collapsed it caused him (and 16,000 other Seattlites) to lose their ability to afford their homes. That's a scale which is so large it is a reflection of a failure in the system that created the collapse, not a failure on the part of the citizens.

How could 16,000 people in Seattle alone purchase homes they could not afford, unless there was a catastrophic change in the income of a significant portion of the population of this area?

It's obvious that the problem is not Griffin's, but the system that created the mortgage crisis in the first place. This is why they are protesting. This is why SAFE and groups like them need to be Supported.

-Jeff on Beacon Hill
Posted by lordjefftron on July 2, 2013 at 6:48 PM · Report this
9
Sargon,

I'm sorry that you feel that way. However, my understanding is that the world is a lot more complicated than that. Jeremy didn't purchase his home thinking he'd lose his business, or wife. He bought it intending to make the payments, and he did so for a very long time. When the economy collapsed it caused him (and 16,000 other Seattlites) to lose their ability to afford their homes. That's a scale which is so large it is a reflection of a failure in the system that created the collapse, not a failure on the part of the citizens.

How could 16,000 people in Seattle alone purchase homes they could not afford, unless there was a catastrophic change in the income of a significant portion of the population of this area?

It's obvious that the problem is not Griffin's, but the system that created the mortgage crisis in the first place. This is why they are protesting. This is why SAFE and groups like them need to be Supported.

-Jeff on Beacon Hill
Posted by lordjefftron on July 2, 2013 at 6:52 PM · Report this
JonnoN 10
@1 with such a simplistic world view, perhaps you need to do the growing up.
Posted by JonnoN http://www.backnine.org/ on July 2, 2013 at 7:00 PM · Report this
treefort 13
The banks fucked a lot of people over by deliberately giving high risk loans and manipulating people into thinking they could afford more than they could and that the homes wee worth more than they were. That's not the fault of the homeowners and the banks should be the ones taking the fall for their own shitty practices. This isn't a matter of people not bothering to save. The recession created a lot of innocent victims. Lets not blame the victims.
Posted by treefort on July 2, 2013 at 7:36 PM · Report this
15
@13: THIS THIS THIS. I certainly hope nobody is wasting their time on the uneducated, unregistered trolls in this thread. It's bad enough one of them snagged a login.
Posted by treehugger on July 2, 2013 at 8:40 PM · Report this
16
What's the point of arguing with right wing trolls? They are far too cowardly to ever make their arguments in person. It's unlikely they ever leave their homes, but if by some chance you see them posting in a coffee shop, unfortunate spillages on expensive laptops sometimes happen.
Posted by Bakunin http://www.seasol.net on July 2, 2013 at 8:43 PM · Report this
Ballard Pimp 17
Sargon, when you troll it's never a good idea to use as a screen name the name of the unltimate evil being.
Posted by Ballard Pimp on July 2, 2013 at 8:53 PM · Report this
18
@14 if you put 30% down and had 2yrs of payments in the bank, why did you pay a higher interest rate?
Posted by Machiavelli was framed on July 2, 2013 at 9:19 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 21
Voter apathy.

If people would actually get off their asses and vote - and not just for presidential elections - so many problems would be solved.

The banks know this and they're laughing about it because they also know nothing will change. People will complain about consequences that they could have changed themselves if only they had voted, but didn't bother with. Totally reactive. Totally myopic.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on July 2, 2013 at 9:35 PM · Report this
22
If you're going to make an argument for mortgage principle reduction, then you need to be arguing for it across the board— for people in mansions, for people up to date on their payments, for companies that own dozens or thousands of properties, for everyone who borrowed in whatever time period you decide is problematic.

There's a real economic case to be made for that. And politically, it would be a lot more popular than bailing out only the foreclosed-upon (that's how we got Social Security and Medicare, you know).

Unfortunately, this is not what the various Occupy-offshoot activists are advocating.
Posted by robotslave on July 2, 2013 at 9:53 PM · Report this
23
@ 13 I sort of feel for them but I sort of don't. Even if banks were saying hey you can afford this people should have done their research and figured out they could not.
Posted by Seattle14 on July 2, 2013 at 9:54 PM · Report this
gingersnap 24
you know "paddy wagon" is not really ok, right?
Posted by gingersnap on July 2, 2013 at 9:58 PM · Report this
25
The solution is VERY VERY SIMPLE. Pay what you say you will pay. If you do not live up to what you said you will, and then scream FOUL, you're not being honest. You are being dis-honest. If you can not afford a home, which is not a statement of self worth, many people can not afford a home; then you must rent a space to live. Nothing demeaning about that. Americans seem to think they are entitled to what ever they want and those that deny them are mean monsters. Grow up.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn on July 2, 2013 at 5:44 PM

Yes, the solution is VERY VERY SIMPLE. Break up the banks so they cannot pay off the ratings agencies (See http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/new…) to sell AAA rated garbage that caused the financial crisis and the politicians to enact (or not) the legislation they want. Let's end too greedy to fail...nothing demeaning about that. Bankers seem to think they are entitled to whatever they want at the expense of everyone else and that makes them monsters. Their pissing contests with each other to see who can own the most houses, planes, and have the biggest salaries regardless of the cities and people in them they destroy in the process make them no more than school yard bullies who need to grow up!
Posted by politicsunspun on July 2, 2013 at 10:41 PM · Report this
26
Oh, and let us not forget how they manipulated the LIBOR for their own benefit!
Posted by politicsunspun on July 2, 2013 at 10:46 PM · Report this
27
@25

OK, but if the problem is the banks and their lending practices, then the just thing to do is to make amends to everyone who borrowed from "the banks" while they were issuing loans under those practices, instead of granting recompense only to those who, for one reason or another, are unable to make mortgage payments at this moment in time. Right?
Posted by robotslave on July 3, 2013 at 12:04 AM · Report this
29
@1 is a moron who thinks he is smart but knows not a fucking thing about anything. "Hurr durr you must always make the same amount and your rate will never go up and your house will never lose value below what you paid for it and you will never be unemployed and lol i'm a fucking rich white dumbass" - @1
Posted by K on July 3, 2013 at 12:56 AM · Report this
santamonicatom 31
I always expected that if I couldn't pay my mortgage, I would have to move out and give up the house. I am very happy with the low interest rates on mortgages right now. Payments are lower than ever.
Posted by santamonicatom on July 3, 2013 at 7:01 AM · Report this
32
@27 I agree, but if you think our bought and paid for politicians are going to extract that from the banks who fund their re-election campaigns your smoking something now legal in this state.

Not EVER going to happen -- hell, they wouldn't even pass Sen Sanders bill to lower credit card interest rates to 15%. And it was a GOP Congress that gave the banks preferential treatment under the bankruptcy laws so they can still get paid a percentage, if you have anything they can get their hands on. We used to have usury laws in almost every state. Our lovely courts threw those out on the basis of where the banks were domiciled, not the person using the card, hence all are domiciled in states without usury laws. And remember the days when the cards ended up in your mailbox without any request or credit check? They were mailing them out like candy creating a debtor nation, rather than a saving one as we used to be.

Welcome to the Corporate States of America. They own us lock, stock and barrel and will until we stop giving them our money. Shop mom and pop whenever you can and pay cash, no credit cards, no debit cards. Move your money to a credit union and you auto and mortgage loans, if possible.
Posted by politicsunspun on July 3, 2013 at 7:43 AM · Report this
33
@32

Gosh, you're right! Let's just go break the windows of a Starbucks instead.
Posted by robotslave on July 3, 2013 at 9:34 AM · Report this
34
Thanks, people
We need to vigorously protect Americans from corrupt and predatory banking and financial practices. Reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act prohibiting common ownership of investment banks, commercial banks, and insurance companies.
Break up the “too-big-to-fail banks"; bailed-out banks should become publicly owned entities.
We need to establish a diverse banking environment including public banks, community banks, and credit unions, which encourage low-interest loans for small business, students, and infrastructure.

Prosecute banking fraud. Transfer control of the Federal Reserve to Congress and the U.S. Treasury Department.
Posted by swhatithink on July 3, 2013 at 12:30 PM · Report this
36
The remedy: We need to vigorously protect Americans from corrupt and predatory banking and financial practices. Reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act prohibiting common ownership of investment banks, commercial banks, and insurance companies.
Break up the “too-big-to-fail banks"; bailed-out banks should become publicly owned entities.
We need to establish a diverse banking environment including public banks, community banks, and credit unions, which encourage low-interest loans for small business, students, and infrastructure.

Prosecute banking fraud. Transfer control of the Federal Reserve to Congress and the U.S. Treasury Department.
Posted by swhatithink on July 3, 2013 at 1:38 PM · Report this
37
As an organizer with a similar group in Rhode Island (but having lived in Seattle briefly back in 2006) I applaud the work of organizers and the courage of local residents resisting foreclosure and eviction. In the tradition of progressive change in this country, which has only come through organized struggle founded on the risk-taking and dynamism of working class communities and oppressed people, I am proud to be a part of the national resistance to what the article aptly describes as "a nation-wide crime scene." It ought to be described as community imperialism, (the existing legal system has already dubbed these foreclosures legal, time and again sanctioning the banks activities - even paying them for it!) and it won't stop until we put an end to a capitalist system of living, working, and governance. I'm with you, comrades in Seattle. Look out for news of our organizing against those same banksters in the Northeast!
Posted by crotondo on July 3, 2013 at 2:45 PM · Report this
fashionrip 39
so this is how Hitler got away with it? As a kid i couldn't understand how so many good people could be controlled by the madness of a few.
Posted by fashionrip http://fashionrip.blogspot.com on July 4, 2013 at 7:25 AM · Report this
40
For those of you who are saying, "PAY UP," I ask you when the servicer tells you that there are possibly eight entities who own your home, which one would YOU pay???

Or are you in the habit of just paying because someone says so?

Why not start asking for the original promissory note and original Deed of Trust before selling and reconveying the property, you might be surprised that the servicer won't provide these documents.
Posted by GuyFawkes on July 5, 2013 at 12:50 AM · Report this
mtnlion 41
I don't even get how people's logic works in this world. Here is our reality:

One person has multiple homes, more food than they know what to do with, burns through natural resources like they're (ha!) totally renewable, and has more excess disposable income than 99% of the world's population. Another is being forcibly removed from his home by that first person. The second person has next to nothing.

People say this is okay because the second person signed a piece of paper?

Oh, the mental tricks we do to justify our system.
Posted by mtnlion http://radicalish.wordpress.com on July 5, 2013 at 3:25 PM · Report this

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