By Bryan G. Pfeifer
Chanting “Bail out the people, not the banks,” hundreds of poor and working people from across Michigan converged on the Capitol here on Sept. 17 demanding the State Legislature enact SB 1306, a two-year foreclosure moratorium bill. The action was sponsored by the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions.
Protesters were outraged that the federal government has pledged hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out the same mortgage, banking and insurance companies that caused the foreclosure crisis. Activists were serious and determined to win relief by forcing the state and federal governments to pass a moratorium to immediately halt foreclosures.
The very diverse, multinational array of people came from Detroit, Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Flint, Lansing, Ypsilanti, Adrian, Sault St. Marie and other cities and towns across Michigan. Many face foreclosure and eviction or are already victims of the home foreclosure epidemic.
Dozens of UNITE HERE union members came from Detroit on a bus sponsored by the Change to Win labor federation. Other unionists included United Auto Workers, Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of Teachers.
The Green Party of Michigan, Detroit Greens and the Cynthia McKinney presidential campaign were represented, as were Students for a Democratic Society, National Lawyers Guild, Workers World Party, Food Not Bombs, the independent newspaper collective Critical Moment, Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, Michigan Welfare Rights, Call ’Em Out, Latinos Unidos of Michigan, Grand Rapids Latino Community Coalition, Joint Religious Organizing Network for Action and Hope, and the Adrian Dominican Sisters & Associates for Peace.
After leaving buses, vans and carpools, protesters began marching in a huge picket line. Sandra Hines and Abayomi Azikiwe of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition led chants of “We the people demand relief–Moratorium NOW!” and “A home is a right–We’re gonna fight, fight, fight!” The chants echoed loudly from the Capitol and other buildings in downtown Lansing.
“We must have the moratorium and we must have it now!” declared Azikiwe as he and co-chair Kris Hamel kicked off the rally on the Capitol steps. “We’re going to build the people’s movement. We have to mobilize and organize. The solution must come from the people!”
Fight, fight, fight!
Reverend Ed Rowe of Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, one of the coalition’s initiators, said, “We’re fired up and ready to go. No more bailouts to the rich.” Rowe said all faith-based organizations should be supporting SB 1306. He pledged ongoing support to the coalition, whose office is in his church. Rowe worked with state Senator Hansen Clarke in drafting and sponsoring SB 1306. Clarke told the crowd he was “outraged” over the bailouts to the banks and demanded that the moratorium bill be passed.
State Representatives Gabe Leland, Shanelle Jackson, Bettie Cook-Scott and Steve Tobocman also addressed the crowd, as did state Sen. Martha Scott.
Speaking from her wheelchair, Rubie Curl-Pinkins declared, “I don’t want anyone else to lose their home. Keep on fighting!” Her home was saved from foreclosure after two large, militant demonstrations targeted Countrywide and Bank of America, demanding they accept her mortgage repayment. Nikki Curl, Pinkins’ daughter, said, “When we come together as one, we can make a difference.”
Sandra Hines, whose family home of 40 years was seized by the bank, said, “This is a national fight. We’re going to force elected officials to move. We have to win this moratorium.”
Jerry Goldberg, people’s attorney and coalition leader, said, “We can’t wait one more day for a moratorium. We need an executive order from Governor Granholm. We need to stop every foreclosure block by block. We need action now. Let’s fight for the moratorium. Let’s win it.”
Juan Daniel Castro of the Grand Rapids Latino Community Coalition connected the struggles of poor and working people in the United States to those in Latin America. He stated, “People united will never be defeated. We want people’s needs addressed, not corporate welfare!”
Linette Crosby from rural St. Johns told how her family’s 140-acre mint farm, which has been in existence since 1912, is now in foreclosure. The bank intends to auction off the farm’s inventory on Nov. 1. Crosby said some people told her not to speak out, but she was going to anyway. “Foreclosures and evictions touch everybody. We’re not ready to give up.”
Larry Holmes of New York City, a leader of the Troops Out Now Coalition and the Ad Hoc National Network to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions, told the crowd: “When the rich want something, nothing is ever enough. When it comes to poor and working people, we get nothing. It’s an insult, a shame, a scandal, a crime that your legislators haven’t passed SB 1306. You are the working-class heroes of today, fighting for everyone else, against not just foreclosures and evictions but cuts in jobs, pensions and wages. Keep doing what you’re doing. Power to the people. Moratorium NOW!”
Robert Pratt of UNITE HERE was put in foreclosure when he couldn’t pay the mortgage after his 12-year-old son was tragically shot and killed. His lender refused to work out a payment arrangement after Pratt explained he needed to pay for funeral costs. Pratt, with dozens of union members in red shirts behind him on the steps of the Capitol, pledged to organize to help make the moratorium a reality.
Rosendo Delgado of Latinos Unidos of Michigan stated: “If we can get a moratorium passed in Michigan, it will spread like wildfire. Therefore we must fight to make this bill a reality.”
After the rally, dozens lined up at a people’s hearing to give testimony on how foreclosures, evictions, job losses, lack of health care, racism and other ills have affected them and their families and why a moratorium is sorely needed in Michigan.
They gave heart-wrenching details about the criminal activities of the bankers and lenders who tossed them and their loved ones out on the street. The majority had lived in their homes for years but fell into dire economic straits due to such catastrophic personal crises as losing a job or having a major family health crisis.
The entire hearing was videotaped. DVDs will soon be available from the coalition. Organizers plan to deliver them to members of the State Legislature in a further effort to move SB 1306 out of committee and force public hearings around the state.
The Moratorium NOW! Coalition meets next on Sept. 27 at 11 a.m. Weekly open staff meetings are held on Mondays at 7 p.m. at the coalition’s office at Central United Methodist Church, 23 E. Adams, 4th floor, Detroit. Call 313-887-4344; email email@example.com; or visit www.moratorium-mi.org to send a donation or get involved.