MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- In an effort to fight foreclosures, several dozen Occupy Homes protestors stopped traffic and created a dramatic scene in downtown Minneapolis over the lunch hour, as a group erected a 20-foot tripod and suspended a protestor in the air in the middle of South 6th street.
Occupy Homes is fighting the foreclosure of two South Minneapolis homeowners, Jaymie Kelly and Sergio Cellabos. The Kelly and Cellabos families marched through downtown streets to put pressure on bank executives holding the loans, taking their protest inside office towers where they say Chase executives work.
The group was stopped in two separate buildings by security, and that's when they turned to the street, blocking off traffic with the tripod structure, shouting "Chase, you can't hide. We can see your greedy side."
"We are out here to make a statement to show Chase Bank we are not going away, these are our homes. The struggle is still going on as we can see in South Minneapolis," said Cat Salonek, a community organizer with Occupy Homes. "The recovery is real and it is going on for the one percent but for us we are still losing our homes."
Salonek said the Kelly and Cellabos families are victims of dual tracking, an illegal practice in which banks move forward with eviction even as they negotiate loan modifications with families.
Some on-lookers became angry with protestors, but Minneapolis Police did not intervene, citing the Occupy folks had the right to free speech. After an hour, the group packed up and headed for a 6 p.m. march in South Minneapolis between the Kelly and Cellabos homes, saying they will continue to fight for the freedom of the American dream.
"The same thing that happened to many people in 2008, I lost all the savings I had for my daughter's college, everything went under," said Kelly. "I've been in my home 30 years, I've already paid for it more than five times over and now Chase and Freddie Mac are trying to chase me out."
Kelly says she was tricked into a predatory loan after her husband died, and Chase refused to negotiate with her. She is awaiting a judgment from eviction court, and says if the judge rules against her she could face eviction from Chase and Freddie Mac as soon as this week.
Residents in the Powderhorn and Bancroft neighborhoods declared their neighborhoodan "eviction-free zone"and are calling for an immediate moratorium on foreclosures and evictions until policies are in place to ensure affordable housing.
"My father became a single father and was unable to stay up with payments so we immediately contacted Chase, which we have been struggling for years now to get a response in modification loan process," said Jonathan Cellabos, 21.
J.P. Morgan Chase spokesperson Christine Holevas said Chase only serviced Kelly's loan through Freddie Mac, but said in the case of Mr. Ceballos, "We worked very hard to keep the family in the house, but unfortunately the circumstances didn't make it possible."