People tell Michigan legislators: "MORATORIUM NOW!"
Sep 25, 2008
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.
Robert Pratt of UNITE HERE at
Michigan rally to stop foreclosures.
photo: Alan Pollock
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
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
“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
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
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.