In addition to the courts, the state Attorneys General and investors wanting to put back soured mortgages on them, the banks have had to increasingly contend with direct action at their worksites. Thursday in downtown Los Angeles, 22 activists, including the head of SEIU Local 721 and members of ACCE (the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment), were arrested outside a Chase bank for protesting the foreclosure crisis.

The activists set up a “living room” in front of the doors to the bank, with the implication that they were being kicked out of their homes, so they’ll move into the bank. Overall, the event turned out over 125 people. Chase, which was informed of the action previously by the LAPD, wouldn’t let the protesters into the building, so the activists participated in civil disobedience actions on the sidewalk.

Dozens more demonstrators chanted and marched on a nearby sidewalk holding signs that said “Stop Bank Greed, Save Our Neighborhoods” as the 12 men and 10 women were taken into custody […]

Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment member David Mazariegos said the demonstrators hoped to bring attention to the plight of people who were unjustly losing their homes.

He said banks’ failure to modify many borrowers’ loans puts them in violation of the Home Affordable Modification Program in which lenders agreed to participate as part of the bank bailout.

“The banks are not helping anyone stay in their homes,” Mazariegos said. “It’s highway robbery, what they’re doing to these people.”

Thanks to activist Judy Bronfman, I was able to get some pictures of the event, which I’ll place below. There’s also a report at the ACCE website, showing one of the people arrested to be an 85 year-old grandmother. The activists call themselves the Home Defender’s League. They’ve set a high bar for their demands, calling on the banks to lower principal on all loans to the current appraised value of the homes. The Home Defender’s League in California has antecedents all over the country.

The LA Weekly story on this highlights one family who was a victim of the insidious “dual-tracking” carried out by the servicers:

Peggy and Alvin Mears, of Fontana, never missed a mortgage payment. Now, Peggy’s been arrested. The couple was paying their monthly $1,299 fee towards a modification loan and were working to secure a permanent loan. They were horrified when lender OneWest (formerly IndyMac), decided to seize their three-bedroom home anyway.

Peggy and 21 other homeowners — including an 85-year-old woman — were arrested at Chase Bank near 4th and Hope Street about 1:30 pm today, taking to the streets in desperation.

“These banks are terrorists,” said Peggy, who is slated to lose her house three days before Christmas. “They terrorize us by threatening to take our homes.”

I really feel this is only going to get bigger as the weeks go on. The banks have basically disregarding all the legal constraints on their activities, and people have begun to fight back. I feel like there’s a desperation with the normal channels and a desire to take it to the streets.

Pictures below.

David Dayen

David Dayen