Take Back Chicago continued its weeklong effort yesterday to bring attention to the economic problems facing Chicagoans of all walks of life with multiple events in the Loop focused on the foreclosure crisis. Activists dropped off trash collected at a Garfield Park foreclosed property to the Bank of America headquarters downtown, while another group delivered a check to Chase Bank for the cost of cleaning up one of their neighborhood's vacant properties.
Protesters with Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) also made their voices heard at a national meeting of mortgage bankers. Arrests occurred during at least protests throughout the day.
The series of actions by the Take Back Chicago movement mobilized community groups from around the city, drawing attention to the damage of big banks on neighborhoods and demanding that they be held accountable. On September 10th, a city ordinance went into effect requiring that banks maintain and clean up their foreclosed properties. Despite this, coalition groups claim thousands of vacant homes remain neglected and potential havens for drug use, rape and dead bodies. The City Council, big banks and state legislators are currently trying to negotiate a new legislation that would provide a uniform list of requirements for foreclosed properties around the state.
Action Now and the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council cleaned up two separate vacant properties on the West Side and South Side of the city. Afterwards, the community organizations visited the local headquarters of the banks responsible for the foreclosed properties.
Five women from Action Now tried to bring the trash from their clean up into the Bank of America headquarters after others from the organization unloaded furniture, bags of weed clippings, a tire and other trash outside of the building. The women: Gloria Washington, 80; Annie Harris, 76; Doris Strickland, 68; Madeline Talbott, 61; and Donna Roberts, 56 were arrested by the Chicago Police and escorted in handcuffs to a paddy wagon out the back door.
During the protest in front of Chase Plaza people chanted “Shame on Chase,” as leaders from the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council presented an invoice totaling $1,100 for the clean up costs of Chase’s vacant home on 4325 S. Albany.
“Chicago has the largest inventory of abandoned homes in the nation, many of which are now owned by the big banks like Chase,” said a Brighton Park Neighborhood Council spokesperson in a press release. “When the banks kick people out of foreclosed properties, they have an obligation to maintain those properties, and that is not happening. We are here to tell Chase that it is time they cleaned up the mess they created in our neighborhoods.”
According to Patrick Bronsan, executive director of Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, the organization has not yet received a check.
Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) picketed the Mortgage Bankers Association meeting at the Hyatt Regency demanding they stop foreclosures. More than a dozen members of SOUL entered the hotel to block a walkway used by the bankers. Each were arrested leaving the hundreds outside chanting “Now arrest them” in reference to the bankers.
In the afternoon a coalition of community organizations called on the Chicago Realtors Association to stop a deceiving practice they named “cash for keys.” The practice entails realtors offering tenants in foreclosed buildings or homes lump sums of cash to leave before their lease has expired. It affects renters in foreclosed properties who have the right to stay in their residence through the end of their lease, but realtors prefer they leave in order to sell the building more quickly.
Renters may not know their rights as tenants and, as a result, organizations laid out a set of guidelines they would like to propose to the Chicago Realtors Association. They would like to see realtors address language barriers, barring of misleading practices and deception as well as all stipulations must be put in writing.
“Different realtors have come by and said that we will get evicted in 30 days, so we might as well move out,” said Maribel Barbosa. “This is not true because renters have legal protections that allow us to stay for at least 90 days. The realtors don’t care about the laws protecting tenants in these homes. They don’t care if they throw families like mine on the street and add another vacant property on my block.”