ORGANIZERS MOBILIZE AGAINST ARCHITECTS OF CITY’S RUIN
- Moratorium on foreclosures in Wayne County; investigation of bank and mortgage fraud
- National moratorium on foreclosures
- Referendum campaign vs. PA 4 to be kicked off Sat. June 18, 11 a.m. at AFSCME Council 25 in Detroit and across the state
- Class action lawsuit vs. PA 4 announcement Wed. June 22 at Spirit of Detroit and cities across Michigan
- Urban Marshall Plan to bail out the cities; $15 billion for Michigan
- Mass meeting at Erma Henderson Auditorium in late July to target the banks
- Seizure of homes illegally taken by banks and governments
- People’s control of government budgets
- International Tribunal vs. the banks at Dems Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Sept. 4 2012
- Take back the annual $700 billion military budget to fund needs at home; end U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere
By Diane Bukowski
DETROIT – While Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council haggle over what services to cut from the budget of the poorest city in the country, while Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts gets set to close 45 more schools on top of 100 others, while metro Detroiter homeowners continue to be thrown on the streets, a group of activists convened June 11 to target the archenemy behind the devastation: the BANKS and their lackeys.
MAKE THE BANKS PAY! was the rallying cry for the small but influential crowd from Detroit, Cleveland, Wisconsin and North Carolina that gathered at UAW Local 22’s headquarters. The meeting was sponsored by the Moratorium NOW! Coalition against Foreclosures, Evictions and Shut-Offs, and the Harriet Tubman School.
Speakers said they hope to build a massive people’s movement to reclaim the wealth the banks stole and return it to the people, like that which is rising throughout the rest of the world.
“This is not an individual fight, this is not a legal fight, this is not a political fight—this is a justice fight!” said attorney Vanessa Fluker. “The people have to come together to make this happen! We need 50,000 people out in the streets to start!”
Fluker is battling an $18,000 fine levied on her by Judge Robert Colombo because of her determined battles against the banks to keep families in their homes. (See coming story on June 2 fundraiser for Fluker and the battle against foreclosures, held at UAW Local 600, for more on this, including comments by Fluker and Goldberg.)
Among points raised at the rally:
Fluker and Goldberg asked the audience to attend a public hearing June 13 to pressure the Wayne County Commission to pass a resolution, introduced by Commissioner Martha Scott, for a moratorium on foreclosures, and an investigation of fraudulent practices by banks and mortgage companies.
Goldberg introduced his client Raziyah Curtis, the first person in Michigan to successfully challenge a bank eviction by demanding that the bank negotiate rental options, one of the requirements set forth under the federal TARP legislation that bailed out the banks and mortgage companies. Despite the law, only a very small percentage of homeowners have been able to get the banks to set affordable mortgage payments or rental options.
“Raziyah is an activist in her community,” Goldberg said. “She got hundreds of her fellow neighbors and others to rally around her home, and she is still in it, and now she owns it.
Newly-elected U.S. Congressman Hansen Clarke announced that he has introduced legislation for a national moratorium on foreclosures.
Councilwoman JoAnn Watson invited the attendees to hold a similar televised meeting targeting the banks in the Erma Henderson auditorium of the Coleman A. YoungMunicipal Center in July, in commemoration of the 1967 Detroit rebellion.
“The U.S. has shown its willingness to rebuild the criminal banks and auto companies with our tax dollars, but has done nothing to re-build the city that is the home of the auto industry,” Watson said. “We cannot have a comeback of GM and Chrysler without a comeback of Detroit. The city needs to be bailed out, right now, it needs to be repopulated, not shrunk, it needs more jobs from a green economy. It doesn’t need to turn into ‘Little House on the Prairie.’”
She passed out copies of an urban Marshall Plan she has given to Mayor Dave Bing, which demands massive intervention by the federal government to rebuild cities across the U.S., $15 billion for Michigan alone. (Click on Marshall Plan for copy of the plan.)
Watson announced that the We are the People Coalition, which has sponsored massive rallies of unions and community representatives in Lansing, will file a class action lawsuit June 22 to overturn Public Act 4, the emergency manager or “dictator” bill. The lawsuit includes plaintiffs from across the state. Attorneys and advocates have been meeting for months at the AFSCME Council 25 hall in Detroit to generate the suit.
Watson said a press conference announcing the lawsuit against PA 4 will be held Wed. June 22 at 10 a.m. in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue on Woodward at Jefferson, along with other announcements the same day in Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Flint, and other cities in Michigan.
Watson said the state owes Detroit $220 million in unpaid revenue sharing money. She called on the city to stop paying Blue Cross/Blue Shield $200 million a year for city workers, and instead assist their unions in creating their own insurance plans. She also demanded that $47 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization funds the city has received from U.S. Housing and Urban Development department (HUD) be used to create jobs for Detroiters, as required by federal law.
Herb Sanders, International Representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME), who co-chairs the Coalition with Watson, confirmed separately that the coalition is also participating in a campaign to repeal PA 4 by referendum.
Anti-PA4 referendum petitions will be distributed, and signatures collected, beginning Sat. June 18, at 11 A.M. at AFSCME Council 25’s headquarters at 600 W. Lafayette.
At an earlier meeting, Greg Bowens, a referendum organizer, said state law provides that once the required number of signatures is collected and certified, PA 4 will be frozen and emergency managers thrown out until the referendum vote in Nov. 2012. (Click on Michigan Constitution referendum language to read language in Michigan Constitution).
Bowens said 161,000 signatures are needed, but that organizers across the state are aiming to collect at least 250,000 as a cushion. He said the coalition has until next March to collect the signatures.
Bob Day is an attorney with the Legal Aid and Defender Association (LADA), who represents people facing evictions throughout the tri-county area. He is also president of LADA’s AFSCME Local 2095. He did not mince words.
“The property of the rich is nothing but theft,” Day said. “The wealth of the banks came from the people, it belongs to us. Government debt service to the banks be must canceled, and we must seize their assets.
Ordinary people across the world are rising up in the millions, to stand against the banks, facing bullets and torture and dying in the streets, from Egypt to Tunisia to Spain to Greece to Mexico and Latin America to Wisconsin here in the U.S.”
He said that not only have the banks robbed people nationwide by foreclosing on them, they are coming back for a second round. Companies like Paramount Land Holdings, Inc., the Rice-Peters Financial Corporation, Destiny Ventures and others are buying thousands of foreclosed Detroit homes in bundled packages for $1 each from Deutsche Bank, Bank of America, and others who evicted the original owners.
Those banks already made huge profits because the full sums of their mortgages were guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in addition to money they got from insurance against vandalism, and the trillions in bail-out tax dollars from the U.S. government.
“The developers are putting up signs saying ‘Buy, don’t rent,’ and even going to churches to recruit unaware victims to buy the homes on land contract.” Day said.
“One of my clients bought a $1 home for $45,000, put $750 down, and made her monthly payments,” he explained. “But when her furnace went out and she tried to get state aid to fix it, she did not show up as the owner of record because Paramount had not put the legal description of her property in the land contract, so she couldn’t register it. Then she got a notice of property tax foreclosure because Paramount hadn’t paid taxes on the home. Another client got hit with an outstanding $13,000 water bill.”
- Day advocated mobilizing the people in the thousands to seize homes foreclosed by the banks as well as by city and county governments. He said they should be given to those who need them to fix them up and put them back on the property tax rolls, to rebuild the city.
“They are telling us, we are too old to work, but too young to die,” said Cheryl Labash, a City of Detroit retiree. “They’re attacking our pensions, which are nothing but deferred wages. Even retired city workers may be given the option of giving back their guaranteed defined benefit plans and getting a lump sum in a defined contribution plan which they can invest in the stock market. Who wants to invest in a stock market that is constantly tumbling?”
She called on GM and the other corporations to pay restitution to Detroit for the moving plants and jobs out, and an end to the massive amounts of property and income taxes that go to the banks for debt service.
She noted that the City of Detroit’s budget is over $3 billion a year.
“We need people’s control of the budget!” she demanded. “We must come out in the masses and stop business as usual. We have the freeways, we have trucking, there are lots of ways we can make our power felt.”
Bryan Pfeiffer, who recently moved back to Wisconsin and is in the thick of the fray there, said that the massive people’s struggle that began last February continues every day on the streets of Madison, despite the lack of coverage in the big business media.
He said that the previous week, thousands of high school students walked out once again, and that tent cities are being set up in the capital. He said despite metal detectors and other barriers set up in the capitol building, people are still getting through and stopping committee meetings on right-wing legislation.
He recounted the massive struggles that have taken place in Wisconsin since February.
“The courts reflect what’s happening in the streets,” Pfieffer said. “It was the mass movement that forced the judge to grant a permanent injunction against the union-busting legislation in Wisconsin,” Pfeiffer said. “It must be the same in Detroit.”
Susan Schnur, paratransit worker and a board member of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 268 in Cleveland, Ohio, said she has asked the treasurer of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) there, “Is the authority about transit or is it about investors?” She and others are calling on the RTA to negotiatiate with the banks to reduce debt payments and provide the transportation the people of Cleveland desperately need.
Lisa Franklin, president of Warriors on Wheels (WOW) in Detroit, chimed in.
“The cuts in regular bus service have hurt people in our community too,” Franklin said. “You have to wait almost an hour to get a bus, and then if you’re taking the bus to cash a check, you have to wait in the check cashing place for three hours just to get a bus back. For regular riders, they cut routes and hours and didn’t even publicize it ahead of time. People are still standing at bus stops not knowing what has happened.”
Marguerite Maddox of WOW, who was at the meeting, must use a service dog. Franklin said in Detroit and across the country, people are being denied the right to take their service dogs on public transportation.
“The civil rights movement began in public transportation, with Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott,” Franklin said. “We have the RIGHT to public transportation and we must mobilize to get it!”
Youth organizer Derrick Thacker said that $826.5 billion in student loans is now owed to the federal government, and one-quarter of that, $206.5 billion, is being held by the banks, who are profiting royally from the interest.
“Many people owe up to $40,000 a year when they graduate,” Thacker said.“Meanwhile, tuition costs are going up, scholarships and federal aid are being reduced, there are incredible cuts in education. The Detroit Public Schools are being strategically dismantled. As the city dies, so does the future of hundreds of thousands of our young people.”
“There must be a people’s state of emergency declared,” Thacker said. “We want an immediate moratorium on school closings and lay-offs, cancellation of all student loan debt, and cancellation of all public and private debt to the banks. We must institute a public works program to employ the youth, they are the heirs of our legacy and they can rebuild Detroit.”
Ben Carroll, of FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together) lives in Charlotte, N.C
“Along with UE Local 150 and Black Workers United for Justice, we are calling for an International Tribunal to put the banks on trial during the Democratic Convention in Charlotte Sept. 4, 2012,” Carroll said. “The Bank of America has extended a multimillion-dollar line of credit to the Dems. Their world headquarters is in Charlotte, along with the largest utility company in the U.S., Duke Energy, which is carrying out tens of thousands of shut-offs. They must all go on trial before the people.”
Abiyomi Azikiwe of the Michigan Emergency Coalition against War and Injustice analyzed the international banking crisis, which he said is far worse than it is being portrayed in the U.S. media.
“Even a recent analysis by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of the crisis differed markedly from those offered in the U.S. and Britain,” Azikiwe noted. U.S. Hands off LibyaHe called for an end to U.S. direct and proxy wars abroad, in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Colombia, Palestine and elsewhere.
“The military budget is over $700 billion a year, and more is being spent on Homeland Security,” he said. “We can rebuild Detroit with just $5 billion of that, and the rest must come home to rebuild the rest of the country and supply the people’s needs.”
The Moratorium Now! Coalition has a website at www.moratorium-mi.org and can be reached at 313-680-5508.