By JACOB ADELMAN, AP
Posted 12/16/2010 Silicon Valley Mercury News.com
LOS ANGELES—Police arrested 22 demonstrators who blocked entry to a downtown Chase bank branch Thursday to protest what they said were unfair home foreclosures.
The demonstrators, which included homeowners facing foreclosure, community advocates and labor leaders, silently allowed officers to bind their wrists behind their backs with plastic restraints and guide them into a police van.
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.
Detective Gus Villanueva said there were no injuries to police or protesters. All the demonstrators were released by late afternoon after all but one of them received citations for trespassing, he said.
Villanueva did not immediately know why the one protester had not been cited.
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.”
ACCE director Amy Schur said the groups were singling out JPMorgan Chase & Co. because most of the borrowers whose foreclosures and evictions they are contesting are serviced by that bank.
Chase spokeswoman Eileen Leveckis disputed that the bank was denying help to distressed mortgage borrowers.
“Chase is committed to helping struggling borrowers remain in their homes,” she said in a statement, stressing that the lender had completed more than 250,000 modifications since early 2009.
Before the protesters blocked the doors leading to the Chase branch, homeowners at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure used a microphone to tell of their difficulties getting help from Chase and other banks.
Among them was Esperanza Casco, 47, who said her Long Beach home was foreclosed on even though she’d been making all the payments required under modification and forbearance deals worked out with Chase.
A Chase spokesman said in an Associated Press story last month that the bank gave Casco and her husband as many opportunities as it could to qualify for a modification, but that the couple was unable to do so.
The Cascos were scheduled to be evicted this month, but on Tuesday, Chase rescinded its eviction threat and offered them a new modification.
Chase spokesman Tom Kelly on Thursday declined to detail why the bank changed its mind, saying only that it reviewed the case again “with updated financials” and was able to approve the modification.
But Esperanza Casco said the financial information they sent the bank most recently was identical to the paperwork they previously provided.
“They saw that we were putting pressure and the publicity we were getting. But this is not just about us,” she said in Spanish through an interpreter. “There’s lots of people facing the same situation we’re in.”
(Ed. note: Chase Bank is also the target of a national boycott initiated by the coalition People Before Banks, which includes the United Autoworkers, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, and Detroit’s Moratorium NOW! Coalition against Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs. The group has been leafletting Chase banks throughout the metro area. To contact People Before Banks, email email@example.com, or call 313-319-0870.