Occupy Homes Buys Time, Gets Jury Trial for Foreclosure Case

Embattled North Minneapolis homeowner Monique White had her day in court Monday morning, and faced the possibility of being evicted from her house this week. But apparent last-minute jockeying between her defense team and attorneys for Freddie Mac postponed her hearing until Friday — when she’ll face a jury trial.

The postponement, and potential for a settlement, was a small victory for White, her legal team led by Rachel E. B. Lang of the National Lawyer’s Guild and state representative Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis), and a team of activists from Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) and Occupy Homes.

White, a single African-American mother who works two jobs, including the nightshift at a North Minneapolis liquor store, invited Occupy activists into her foreclosed home early last November to fight off eviction. She and South Minneapolis ex-Marine Bobby Hull (who won his home with a renegotiated mortgage last month) have become pinnacles in the burgeoning Occupy Homes movement and have garnered attention from national media.

Freddie Mac moved to foreclose on White after she fell behind in paying her mortgage, which was previously controlled by U.S. Bank. Occupy activists have targeted both Freddie Mac and U.S. Bank with their campaign in recent months, claiming that the financial institutions that were bailed out by the federal government should give homeowners a second chance too.

Approximately 70 activists filled a housing courtroom in the Hennepin County Government Center Monday morning in solidarity with Monique White. They carried red and white roses (“red representing our love for Monique, white representing our hope for a settlement,” said Occupy organizer Nick Espinosa) and raised their right fists into the air as the court was called to order. But the activists remained silent and peaceful as the proceedings were quickly delayed until Friday.

“Today is a day that should not be happening,” NOC organizer Steve Fletcher addressed a rally before the court hearing. “Today is a day that we’ve been trying to avoid for a long time. It’s also a day like any other day. Because in Monique White’s zip code, this has happened twice a day for six years. This has to change. This can’t keep happening twice a day. We can’t keep taking away families’ homes. And if it’s happening this often, there’s a problem with the system and the system needs to change.”

Last Friday, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office encouraged Freddie Mac to work out a deal with Monique White, but the lender has yet to comply. Over the weekend Congressman Keith Ellison released a statement in solidarity with the embattled homeowner: “I encourage Bank of America and Freddie Mac to act in good faith and negotiate a solution that works well for all parties and allows Monique and her children to keep their home.”

Meanwhile, state senator Scott Dibble and state representative Karen Clark (both DFL) have sponsored a people’s bailout bill, which calls for a two-year moratorium on home foreclosures in Minnesota. A much anticipated hearing will take place Wednesday at noon at the state capitol in St. Paul. And Monique White remains at the heart of a larger political battle that is escalating in Minnesota and nationwide.

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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