Occupy Homes Holds National Day of Action to Support Cruz Family

Buoyed by a nationwide Occupy Homes movement that has rallied behind them, and upset that PNC Bank has not followed through on its pledge to help save their South Minneapolis home, siblings Alejandra and David Cruz arrive in Pittsburgh today to confront the bank’s executives. Alejandra and David, who have also advocated for the DREAM Act, will attempt to hand-deliver their loan modification documents to PNC Bank CEO Jim Rohr. The Cruz family has become the catalyst for a national day of action to protect embattled homeowners from banks that received federal bailout money but have done little to stem the housing foreclosure crisis. Check out The UpTake’s coverage of the Cruz family struggle here.

The Cruz family and supporters will march on PNC headquarters at 1 p.m. (Eastern Time) at Market Square in Pittsburgh, while simultaneous Occupy Homes rallies unfold in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit, Gainesville, Greensboro, Milwaukee, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, St. Louis and other cities. (If you are in one of these cities and would like to help The UpTake cover the story please contact us.)

Then at 6 p.m. (Central Time) at the Cruz house at 4044 Cedar Ave. South in Minneapolis, Occupy Homes activists have pledged to step forward into the yard and potentially face police arrests. Last month the Minneapolis police department spent $43,000 on raids at the Cruz house to arrest Occupy activists defending the home. A progressive Minneapolis city council member opined that the City should send that bill to PNC Bank. Meanwhile, Mayor RT Rybak has said he’ll continue uphold the law even though he prefers not to do the bank’s bidding.

Video and more from the sendoff rally in Minneapolis

Although PNC has implied that the foreclosure was due to a bank error, executives have repeatedly said they are working “behind the scenes” to fix the situation, and Executive Vice President Dan Taylor said that he would look into the Cruzes’ case, the bank has not offered a negotiation. “We feel like PNC and Freddie Mac have forgotten us,” said David Cruz. “So we’re going to remind them.”

The Cruz family is one of many Latino immigrant families that have been hit disproportionately hard by the foreclosure crisis.

“The housing crisis has not affected everyone the same: this is about a transfer of wealth, from working communities to the rich,” said Greg Nammacher of SEIU Local 26, who works with Alejandra Cruz. “Our members clean and secure the big buildings downtown. When the lights go down and you see the big bright lights downtown, those are our members cleaning that.”

“Our members were scratching and clawing to the point where they could actually afford the American dream and have their own homes … And then the housing crisis hit … Latino households have lost 60 percent of their wealth as a result of this crisis. It’s a fight to get that wealth back, to make sure that the wealth our communities create stays in our community.”

“It’s happening across the country, so people are standing up across the country,” said Occupy Homes organizer Ben Egerman. “People are happy to support this case. They recognize that this is a crossroads. That if we can win at the Cruz house, we can win anywhere, and we need to show that we are coming together across the country, to say that this has to stop.

In Minneapolis, the burgeoning Occupy Homes movement has garnered nearly half a dozen victories over big banks, saving the homes of Bobby Hull, Monique White, Colleen Espinosa, and most recently, Anita Reyes-Reley, who received an improbable loan modification Tuesday from Woodlands National Bank on the same day she was served an eviction notice on the door of the home where she had lived for 17 years.

Cindy, the Vice President of Woodlands Bank called Reyes-Reley while on a cell phone in her car to complain about all the calls and “slanderous” comments she’d received online. Calls to the bank apparently impacted its decision to modify her loan, proving to Occupy Homes that its strategy worked.

“If Woodlands Bank, a community bank, can negotiate with me, then Freddie Mac and PNC can afford to negotiate with the Cruz family,” said Reyes-Reley.

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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