After a meeting with a bank president that ended in “chaos”, a foreclosed Minneapolis homeowner is considering her next action. What Woodlands National Bank may be doing to Anita Reyes-LeRay may be legal say her supporters, but “that doesn’t make it right,” says Andrew Crow of OccupyHomes Minnesota.
A recent meeting between Minneapolis homeowner Anita Reyes-LeRey and Woodlands National Bank President Ken Villebro was expected to make progress in resolving Reyes-LeRey dispute with the bank over the foreclosure of her home. The home has been foreclosed and sold which restricts the choice of financial arrangements.
The meeting started with tension and according to Minneapolis Council Member Gary Schiff, “It was not a productive meeting and it ended in chaos.” Schiff is Reyes-LeRey’s representative on the City Council and had been present at Reyes-LeRey’s request. The meeting with Villebro was scheduled after Reyes-LeRey and a group from OccupyHomes MN delivered 100,000 petitions to the Minneapolis branch of the bank. Story here.
The bank had agreed to have Villebro meet with Reyes-LeRey according to local bank manager Joanne Whiterabbit. On August 8, she said “Tell me who you want, when you want to meet, when and where and I’ll be there.” The meeting was scheduled for Reyes-LeRey’s home. As the meeting approached, the bank received several threats of violence against bank personnel. According to Joanne Whiterabbit, Woodlands Minneapolis branch manager, “They were serious and credible threats. Information concerning the source has been turned over to appropriate authorities.” As a result the bank requested that the meeting be held at a secure location and with fewer people so it was moved to the bank office at 1113 East Franklin Avenue.
The meeting included Whierabbit, Villibro, Schiff, Reyes-LeRey Paul Lelli, St. Paul homeowner who recently won mortgage battle, Andrew Crow, OccupyHomes MN, and Mike Forcia, Chairman, American Indian Movement (AIM). Recollections of what happened vary among the participants. Reyes-LeRey objected to Forcia being there so he left. According to Whiterabbit, Reyes-LeRey had originally contacted Forcia a few months ago. Reyes-LeRey objected saying that Whiterabbit had talked to Forcia about Reyes-LeRey financial situation.
According to Schiff, Reyes-LeRey claimed surprise when the bank presented the same offer that they had made weeks ago, she claimed she’d not heard of it. The meeting degenerated and disbanded.
One of Anita’s supporters, Andrew Crow of OccupyHomes Minnesota says he confronted Woodlands Bank President Villebro.
“Anitia’s grandmother was forcibly removed from the reservation by the government under the laws at the time. So everything about that activity was perfectly legal…just like he was arguing that everything that the bank had done was perfectly legal. And I said ‘just because it’s perfectly legal, that doesn’t make it right.’ And he (Villebro) came back with ‘ it doesn’t make it wrong either.’”
Reyes-LeRey returned to her home to a barbecue with her supporters. The video accompanying this story was recorded at this gathering.
The bank’s offer was a one year rental agreement with an option to redo the mortgage at the end of the year. Whiterabbit explained, “We have to find out from the city if the bank can rent the property.” This is apparently dependent on a city inspection. The OccupyHomes volunteers have been working to make the needed repairs to the property. One volunteer estimated he had spent about 100 hours.
Whiterabbit expressed optimism. She says the bank does want to work with Reyes-LeRey whom she has known for some time and Whiterabbit considered them friends. “The next meeting will be private.” The bank is one of the few underwriters in the nation for programs under the HUD Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program and is the only one in Minnesota.
Forcia, who was elected Minnesota AIM chairman in September 2011, said he was originally involved a few months ago when Reyes-LeRey came to him seeking AIM help. She met with the AIM board. AIM supported her but was unwilling to participate in any protests against the bank. Forcia, at her request, acted as an intermediary with the bank.
The day that OccupyHomes MN scheduled the protest with the bank and delivered the 100,000 petitions Forcia informed the group gathered in the American Indian Center parking lot that Woodlands Bank President Villebro had already agreed to a meeting with Reyes-LeRey and there was no need to march to the bank. He said the OccupyHomes MN group wanted to protest, but Forcia told them that AIM could not be part of the protest. Forcia was at the meeting at the request of Whiterabbit, but he left when Reyes-LeRey objecgted to his presence. He said there had been no discussion with Woodlands Bank personnel about any financial details of Reyes-LeRey position.Forcia said that AIM had participated in some of the early Occupy events but, “We are not part of 99% or the 1%. The 100% stole the land from us.” AIM participated in Indigenous People’s Day on the People’s Plaza.. They were asked by Occupy to, “Come and join us.” Forcia said that AIM declined saying, “You are free to join us.” Forcia said he was in agreement with many of the Occupy movements objectives but he disagreed with some of the strategies and he and AIM members were concerned about alcohol and drug use. AIM did let the Occupy people set up a camp on the American Indian Center grounds.
Forcia recognizes the severity of the mortgage foreclosure crises but he is concerned about misinformation surrounding the Reyes-LeRey situation. He says, “I deal with the truth every day.”
AIM was instrumental in the effort to bring the branch to Minneapolis. The branch was opened on March 2, 2009. Announcement here.