Occupy Wins Home in North Minneapolis, Defends Latino Home in South

By: Jacob Wheeler, UpTake Reporter

“My parents had to work so hard for this house,” teary-eyed Alejandra Cruz told an Occupy Homes rally this week. “It’s unjust for the banks to take away our dream. My parents brought us here really young, and we’ve learned how to fight against injustice ever since we came to this country. It’s been a struggle for us every single day since we got here.”

Alejandra and her brother David, two Minneapolis college students and activists for the Dream Act, took the Occupy Homes pledge this week to stay in the house which their Mexican immigrant parents purchased and are in danger of losing to foreclosure. They are among the first Latinos in the Twin Cities to take the Occupy Homes pledge and defy the banks.

This week Occupy Homes notched another major victory when US Bank helped embattled North Minneapolis homeowner Monique White renegotiate her mortgage. White, an African-American single mother who works two jobs, was the first person who appealed to Occupy Homes for help, last November.

Previously in the hands of PNC Bank, the Cruz’ mortgage is now held by lender Freddie Mac.

Alejandra and David’s parents, who work as a stylist and as a dishwasher, fell behind on payments during tough economic times. According to Occupy activist Nick Espinosa, the bank refused to accept an online payment. Instead it demanded a multiple-month payment, and when the Cruz family was unable to oblige, the home went into foreclosure. They worked with a nonprofit who they thought was negotiating a loan modification. Then last Friday, without warning, an agent arrived and slapped an eviction notice on the house, telling the Cruz family they had a few days to remove their belongings from the house.

“We’re one of the first Latino families who has stepped up for the many who are afraid to say that we’re here to say,” said Alejandra. “We contribute to the society. My parents pay taxes. They’re hard-working people, and we’re students. We have been fighting for the Dream Act for 10 years, united with other dreamers across the nation.” Indeed, Alejandra and David’s rooms in the house have often been used as a community organizing base.

“Where does the mentality of the bank lie?” asked her brother David. “It doesn’t lie in the memories of the people that they have in this home. This home doesn’t only symbolize a material aspect. It symbolizes memories, it symbolizes hard work, of an honest family just trying to make a living, trying to make a dream come true. A dream that, whether they’re American or from another country, continent, race, religion, we all dream, we all believe, we all cry, and we all work hard.

“I want you to understand that for a Latino family, for people of color, we have such an inherent mistrust of anyone in power,” said Susanne de Leon, a close friend of the Cruz family. “Because we have been wronged, we have been beaten, we have been racially profiled. Living as a brown person, as a black person, as an American Indian, you are suspect anywhere you go. So to have someone in a position of power who comes and knocks on your door is pretty scary.”

“It’s shameful that they would come here and lie and tell them they have to get out without any legal process, without any eviction hearing, that they just need to leave,” said Espinosa. “It’s shameful that these banks are trying to intimidate our communities and deny people their rights.”

Occupy Homes’ physical defense of the Cruz household began on Monday, and activists say they’ll remain and risk arrest until either PNC or Freddie Mac renegotiates the home’s mortgage. At both the front and back doors, activists had planted a bucket filled with cement save for a pipe that stretched through its midsection. Two activists sat on either side of the bucket with their arms chained together inside the pipe.

“If you pulled on me and tried to yank me out of there, the best you could really do would be to break my arm,” said an Occupy activist named Randall.

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