Protest organized in Baltimore as authorities attempt eviction
VOICEOVER: Lila Kara was scheduled to be evicted from her Baltimore home on Tuesday, January 9 between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon. But instead of the sheriff, dozens of people belonging to a group calling themselves Occupy Our Homes arrived to stage a rally in front of her house. They came to stand in solidarity with homeowners like Lila and protest big banks’ predatory lending and fraudulent foreclosure practices that they say are pummeling cities like Baltimore.
CHANTING: Say what? Ain’t no power like the power of people, ’cause the power of people don’t stop!
CHRIS LAVOIE, OCCUPY OUR HOMES: Occupy Our Homes is a group that does foreclosure defense. It’s kind of an action arm, standing up for people that have tried to exhaust the legal limits to fight their foreclosure and have a right to their homes and want to say that and want everybody to know what their story is, and we want to expose their stories and help people get that out.
VOICEOVER: Lila’s story is not unfamiliar. She purchased her home in 2006, and after attempting to refinance one of her two mortgages, she was told by the bank that she was not in default and would have to first stop making payments. After she did for 4 months, she learned she had been foreclosed upon. The banks later sold her house two times, in spite of the fact that she was still in negotiations and continuing payments. She says her foreclosures and eviction are fraudulent and illegal.
LILA KARA, FORECLOSED HOMEOWNER: My foreclosure was made up. It was created for me. And I feel it’s very unjust.
VOICEOVER: Lila Kara’s foreclosure documents were signed by GMAC’s Jeffrey Stephan, a notorious robo-signer, or person who is employed by banks to rubber stamp large quantities of mortgage documents. The Washington Post reported that Stephan said in a deposition that he had signed around 10,000 foreclosures a month without properly verifying the information, in a practice that was found to be widespread in the banking industry. Johns Hopkins University professor Lester Stence, who has battled foreclosure and eviction from his home, explains some of the ways in which shady loaning practices have trapped Baltimore residents into foreclosures.
LESTER STENCE, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, POLITICAL SCIENCE, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: There are a couple of different dynamics, alright? So you got people, again, who just have regular mortgages, but who live in houses that are worth less than what they paid for them. And then you’ve got people who, for a number of reasons that are understandable, have bought mortgagesâ€”tried to buy houses, but in the process of buying houses, they’ve been given mortgages, they’ve been getting mortgage rates that are really explosive and problematic. And a number of cases, when they entered into those mortgages, they did so not knowing what they were signing up for. Baltimore is kind of ground zero for that. It’s not the worst, but it’s one of the worst regions for that.
VOICEOVER: The Occupy Our Homes group sprang out of Occupy Baltimore, which Lila approached for help after learning of the growing movement to challenge Wall Street and big banks.
KARA: I went to them. I didn’t know what to do or how to defend myself, because it’s a little bit tricky. And I went to them because I was watching on the news what is going on in New York, and I decided since there is a group in Baltimore, I would go there and ask them for help. I did right. They helped me a lot. I feel different way. I was very down, extremely stressed, and they came into my house, they helped me. I feel different way. I feel with courage right now, you know. And they help me to have hope again.
LAVOIE: I think that a lot of this has come together quickly and with a lot of energy, because I think that the work that Occupy Our Homes is doing resonates with a city that’s suffering, homeowners that are suffering.
VOICEOVER: Similar foreclosure occupations have been seen across the country and with growing frequency in recent months. As the clock struck noon in Baltimore on a still-crowded corner, the sheriff had not come to evict Lila Kara from her home that the banks say she no longer has a place in.