Occupy movement defends home from foreclosure, Los Angeles, California, 2012

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionPDF versionPDF version
Timing
Time Period:  
26 March
2012
to
24 May
2012
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Los Angeles
Goals: 
For Bank of America to 'buy back' the property from West Ridge Rentals and re-negotiate a mortgage with Rodriguez, thus stopping foreclosure procedures.
 

After the 2008 home mortgage crisis, and particularly after the 2010-2011 recession, home foreclosure rates skyrocketed. Very few cases received much media attention. Dirma Rodgriguez’s situation is almost unique in that it was featured in local and syndicated newspapers. Due to high-profile actions and support from the Occupy Fights Foreclosure sub-committee within the larger group of Occupy Los Angeles, Dirma’s case reached the level of mainstream consciousness throughout the campaign.

Prior to the foreclosure attempt on 26 March 2012, Bank of America offered Rodriguez a trial modification after she had fallen behind on paying her mortgage. Despite her consistent payments, the bank sold her mortgage in September of 2011 to West Ridge Rentals, a company known to be a property flipper. West Ridge almost immediately pursued eviction. Bank of America had given Rodriguez additional loans so that she could renovate the house to be accessible for her daughter who has cerebral palsy. She did not know, however, that the new loans did not account for property taxes, so her monthly payments were higher than she expected, causing her to fall behind.

Following the foreclosure announcement, Rodriguez sought support from multiple advocacy companies, among them G & G Financial of Los Angeles and Golden Global Investments, both of which performed corrupt investigations of alleged bank fraud. As of 13 April 2012, West Ridge and Bank of America had met, and West Ridge offered to walk away from the deal if Bank of America agreed to buy the mortgage back at the same price, and pay fees. Bank of America, however, was uncertain if Rodriguez was going to be able to make all of her payments.

It is important to situate this foreclosure in a highly publicized (and criticized) bank practice of offering ‘settlements’ with homeowners (new, lower payments over a longer period of time) and then foreclosing anyway. This often occurs along with discriminatory and deceptive sales practices, as well as pressure from bank officials to make homeowners like Rodriguez sign agreements that are contrary to their best interests.

Activist associated with the Occupy movement stepped in, conducting an audit of Rodriguez’s income to show her financial security and holding multiple direct actions. Not only did they prevent the eviction earlier in the spring, but they also discussed Rodriguez’s case at multiple General Assembly meetings, provided translation assistance (Rodriguez primarily speaks Spanish) and hosted a large rally, march, and action on 8 May, this time working with members of MoveOn LA.

Together, they organized up to 100 people, who gathered outside of the house of Bank of America executive Raul Anaya, the Regional Vice President for Corporate Responsibility. They “dramatized a "fraudulent foreclosure" on Anaya's home using a fake check, moving boxes and moving vans.” They also brought large banners that read, “Raul Anaya, What would your Mama say? Stop Foreclosures today!” Later, many of these activists attended an independently organized forum on foreclosure with the American Civil Liberties Union (this was not organized specifically around the Rodriguez campaign, but paralleled the work of Occupy Fights Foreclosures and other allied groups).

The next morning was the annual Bank of America shareholders meeting in Charlottesville, North Carolina. Thousands of Occupy-related activists protested the meeting (not only because of the Rodriguez campaign, but other issues as well), and MoveOn members held solidarity actions in front of Bank of America branches across the country. In particular, MoveOn held a silent demonstration in a branch in downtown LA in solidarity with Rodriguez.

On 24 May, CBS news reported that the bank bought back the mortgage. In a video that was widely publicized in LA media sources, Rodriguez held her deed and announced that she would be staying in her house, the only place where her daughter, Ingrid, had ever lived. Occupy activist Sharon O’Keefe reiterated the illegal refinancing and foreclosure practices that Bank of America had used throughout the process. Rodriguez and the activists had successfully prevented foreclosure on her home.

Research Notes
Influences: 

(1) Occupy Wall Street related messages about bank fraud and corruption contributed to the campaign launching. (2) The campaign occurred simultaneously with other anti-foreclosure campaigns and will influence future actions/campaigns with these themes.

Sources: 
"An Ugly Foreclosure Story, Starring Bank of America." Los Angeles Times. N.p., 13 Apr. 2012. Web. 03 Dec. 2012. <http://articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/13/local/la-me-holland-20120413>.

"Bank Has A Heart And Returns Woman, Disabled Daughter To Foreclosed Home." CBS Los Angeles. N.p., 24 May 2012. Web. 03 Dec. 2012. <http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2012/05/24/bank-has-a-heart-and-returns-woman-disabled-daughter-to-foreclosed-home/>.

Berman, Jillian. "Dirma Rodriguez, Disabled Daughter Forced Out Of Home Even After BofA Modification." The Huffington Post. N.p., 13 Apr. 2012. Web. 03 Dec. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/13/bank-of-america-dirma-rodriguez_n_1423883.html>.

"Fighting the Big Banks, One House at a Time." Daily Kos. N.p., 15 May 2012. Web. 03 Dec. 2012. <http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/15/1091930/-Fighting-the-Big-Banks-One-House-at-a-Time?showAll=yes>.

Gold, Lauren. "Occupy LA Protesters Descend on Pasadena Home of Bank of America Executive." Pasadenastarnews.com. N.p., 8 May 2012. Web. 03 Dec. 2012. <http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/news/ci_20578022/occupiers-protest-bank-america-foreclosures-today-pasadena>.

"MAY 7 General Assembly." Occupy Los Angeles. N.p., 7 May 2012. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. <http://occupylosangeles.org/node/9422>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Samantha Shain, 02/12/2012