By Miriam Raftery
“I hope this will spread across America.” - Congressman Bob Filner at a pre-dawn rally, where he announced that Union Bank called off plans to have the Sheriff issue a foreclosure notice today to evict a woman and her child with cancer
“We can join together and fight these banks.” – Ray Lutz, 52nd Congressional district candidate
September 14, 2010 (Bonita) – “Thank you, thank you!” Luz Maria Villanueva’s voice was choked with emotion at a rally on her front lawn organized by Congressman Bob Filner (D-San Diego). Nearly 100 people turned out at 5:30 a.m. for a candlelight vigil to protest Union Bank’s announced plan to have the Sheriff’s department take Villanueva’s Bonita home. She has pleaded for a reprieve at least until her son, who is legally blind and has cancer, completes chemotherapy treatments.
“We’re going to stand together to change America,” said Rep. Filner. “We have a president who talked about hope. We have to give him strength. The banks have taken over both parties.” He called for changes in the law to protect those victimized by predatory lending practices.
The rally drew widespread media attention; at least three major TV stations as well as print and online media reporters were on hand to cover the event.
Filner was willing to risk arrest to halt the foreclosure. The Congressman knows first-hand the effectiveness of civil disobedience to right a wrong; in the1960s he rode the Freedom Train to Mississippi, where he was arrested in a Civil Rights protest and jailed for several weeks after standing up for rights of African-Americans.
Although Villanueva attained a temporary stay when Union Bank called off the Sheriff today, the order could be reissued, Filner warned those present. “We got them to back down, but we need you to be on call.”
The crowd responded by chanting, “Stop Union Bank! Stop taking our homes!”
Members of the public who want to be notified of upcoming "stop foreclosure" rallies may follow Rep. Filner's Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/CongBobFilner.
Ray Lutz, Democratic candidate in East County’s 52nd Congressional district, also stood with Filner and Villanueva at the rally. “I think this is going to be a big tidal wave of fighting back against banks,” Lutz told East County Magazine. “We’ve got to stop these foreclosures. If we stand together, we can get the government to help us, because they don’t have any spine unless we have a spine.”
Lutz said he wants to push the Obama administration to rewrite loans and reassess the value of homes, allowing homeowners to stay in their residences and pay what homes are actually worth. “We need recognition that the bubble burst a long time ago. This is the best way to put our economy back on a solid footing,” Lutz added.
Filner and Lutz have met with organizations working to stop evictions.
Evictions of people like Naa-Anoror Okai and James Tillory. “I have proof that my bank changed my income, my marital status, and my ethnicity,” said Okai, who came out to show solidarity with Villanueva. After a Housing Commission worker found that the bank had falsified Fannie Mae documents before initiating foreclosure proceedings, Okai filed a lawsuit and sought help from Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego).
But when the Congresswoman contacted the bank, Okai said, “They wouldn’t return her calls…Instead of working with me, they sold our loan to another lender.” Okai wants to save her home, but also hopes to see her bank prosecuted by the federal government for fraud.
Villanueva, who fell behind on payments due to divorce and her son’s medical bills, now waits and hopes that public pressure will persuade her bank to stop foreclosure proceedings and give her an opportunity to work out an arrangement to stay in her home and make payments. Today, she will take her son, who suffers from kidney disease as well as cancer, for a potentially life-saving infusion.
“We can’t give up,” the determined mother vowed.