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PORTSIDE  October 2012, Week 4

PORTSIDE October 2012, Week 4

Subject:

Foreclosure Revolt Spreads to East LA

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Date:

Wed, 24 Oct 2012 21:57:04 -0400

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Foreclosure Revolt Spreads to East LA

By Dan Bluemel
Los Angeles Activist
LA Progressive
October 24, 2012

http://www.laprogressive.com/foreclosure-revolt/?utm_source=LA%20Progressive%20Newsletter&utm

Three occupiers survey the barricade members of
Occupy Fights Foreclosures built as part of their
efforts to stop the eviction of the Lucero family
whose home - commonly referred to now as Fort
Lucero - fell into foreclosure after a questionable
loan modification. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

Margarita Lucero and her husband are unloading
their pick-up truck of clothes. In the back are old
televisions and VCRs. These are items they sell at
swap meets, she explains.

When asked how she has been, she responds, "No
bien. Nervous."

The subject of her worries flies overhead in an
overcast sky.

"La policĂ­a," she says, pointing to the police
helicopter.

Lucero came to the United States from Mexico 25
years ago. After 10 years of hard work, she and her
brother, Benito, managed to buy a property that had
two houses on it in East Los Angeles.

Now, thanks to a loan modification with Deutsche
Bank, they may lose the place they have called
home for the past 15 years - though with a little
help from Occupy Los Angeles, they won't be going
down without a fight.

Their troubles began when the family fell on hard
times. When they got their loan modification their
problems seemed behind them, but there was one
catch they were not aware of - their loan
modification was temporary.

A sign posted in front of the Lucero residence
announces, on Oct. 20, the number of days their
protest has been underway. (Dan Bluemel / LA
Activist)

After six months, Deutsche Bank then began
refusing their payments and put the home in
foreclosure.

Relief came when the Luceros filed for bankruptcy to
put off their eviction. The court allowed them to live
in the home until Oct. 26. But Deutsche Bank
moved forward despite the court ruling.

On September 27, the sheriff's dept. evicted the
Luceros. However, they only evicted the front
property where Benito Lucero, his wife and two
children live.

Oddly, an agent from Carrington Mortgage Services
later provided the Luceros a key to the new locks on
their home. It is assumed the agent gave the
Luceros the key so they could remove a few personal
items, thus avoiding the need for future interactions
with the family.

However, once the Luceros moved back in, the same
agent then filed a report with the sheriff's dept. that
the family had broken back into their house. When
the sheriffs arrived on October 15, they met
resistance and backed down. Lucero by then had
reached out to OLA for help. Through their
subcommittee, Occupy Fights Foreclosures, or OFF,
the group sprung into action.

As a result of turning to OLA, Lucero's home, which
is referred to now as Fort Lucero, looks a bit
different today. A barricade made of plywood and
wood scraps is in front of the property. Spray-
painted onto it are images that can only be
described as an artistic indictment against the
banking industry. The phrase "Alto el embargo," or
"Stop the foreclosure," is prominent in the mural.

At the foot of her driveway, a message is written in
chalk: "No mas fraude," or "No more fraud," which is
repeated on Lucero's roof, but in Christmas tree
lights.

n front of Fort Hernandez, free shirts are offered
which bear silkscreened slogans concerning the
protest. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

Inside, a cadre of occupiers are cleaning. They have
prepared coffee and snacks. Literature is on display.
Today, they plan to reach out into the community
regarding the plight of the Luceros and hopefully
build support, because the occupiers need to have a
lot of people on their side in order take on the
sheriff's dept.

"The banks are banking on the fact that nobody is
going to defend the little guy," says Alissa Kokkins.

She is, like many of the occupiers at Fort Lucero, a
veteran of Fort Hernandez, a foreclosed home in Van
Nuys which the group is similarly defending. The
defense of the Hernandez home began on Aug. 25.
They celebrated their two-month anniversary on
Oct. 20, the same day Fort Lucero was marking its
10th day in existence.

Word seems to be spreading of this strategy of
fighting questionable or fraudulent foreclosures that
requires one part bravery and one part audacity.
Last month, a family in Anaheim who is under
foreclosure, began their own action with an
Anaheim branch of OFF.

Kokkins says some within OFF have lost their
homes as well to foreclosure, giving the group a
certain savviness when it must deal with banks, the
courts or the sheriff's dept.

"There is this army of resistance growing, because
they are displacing all these people," she says.

Margarita Lucero (center) speaks to people in her
neighborhood in attempt to enlist community
support for her protest. Occupiers hope that
concerned neighbors, as well as those in the process
of losing their homes, will join their efforts to fight
fraudulent foreclosures. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

Anti-foreclosure actions, among others, marks a
change in tactics for OLA. Occupier Ryan Rice, who
has spent much of his time at Fort Hernandez, told
LA Activist earlier this month that actions such as
home defense, assisting the homeless and having
"really, really free markets," where people share and
exchange goods and services without money, does
more in the long run than chanting and marching.

"Those are still protests, but they have something
substantive," he said. "I mean, the online support
for the `free market' and teach-ins, that's where it is.
That's how you are changing the hearts and minds
- when [they] see [you] are doing something
different that's the alternative."

OFF could be considered one of OLA's sleeper cells.
While OLA was attempting to regroup after their
eviction from City Hall last November, OFF was
continuing to organize.

The creation of numerous offshoots, like OFF or
Occupy the Hood, was a strategy that allowed OLA to
remain fluid, explains Matt Ward, another veteran of
Fort Hernandez who is now at Fort Lucero. In a
sense, occupiers created a game of Whack-o-mole
for the government. While one group could be
potentially be crushed or dispersed, another one
pops up in its stead, still bearing the name Occupy
Los Angeles.

"That's where Occupy Fights Foreclosures came
from," he said. "We felt like it was an opportunity to
keep taking the fight to the banks. It was a chance
to stand up for the community in a way that would
allow us to initiate a dialogue with people who
would otherwise be closed off."

Ward fears for Lucero's neighborhood and others
like it. He describes the foreclosure crisis as a "land
grab" brought about by a multi-national, financial
juggernaut, where speculators move in, buy homes
and gentrify neighborhoods and push out the
community that once thrived there.

"We have to stand up for something, and
foreclosures, it is a chance to be Robin Hood, a
chance to give back to people who have only ever
been taken from," he says. "These international
financiers, they don't care about boundaries or
borders, they just want money. They just want
power."

At the end of the day, Lucero is tired. She and
occupiers had earlier broken up into groups, and
with fliers and petitions in hand, they spread out
into the neighborhood in search of community
support.

Darren Taylor of Occupy Whittier speaks to people
in Belvedere Park about the Lucero's foreclosure.
(Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

Lucero sits in a plastic lawn chair at the end of her
driveway. She still wears her dark-green apron upon
which occupiers have silkscreened "#Fort Lucero."
Nearby is her friend Augustina and her husband,
Jorge Ruvalcaba, who holds their small dog in his
arms like a baby.

She explains that her brother couldn't join them
today because he had to work. The family works
every day of the week to make ends meet. Besides
working swap meets, Lucero makes and sells
tamales and menudo.

Times have been harder since Ruvalcaba was
injured at work.

Ironically, they used to clean foreclosed homes for
Fannie Mae. They worked two years for a Fontana-
based cleaning company that had a contract with
the mortgage buyer.

Lucero and Ruvalcaba were paid $90 for each home
they cleaned, each of which typically took one day.
She says many of the homes were infested with
molds and littered with cat and dog excrement.
Strong chemicals were used to clean the homes, but
their employer never provided adequate protection,
such as masks, goggles or gloves.

Ruvalcaba breathed in a good dose of the stuff when
a stove's pilot light blew the chemical back at him
one day. He began coughing up blood and losing
consciousness. To get him away from the fumes,
Lucero says she had to drag her husband out of the
home.

Ruvalcaba had to be put on oxygen for a week to
relieve the swelling of his lungs.

When Lucero and her husband attempted to get
monetary compensation for the accident, their
employer denied they ever worked for him. Still, in
an effort to avoid a lawsuit, the company's
insurance provider offered to pay Ruvalcaba $5,000.

"If they are saying we are not their workers, why are
they trying to give us $5,000?" she says through an
interpreter.

On her walk, Lucero went to nearby
Belvedere Park and to a church. Talking to anyone
who would listen. Everyone did. Only one person
annoyed this otherwise seemingly patient woman.

When Lucero speaks of family, she holds her hand
to her chest. A sense of community runs strong
within her too, so when she meets someone who is
less than neighborly, it gets under skin.

"`Your problem.' . `Your problem.' . No together,"
she says. "You need together. . One family."

___________________________________________

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