By Kraig Schwartz
Every month over 250 Seattle families have their foreclosed homes sold at auction. Even when families begin to financially recover and are willing and able to pay to stay in their homes, the banks refuse to negotiate and throw people into the streets. Jeremy Griffin, Ironworker and member of Local 86, has been thrown into the streets. Instead of submitting to the will of the banks, however, he is fighting back, and doing so with SAFE (Standing Against Foreclosure & Eviction).
Mr. Griffin became unemployed when the economy crashed in 2008. Soon he fell behind in his mortgage payments. In 2012 he resumed working, and tried to negotiate with Wells Fargo in order to stay in his home, but the bank refused and sold his home of eight years. Jeremy explains, “I’ve offered Wells Fargo six months of payments in advance,” said Mr. Griffin, “but they’d rather evict me and blight my neighborhood with another empty home. Why won’t they take my money?”
In late May, SAFE organized an eviction blockade in front of Jeremy’s South Park Home, where for a week SAFE activists stood guard 24/7 to prevent an eviction. The Sheriff’s office appeared to be sympathetic, and a scheduled hearing regarding his case was postponed for one month. But, when the hearing resumed on June 25th Jeremy lost, even though the judge was sympathetic with his case. “At my eviction hearing the only reason the bank’s attorney gave for why they won’t negotiate with me is they ‘have no legal obligation to do so.’ That may be a legally sufficient reason,” Jeremy said, “but it’s morally wrong. Basically, they refuse to negotiate with me and accept my money without having the decency to give me a reasonable explanation as to why.”
The Sheriff’s eviction team posted notice of his eviction. When the Sheriff’s eviction team appeared that day, 50 members of SAFE occupied Mr. Griffin’s front yard and nonviolently blockaded the entrance to his home. A dozen sheriff deputies confronted the occupiers; four SAFE members were arrested, and the eviction proceeded. Two weeks later Jeremy reoccupied his house only to be evicted again. “I’m embroiled in a civil land dispute with Wells Fargo, which has a well-documented history of fraud,” says Jeremy. “City and county taxpayer money should not be used to pay police to do the bank’s dirty work. If the local politicians want to side with the big Wall Street banks over the residents of Seattle and King County, they’ll have to answer to the people in November’s election.”
As of this writing Jeremy, in conjunction with SAFE, is contemplating next steps not only for his home, but also for the homes of dozens of other SAFE families facing eviction. Jeremy: “The banks have evicted 10 million people across America in the last six years. That’s nearly the combined populations of Washington and Oregon States. The banks own the country. We want it back.”
SAFE (Standing Against Foreclosure and Eviction), located in Seattle, is a grassroots, non-profit organization of volunteers and homeowners dedicated to building a mass movement to stop bank evictions, achieve principal reduction for home owners, and put people before profit. For more information or to learn how you can get involved please contact SAFE at 206-203-2125 or on the Web at SAFEinSeattle. org
Kraig Schwartz teaches at Seattle Central Community College, is a board member of AFT Local #1789, and a member of PASARA and SAFE.