About 30 people from the group "Occupy Our Homes Atlanta" entered the PNC Bank's Buckhead branch on Piedmont Road this afternoon to protest the bank's foreclosure and eviction of a Minnesota family's home - an act which has become a focal point for the nationwide "Occupy Our Homes" movement.
According to news reports, PNC Bank foreclosed on the Cruz family's south Minneapolis home in February. The family claims that the bank failed to withdraw a monthly payment from the family's account. The bank later tried to impose a penalty that would have equaled two months' payment, which the Cruzes could not afford. The house ended up being bought by Freddie Mac in a sale of foreclosed homes. The family was told they had 48 hours to leave their home, at which point Occupy members stepped in. Since then protests have been held at the home, resulting in many arrests. Thirteen people were arrested yesterday at the home, including hip-hop artist Brother Ali.
Although the Cruzes live in Minneapolis, "Occupy Our Homes Atlanta" - an offshoot of the Occupy Atlanta movement that focuses on housing issues - says the effort to save the family's house could have implications in Georgia. Group members cite the fact that Georgia is no. 1 in the country in foreclosures. They argue that if the movement can prevent the foreclosure in Minnesota it could set a precedent that might bring change here.
At around 1:15 p.m. today, about 30 people walked into the PNC Bank. Once there, they held signs and chanted "Housing is a human right." One group member handed out small flowers to bank employees. After a few moments they gathered in the main lobby area, where member Tim Franzen said the group had nothing against the bank employees but were angry at the actions of PNC's executives.
"Our communities can no longer afford to be held hostage by the banks," said Franzen, who played a large part in the Occupy Atlanta movement. "We know that PNC makes more money off evictions then off of loan modifications."
He later explained that banks like PNC are reimbursed by the federal government - which, according to Franzen, backs 85 percent of the country's mortgages - when it forecloses on a house. The government reimburses the banks for the uncollected principal, which is often times higher than the debt, since many loans on homes facing foreclosure were made before the housing crisis began. Therefore, there's little incentive for banks to modify mortgages.
The group then thanked the employees for their time and left the bank. They then stood in front of the branch, holding signs and chanting.
A few bank customers sat patiently during Franzen's speech about the Cruz family's dilemma. After the group exited, they were asked what they thought about what the protesters said. One customer sitting at the desk of a banker replied, "we are just here to get a mortgage and do some business." When asked what he took away from the speech, he replied, "something about Tom Cruise."
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Pretty good recent vid, climate change hoax intermixed:
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