I have spent my whole life trying not to get arrested. My husband and I have counseled our son to stay out of trouble and obey the law.
But on Friday, Sept. 30, I did something that I knew would get me arrested. I, along with 24 others, sat down in front of the doors of the Bank of America headquarters at 100 Federal St. and occupied the branch office in the same building. We were accompanied by 3,000 protestors, organized by Right to the City, who came to send a strong message to Bank of America and other financial institutions: Banks should stop foreclosing on families and putting them out on the streets.
Banks should negotiate loan modifications with owners whose homes are underwater. It’s common sense. Even if the bank is able to re-sell the property, they’ll only be able to sell it at market value. Why not negotiate with the family instead — keeping the family in their home and the community intact?
We believe that the banks helped cause the real estate bubble which helped bring about a massive economic crisis. The banks’ unregulated trading of mortgages was motivated by intense greed. Thanks to their speculation on our homes, thousands of families in Boston have been made homeless.
Because these banks were considered “too big to fail,” they were bailed out. How is it fair to bail out banks while ordinary people are thrown out of their homes?
When the Bank of America security guards and the police asked us to leave, we refused. We decided that committing the crime of trespass was necessary because greater wrongs were being committed inside that building.
My husband and I are hard-working people, each of us working so that we could own our own home and raise our son well. I’ve lived in Roxbury all my life.
In 2008, just before the economic crisis, we bought a 3- bedroom condo in Roxbury for $375,000. In hindsight, I see that that price was inflated — a result of the real estate bubble. But the banks led people to believe that even such an inflated value would continue to rise. In 2009, just after the economic crisis, my husband lost the job he had held for 25 years. We could not keep up with mortgage payments to Wells Fargo just on my salary.
By 2010, our home was worth much less than when we bought it. We owed more on the loan than the house was worth. I called Wells Fargo and tried to get a modification on the loan.
In the midst of these negotiations, I spoke with a representative of the bank on Aug. 7, 2010. She said, “I assure you we will not foreclose on you.” The next day, my husband called me at work. He said, “They are conducting an auction in front of our house! Our home is being auctioned off!”
That night I went to a meeting at City Life/Vida Urbana. They told me, “Whatever you do, don’t move out.” They said it’s illegal for banks to foreclose on you if you’re applying for modification.
I have been to their meetings every Tuesday night since then. I have joined a growing movement of people who refuse to leave their homes after foreclosure.
More than a year has passed since an auction was held on our front steps. And I am still in my home. Currently Boston Community Capital is buying my home back from the bank. They will sell it back to me at market rate.
I got arrested on Friday because what the big banks are doing is not right.
My case is going to be settled, and I am going to stay in my home. But I’m not done fighting. Now I’m fighting for my community. That is why law-abiding citizens got themselves arrested (and will do so again)!
That is why City Life and all the other organizations that have joined up with takebackboston.org occupied a foreclosed home in Dorchester on Oct. 1 in an effort to reclaim it for the family that rightfully belongs there.
We are taking back our homes, our community and our democracy!
Carolyn Grant is a lifelong Roxbury resident.