Protest Targets Foreclosure Relief Conference; Congressman Barney Frank Responds
BOSTON/South End - As over 350 housing advocates, politicians, bankers and realtors filled the main ballroom at the Colonnade Hotel on Monday for the half-day Open Doors conference - organized by the Citizens Housing and Planning Association together with The Warren Group (publisher of Banker and Tradesman) and a number of major banks with the stated purpose of helping pro-actively implement foreclosure relief in Massachusetts - about 15 protestors held a demonstration calling for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures nationwide.
Speaking from a standing picket in front of the hotel, Maya X of the Women's Fightback Network opened the protest by criticizing the conference, "This morning I was reading an article online, a 90 year old woman shot herself because her home was being foreclosed on. And it took that shooting before Fannie Mae would sit down and talk to that woman. What does that tell us about this country, and how they feel about our people. We are the poor working people. We are students. We are children that are being forced out on the streets because of this because of this "Open Doors" policy. So we want to say open the doors to education. Open the doors to our community. Open the doors to our homes. Stop locking us out.
X then called for a halt to punitive bank actions against home owners, "Every single day there are 7000, 8000 people being evicted from their homes or being foreclosed. Every single day. Wall St. dropped but already we're dropping $700 billion for the Wall St. bankers. They sit there in their condominiums looking down on the people. So we say, 'No more money for Wall St., bail out the Main St., bail out our community. Bail out our young people. How are we supposed to be the future when you're locking us up, and if you're not locking us up you're trying to put us in camouflage and send us off to go killing innocent people. Not another dollar for this war. Not another dollar. We say we want to have a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures."
Steve Kirschbaum from Steelworkers Local 8751 added, ""A number of us are out here today from the unions. We're out here today because we want to alert the country, we want to alert Boston that there was a grand larceny that was perpetuated against the people of this country. $700 billion were stolen, stolen out of the Treasury to give over to admitted criminals and those responsible for the worst economic crisis that this country has seen since the Great Depression. Yeah they got an open door up there, opening the door to the Treasury to give out to those who are responsible for this crisis in the first place. And we the people of this country, need to take this country back. This does not lend itself to easy quick-fix solutions. What we're seeing is the ravages of capitalism. And as a union person we can see as our members are being foreclosed on and you can't put gas in your tank, you can't buy food at the store. Where is the bailout for our people? Where is the economic help that our people need?"
Inside, a number of luminaries - including Mass. Housing Undersecretary Tina Brooks (D), Bob Sheridan of SBLI, Lt. Governor Tim Murray (D), Robert Vallery of Bank of America, and Congressman Barney Frank (D - Mass. 4th District) - addressed a capacity lunch crowd.
As the speeches went on, the protestors attempted to gain access to the ballroom to speak directly to the conference attendees, but were rebuffed by hotel security.
At a press conference after the event, Open Media Boston informed Congressman Frank that there were protestors outside who were saying that the $700 billion bailout was misplaced, and that the money should have gone to infrastructure like housing, to which he responded, "One, the Democrats did pass a bill in the House to put money into infrastructure and to help the states pay medical bills. Unfortunately, it was filibustered in the Senate. It only got 52 votes, and it got 42 votes against it which meant it couldn't be voted on.
Frank continued, "Secondly, the 700 billion is not $700 billion of expenditure. We don't know what the net cost will be. But remember, we're buying assets. The net cost will be much less than 700 billion. The other thing we said was that at the end of the 5 year period when we total up the debt cost, after we sold the assets, the President has to send Congress a proposal to have the financial industry pay for that. Now it's not binding now, but I can't believe in 5 years Congress will be willing to let the overloaded taxpayers do it. So even though we didn't pass this that would not have freed up $700 billion for other things. But having said that again the Democrats were for a stimulus. It was only 70 billion, not 700. And it got killed."