Victory Upstate!

Today we’re deviating a bit from our Friday news round up theme to tell Catherine Lennon’s story. Catherine is from Rochester, NY: a fierce little city upstate that I am also from, and which has seen some of the most powerful eviction defense and direct action against foreclosure in the Take Back the Land movement. Over two years ago, Bank of America foreclosed on Catherine’s home. She never gave up fighting them — both in the streets and in the courts — and this week, her home was deeded it back to her with NO mortgage and NO financial obligation. This is an enormous victory, and it proves that resistance against banks is powerful and it works. People fighting together are are stronger than Wall Street.

But no one should have to fight as hard as Catherine fought for the human right to housing. One home is saved, but thousands and thousands more have been seized. While we celebrate this historic victory, we need to also demand systematic change that cuts down banks and keeps people in their homes. A number of places are experimenting with different ways to do this. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing Wells Fargo for not complying with the mortgage settlement and providing modifications; Ridgewood, CA is moving forward with a plan to size mortgages through eminent domain. People power is the best kind of power there is, and as Catherine’s story shows, it’s effective. But we need to keep demanding more: a world where we don’t have to fight.

Check out the press release from Take Back the Land Rochester below.

In an unprecedented victory, Catherine Lennon, who gained local and national attention after moving back into her foreclosed home after being evicted, was according to public records, recently deeded back her house, without a mortgage. On Friday, November 15, 2013 at 11:30am, Take Back the Land Rochester will hold a press conference with Catherine Lennon at 9 Ravenwood, Rochester, NY 14619 to announce and discuss the significance of Ms. Lennon’s historic foreclosure fight victory.

After her husband died of cancer, Ms. Lennon fell behind on her mortgage. In spite of documented problems with the mortgage and foreclosure paperwork at the hands of Bank of America and notorious foreclosure mill of Steven J. Baum, Ms. Lennon was foreclosed upon. Take Back the Land- Rochester joined Catherine Lennon and waged an eviction defense of the home. The eviction blockade made local and national headlines when the Rochester SWAT-like operation executed the eviction, arresting 7 people, including a 70 year old neighbor in her pajamas.

On Mother’s Day 2011, in a daring act of civil disobedience, Ms. Lennon openly moved back into the home from which she was evicted, with Take Back the Land- Rochester announcing that it was not a “Sit-in,” but rather a “Live-in.” The act garnered national attention, Ms. Lennon was called “the Rosa Parks of the foreclosure crisis,” by former Obama Administration official Van Jones, and the act served as a model for much of the ongoing “Occupy our Homes” and Take Back the Land eviction defenses around the country.

Two years later, Ms. Lennon is making waves again. While many Homes” eviction defenses result in the owner receiving a new mortgage, often with principal reduction, public records reveal that Bank of America deeded the house back to Lennon without a mortgage, as per the demands of Take Back the Land- Rochester.  This is the first known case of a eviction defense ending with an outright winning of the house.  “I’m thrilled with the terms of my settlement, actually I’m beyond words,” exclaimed Lennon. “I’m filled with joy.”  “This is a precedent-setting victory, a demonstration of what’s possible, and preview what’s to come” said Ryan Acuff, an organizer with Take Back the Land Rochester.  “The banks are long overdue to donate tens of thousands of houses back to the community.  We paid for these houses in the bailout.  This victory is the beginning of the next phase of the movement.”

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