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Newark Protest Charges Bank of America in Foreclosure, Homelessness Epidemics

By David Hungerford |
October 26, 2009
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People's Organization for Progress protests against Bank of America
(Fight Back! News/Staff)
People's Organization for Progress protests against Bank of America
People's Organization for Progress protests against Bank of America

Within the last few years Newark, New Jersey and nearby communities have been devastated as thousands of homes have been foreclosed and tens of thousands made homeless. An Oct. 24 protest at Bank of America here, sponsored by the People's Organization for Progress, charged Bank of America and other banks are responsible for these calamities.

"We have come to hold Bank of America, Chase, Wachovia and other banks responsible," People's Organization for Progress Chairman Lawrence Hamm told the rally. "Bank of America got a $45 billion bailout but what have they done? They have foreclosed homeowners, put elderly people in the streets, little kids, foreclosed small landlords with two or three tenants and put the tenants in the streets. They have raised credit card rates, late fees and finance charges.

"Workers, the working poor, the middle class, all are hurting," he said. "And what did the bankers do? They went out and had a party," referring to the lavish party the management of AIG threw for themselves after their massive government bailout.

Sweeping demands for Bank of America to repair the damage it has caused were presented to the branch manager in the form of an open letter to Bank of America Chief Executive Officer Kenneth D. Lewis. Protest signs demanded "Stop foreclosure," and "Stop eviction." One sign simply displayed the Bank of America logo above the huge word, "greedy." Protesters chanted, "Help the needy, not the greedy" and "Bail out the homeless, the hungry, the jobless." Literature was passed out that described the People's Mortgage Rescue Plan, a concrete proposal for a government bailout of homeowners.

Though the day was overcast and rainy the protest drew excellent attendance. The direct and militant confrontation with monopoly capitalism lent a meaning to the event felt by all. One passerby told protest organizers he did not want to hear anything but an attack on capitalism. He wound up staying through the whole protest. Several people spontaneously joined the protest and carried signs.

"A day of reckoning is coming," Chairman Hamm said. "This is a problem not of just one wicked person but of a wicked system, the system of capitalism." He said the protest is only the first and promised Chase, Wachovia and other banks that they too would get visits from People’s Organization for Progress.


Open Letter

People's Organization for Progress
PO Box 22505, Newark, NJ 07101

24 October, 2009

Mr. Kenneth D. Lewis
Chief Executive Officer
Bank of America

Dear Mr. Lewis:

The People's Organization for Progress is a civil and human rights organization with chapters in New Jersey and New York. We are greatly concerned with the mortgage and foreclosure crises that have gripped our area and the entire country.

Bank of America and other lending institutions share responsibility for these crises. It is our understanding for example that Countrywide Finance, since acquired by Bank of America, was the largest originator of subprime mortgages in Newark.

We hold that during the housing bubble of 1999-2008 lending institutions used their great financial powers to drive residential price increases to levels that bore no relation to increases for any other goods or services. For instance the Consumer Price Index rose by only 22.1% from 1999 to 2006. Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Housing Price Index, however, rose by 134.7% in the New York extended region in the same period, more than six times as much!

We accept no excuses for the housing bubble. The financial institutions caused it. They must shoulder the burdens of its consequences particularly in light of the huge public bailouts they have received, including Bank of America’s $45 billion. We will present the following measures to other banks as well.

Mortgage amounts were driven to artificially high levels. Therefore the principals must be written down to true market values. The human disaster of foreclosure must be met with a moratorium on foreclosure until adequate measures of general recovery are taken.

These are painful solutions for lending institutions and will require extensive reform and reorganization. The economy requires it for overall recovery, however. We demand that lending institutions including Bank of America undertake substantive initiatives toward these ends. Either we preserve the United States in its present form but not the banks in their present form, or else we rescue the banks but not the country.

Banks, including Bank of America, should reciprocate the bailout given them by the public with measures to bailout mortgage-holders. In view of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s mortgage-holders in danger of falling into delinquency should be given a 6-month exemption from mortgage payments.

The recent explosion of credit card fees and interest rates damages the consumer economy and makes recovery harder. Reductions in credit limits should be cancelled, and customers in good standing should not be terminated. Banks should look for other means to invest in local communities in the interests of general recovery.

We request a meeting with representatives of Bank of America to discuss these measures. We look forward to your early response. Otherwise we will be forced to continue our protests.


Lawrence Hamm
People's Organization for Progress