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Stand up and fight back for housing in Springfield, MA

By Evan Cross |
March 16, 2013
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Springfield, MA - Nearly 100 community members, many African American, Puerto Rican and Latino, answered a call to occupy and clean up a vacant home located at 280 Wilbraham Road on March 13. The call by Springfield No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude and Arise for Social Justice is an attempt to gain homes for working-class people.

Police attempted to enforce a trespassing law on the empty home in response to the action. The protesters brought attention to both the number of vacant houses and the struggles of families in the area seeking affordable housing. The Fremont Bank originally foreclosed on the house in question. The house was boarded up and left neglected, just like four other properties on the the surrounding block. Activists occupied the home as part of a coordinated national launch of the Homes for All! campaign, with similar actions held in ten other cities.

The group held a spirited rally for two hours, chanting in English and Spanish, "When housing rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” and “Cuando luchamos, ganamos!” Five speakers from the community shared their struggles against banks and predatory lenders. A musician played traditional protest songs to strengthen people’s spirits.

Malcolm Chu, an organizer from No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude defiantly stated that this was the first of many actions to come. Speaking of the occupation tactics he said, "When we decide to take over a house, the city will be the last to know." However, the problem is much wider than a single house. Fellow organizer Marcella spoke of attempts to demolish the public housing projects where she lives in nearby Holyoke. The city is trying to sell off to private investors, but the tenants successfully struggled to stop the demolition. She further added that they were currently struggling to get the homes up to code and free of rats and cockroaches.

Springfield resident Jeff Solivan related the story of how his house was foreclosed on by Bank of America, which then sold his mortgage to Fannie Mae. Now he is engaged in an ongoing struggle with Fannie Mae to stop his eviction. Earlier in the week, No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude brought members of the community to form a blockade against Solivan’s scheduled eviction, forcing Fannie Mae to suspend the eviction order and begin to review his offer to pay an affordable rent and stay in his home.

The action marks a new direction for the both organizations: representing working people who have become increasingly fed up with foreclosure, evictions and vacant properties blighting their neighborhoods and cities.