200 People Block Wells Fargo From Evicting Long Time Resident, Retired Firefighter and Current Teacher Alex Richardson From His Home.
Contact: Emily Keppler (845) 826-5370 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Malcolm Chu (718) 666-6872 (malcolm@SpringfieldNoOneLeaves.org)
***HIGH RESOLUTION PHOTOS BELOW & AVAILABLE BY REQUEST
***INTERVIEWS WITH ALEX RICHARDSON & BLOCKADERS AVAILABLE
Springfield, MA – This morning, 200 neighbors, residents, community & union members successfully blocked the eviction of Alex Richardson of 68 Rochelle Street in Springfield by Wells Fargo. Protestors sat-in on the front and back steps to block the doors in an act of civil disobedience, forcing the bank and Springfield Police to either carry out mass arrests of peaceful protestors or call off the eviction and negotiate.
The fired up crowd chanted “Wells Fargo You Can’t Hide, We Can See Your Greedy Side!” and “The People United Will Never Be Defeated,” while representatives from Springfield No One Leaves and elected officials, including representatives of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office, negotiated with Wells Fargo and the sheriff. Inside, Mr. Richardson locked himself inside of his home and made it clear he wasn’t leaving. After 45 minutes of the tense stand off, the sheriff was forced to call off the eviction.
“Today was an inspirational moral victory for Springfield No One Leaves (SNOL) and our community. It shows how powerful we are when we have dedicated people who are serious about stopping no-fault evictions,” said Mr. Richardson. “We were taking the highest form of civil disobedience to stand for what we believe in. I want Wells Fargo to know that they are creating these confrontations, when they could simply sit down and negotiate a civil solution to keep me in my home.”
Mr. Richardson was joined by other Springfield residents facing displacement by Wells Fargo as well as State Representative Benjamin Swan, State Representative Candidate Ivette Hernandez and representatives from Mr. Richardson’s union, UFCW Local 1459. UAW Local 2322, SEIU Locals 615 & 1199, OutNow, Arise For Social Justice, and Western Mass Jobs with Justice also attended. More than 15 Rochelle Street neighbors came out to stand with Alex and make it clear that they did not want to see a fifth vacant home on the block.
“If Wells Fargo gives the order to evict, they’ll have to arrest me because I refuse to allow them to throw Mr. Richardson out onto the street,” said blockader Malcolm Chu as he linked arms in front of the back door. “I refuse to sit by while Wells Fargo tears our neighborhoods apart.”
Twenty police officers arrived within minutes of the demonstration and warned the protesters that they would be arrested for trespassing if they did not move. At the end of the blockade, they drove away honking horns in support and giving the crowd the thumbs up.
Mr. Richardson has lived in his home for 32 years. He moved in as a tenant and then had the opportunity to buy the home in 1988. He was employed with the Springfield Fire Department for 18 years until a back injury on the job forced him into early retirement in 1998. He went back to school and began working as a substitute teacher in the Springfield public school system. In 2008, at the height of the housing crisis, the Springfield Retirement Board cut Mr. Richardson’s pension by $60,000 because they deemed that the income he was making from substitute teaching was too high. He immediately began to fall be behind on mortgage payments. He worked tirelessly to try and get Wells Fargo to negotiate, but like millions was denied a modification and his house was foreclosed.
On Friday, Mr. Richardson was pre-approved by Boston Community Capital, a non-profit lender based in Boston, for a loan to repurchase the home at current market value. Despite the offer, Wells Fargo told SNOL negotiator Roberto Garcia-Ceballos that they prefer to evict Mr. Richardson, leaving him homeless, and then negotiate with Boston Community Capital.
“This logic makes absolutely no sense, and demonstrates how the Wells Fargo doesn’t care about the impact their ruthless policies have on people,” explained Garcia-Ceballos to crowd after the victory was announced. “We won’t let Mr. Richardson be evicted.”
No-fault evictions could be prevented if the Massachusetts State Legislature expanded the “Tenants in Foreclosed” properties law passed in 2010 to include former homeowners. In June, a working committee released a report supporting Senate Bill S728 which would expand these protections to former owners.
“We need our legislators to step up and stop all no-fault evictions now,” says Jeff Solivan who is also facing eviction from his home at 32 Edgemont Street by Fannie Mae.
SNOL is asking supporters to call Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf at 415-396-7152 to urge them to negotiate. Reporters are encouraged to contact Wells Fargo and Boston Community Capital regarding ongoing negotiations to repurchase the home.
Springfield No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude is a grassroots member-led organization organizing families being evicted by banks after foreclosure to stop no-fault evictions, protest unnecessary foreclosure and build community power to put our communities before profit. For more information visitwww.springfieldnooneleaves.org or call 413-342-1804.
SEE WGGB ABC40/Fox6 COVERAGE: http://www.wggb.com/2014/08/04/protestors-block-springfield-eviction/
Photos Credit: Joe Oliverio.