On March 6, 2012, OFF (Occupy Fights Foreclosures) and local community members held a vigil for Blanca Cardenas in North Hollywood, CA. Blanca had recently been deported under strange circumstances following an arrest while trying to save her illegally foreclosed home. Blanca’s two small children are both U.S. Citizens, her husband is a U.S. citizen, and she has resided in this country for over 15 years—nine of which she has been married, and eight of which she has owned her home.
From an OFF press release:
“The family disputes the foreclosures and eviction due to fraudulent paperwork filed by the banks and a pending federal bankruptcy which is supposed to protect homeowners from eviction.
Although the exact circumstances leading up to Mrs. Cardenas’s detention and ICE deportation remains unclear, it appears the inciting event ties to an investor named Mehrdad Farahmand from A to Z Development, who recently was the highest bidder for the property at an auction.”
The action started with roughly 30-40 people, children included, rounding the neighborhood to let neighbors know everything was not all right; that matters worth their attention were upon them; that their involvement was requested. After rounding the small block chanting in English and Spanish—signs fully discernible—the group of Occupiers and community members headed back towards the Cardenas home. There, they were met with mainstream media news crews. Subsequently, a press conference was held to discuss the plight of Blanca and the Cardenas family. Carlos Marroquin and Cheryl Aichele of OFF spoke to Blanca’s cause and of the systematic fraudulent activity that banks and lenders practice as the status quo.
Watching everyone gather for the press conference was rather inspiring. Everyone, of all races, creeds, and ages came together, quite literally, to form what almost looked like a wall of thin, cardboard signs. Signs asking for resolution and exposing the truth about one of the most crooked elements of industry within America—which our country’s government has yet to even acknowledge. Musician and Occupier Michelle Shocked then played a song she recently wrote about Blanca’s fate—all the while cameras still rolled and reporters still stood amidst the crowd.
After the press conference and individual interviews, it became clear that two police cars blocked each end of the street. Officers stood outside of the vehicles, but did not come within any close proximity of the house.
As things cooled off with the media, things started to heat up with the crowd. Gerardo Quinones, Blanca’s husband, stood by as individuals gained entry into his home for him so he could gather belongings for himself and his children. Rumors that police would be arresting individuals on the property circulated, which fell, for the most part, upon deaf ears. Occupiers mobilized on the porch and chanted, signs touted high, as the crowd on the street—still very present—chanted along with them.
A quick trip up the street would reveal officers with semi-riot gear (i.e. helmets, zip-tie handcuffs, etc.) and what looked like “preparation” for an impending command. Fortunately, nothing of the sort happened. However, North Hollywood Division Capt. Peter Willingham did show up on scene. Rather calm and collected, and with a kind demeanor, he suggested he knew what the family was going though, that emotions were running high, but that anyone who stayed on the property would be arrested. One can speculate how the conversation and demeanor may have been different were there not mainstream news cameras present. After an Occupier asked for 10 more minutes for family and friends to gather belongings, the officer obliged. All in all, the family had a little over an hour to gather belongings. No arrests were made.
A recent San Francisco County audit of 384 foreclosures has stated that 99 percent of those foreclosures had questionable activity, 84 percent had a clear violation of law, and over two-thirds had four or more violations. Occupiers, and non-Occupiers alike, are demanding a moratorium on foreclosures while investigations—that have yet to begun—are conducted.
According to realtytrac.com, in California during January of 2012,
1 out of every 265 housing units had been foreclosed on, with a total of 51, 584 foreclosures.