The battle over the Cruz family home, nestled in a well-kept working class neighborhood in south Minneapolis, emerged in May and June as the central struggle in the burgeoning nationwide anti-foreclosure movement.
All members of the Cruz family work, and for years they paid their mortgage in full and on time. But when their online payment to PNC failed to go through due to a bank computer error, the bank unapologetically demanded two mortgage payments plus penalties. When they were unable to pay what PNC demanded in time, the house fell into foreclosure, and the mortgage was sold to Freddie Mac.
Sheriffs posted an eviction notice on Alejandra and David Cruz’s door in late April, and the Cruzes invited Occupy Homes MN to begin a 24/7 eviction blockade of their home. For a peaceful first month, the Cruz family home served as a community hub, hosting teach-ins, neighborhood barbecues, and Occupy Homes meetings. But the long-awaited battle eventually began.
Wednesday, May 23
Hennepin County sheriffs made their first major eviction attempt. Several occupiers immediately hooked into concrete lock-box barrels to delay the deputies. A text alert went out, and 100 supporters arrived within a short period, blockading busy Cedar Ave during rush hour until the sheriffs retreated.
Friday, May 25
Deputies returned at 4am with a jackhammer and a battering ram. While sheriffs jackhammered through the concrete lock-box barrels to arrest the activists whose limbs were locked inside, the delay allowed 40 people to mobilize in the pre-dawn hour.
For the occupiers, the situation appeared desperate, until someone suggested flanking the sheriffs that were guarding the front of the house. Activists ran through the alley, jumped the back fence, and re-occupied the property. Faced with the audacity of the protesters, and fearing the political consequences of mass arrests, the sheriffs again retreated. Occupiers removed flimsy plywood from the doors and reclaimed the Cruz home.
75 activists marched into the sheriffs’ headquarters, then the mayor’s office, presenting them with the Cruzes’ front door, mangled by the battering ram. Mayor Rybak pledged police would not take further action until the following Tuesday, and the five arrested in the morning raid were released on minimal bail.
Tuesday, May 29
Forty police swooped in, surprising activists. They rapidly cleared the home, arresting the one activist who managed to lock down. Dozens of Cruz supporters gathered, repeatedly rushing police lines. But with police securely holding the house, protestors marched down Hiawatha Ave., shutting down the major highway, then moved on to shut down a big intersection by a local police precinct.
Wednesday, May 30
With only three private security guards protecting the house, Occupy Homes again tested the Mayor’s statement that “the City is not in the foreclosure business.” Linking arms, over a hundred occupiers linked arms around the Cruz home, ignoring the security guards’ objections, and again removed the plywood over the doors.
By nightfall, police again amassed around the house, arresting 14. Confrontations continued into the night, with occupiers linking arms, pushing up against police lines, and sitting down around the paddy-wagon filled with arrestees.
Since that night, the house sits under constant police surveillance. Heavy metal barriers were put over the windows and doors. Protests, prayer vigils, and other actions continued.
Thursday, June 21
Alejandra and David Cruz led a caravan to Pittsburgh and, alongside supporters there, they marched into PNC headquarters to demand a meeting with the CEO. Their requests for a real negotiation were still rejected.
A national day of solidarity called by Occupy Wall Street drew protests outside PNC bank branches in 19 cities. In Minneapolis, fifteen were arrested – including internationally famed rapper Brother Ali – for crossing police lines at the Cruz home. A national call-in campaign targeting the leaked cell phones of top PNC executives was unleashed, and a change.org petition is nearing 200,000 signatures.
Win or lose, the battle of 4044 Cedar Ave has already emerged as a national model for home defense, and exposed not only the profiteering of the banks but also the role of the sheriffs, police, and city officials as frontline defenders of the 1%.