As part of a national protest against foreclosure, about 75 people rallied outside a south Minneapolis house on Tuesday afternoon to protest its repossession by a bank. It was the latest action of the Occupy Minneapolis movement that began on Oct. 7.
The home at 3712 Columbus Ave. was owned by Bobby Hull, a former Marine and was sold at a foreclosure sale in August. He and his family are still living there but the redemption period ends in February when he faces eviction, said Nick Espinosa, one of the rally organizers.
But Hull told the crowd gathered on Hull's lawn that he wasn’t going to leave the house. “This is just a start, we want to stop it here,” Hull said to large cheers. “Nobody is leaving their homes anymore….We are the people.”
"Whose house?" shouted Espinosa.
"Bobby's house," the crowded chanted in unison.
A banner that read “Foreclosure Free Zone” was draped across the front of the house.
Espinosa recalled that in the 1930s there was a similar anti-foreclosure movement, when families refused to leave their homes. “We have to stand up like we did back then,” he told the crowd.
Espinosa told me that the house would serve as an organizing base and a petition would be circulated in the neighborhood to urge U.S. Bank, which now owns the house, to negotiate with Hull so he could stay.
Maren McDonell of the North Side Community Reinvestment Coalition called the foreclosure on Hull’s home “racism by design,” saying, “they are tearing our communities down.”
According to a news release, Hull’s mother bought the house in 1968. The title was later transferred to him. Some recent health problems caused him to fall behind in his payments, the release said, and Bank of America refused to modify his loan. U.S. Bank purchased it in a sheriff’s sale.
Nicole Garrison-Sprenger, a U.S. Bank vice president, said the bank did not buy the house but was merely the trustee, handling the paperwork for a group of investors who formed the trust that bought the house. She said U.S. Bank had no authority to negotiate with Hull and referred questions to the Bank of America which serviced the loan and had "full authority" to take action on the property.
So I contacted Junana Bauwens, a media relations representative with Bank of America Loans.
Bauewens emailed me: "We have worked with Mr. Hull for the past two years to help identify a home retention solution. During that time, we offered him a modification and later reviewed him for HAMP but unfortunately he did not meet the guidelines for the program."
HAMP is the Home Affordable Modification Program, an industry-wide program administered by the Treasury Department.
When I emailed Bauwens to ask if Bank of America would be prepared to negotiate with Hull so that he could stay in the house, she responded, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the house was purchased by U.S. Bank."