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The Big Payback!December 11th, 2009
Check out this report from Joseph Phelan from the Miami Workers Center, about their action this week against predatory lenders:
Go here for more photos: http://tinyurl.com/bigpayback
Go here for raw video footage:http://tinyurl.com/tbpbraw
"Got to get paid back," James Brown's emphatic voice called out from a loudspeaker over downtown Miami yesterday. Residents stepped and swayed to the prophetic soulful song in front of the Florida headquarters of Wells Fargo Wachovia. The bank (a recent merger) made over $65 billion in predatory loans, and collected $25 billion in federal bail out money and is sitting on over 400 foreclosed homes in Miami Dade county.
James Brown called out "I'm angry" and the gathered 80 people called out in response "We're angry."
While residents waited outside the two people went inside to get a check made out to the American People for $25 billion signed by the president of the bank.
When the money was not returned the protesters danced down the street, to the continued refrain of "Get paid back." At 50 Biscayne Boulevard, across from Bayfront park, a downtown Miami tourist destination, the group tried to take over a vacant condo owned by the bank. Eighty people took over the lobby of the building demanding the condo be turned over to Betty James, Jennifer Hayes, Chantavia Dezmal, and Ashley Hoffman; four women who have been languishing on the public housing waiting list. While the protesters were inside a banner was draped from the pool roof deck declaring "Take Back the Land."
"Banks got bailed out and people in Miami and across the country got sold out. It is time for the big payback. We want money returned to the people, that is our money, to address the need for jobs and the housing crisis in our communities," said Shannan Reaze of Power U, a community organization based in Overtown, Miami.
"By us being here to take back the land and demand our rights to the city we are saying to everyone around the country and the world; we are here to stay, we are here to struggle and we are going to win," said Ajamu Baraka of the U.S. Human Rights Network.
After occupying the lobby for a half hour the group was ushered out onto the street by the police, where they haeld a press conference and rally.
The protest was jointly organized by Miami Right to the City Alliance and the U.S. Human Rights Network (which is launching a national Take Back the Land Campaign).
Miami Workers Center is a member and founder of the Right to the City Alliance.