On Friday morning, police from the Hennepin Country Sheriff's Office abandoned an attempt to evict protesters from a foreclosed home in south Minneapolis after a tense standoff.
By the protesters' account, the standoff began at 4 a.m., when about 20 to 30 police arrived at the home with a battering ram, bashed in the front door, surrounded the home and blocked traffic so that no one could approach it. A spokesman for the sheriff's department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
For the past month, activists with the Occupy movement in Minneapolis have been using the home as a sort of fortress and command center, and the raid was the second on the home this week. On Wednesday, the police called off their first attempt to evict the protesters after about 100 people rallied at the house.
The house belongs to the Cruz family -- a young woman named Alejandra, her brother David and their parents -- and the family and its supporters insist that the home went into foreclosure not because of the family's fault but as a result of a difficulties arising from an online banking system. Activists say they have been working with the original lender, the PNC Financial Services Group, to find a solution that both sides can agree on. But in the meantime, Freddie Mac, which bought the home in August at a sheriff's sale, is pushing for an eviction.
Freddie Mac Brad German said documents provided to the company by PNC showed "no record of the borrower seeking assistance and no record of a missed electronic transfer payment." The family has not made any payments for nearly two years, he said.
After the police arrived on Friday morning, five protesters who had been staying in the home locked themselves to railings and other objects, and the sheriff’s deputies used saws, jackhammers and other tools to remove them, the
protesters said. All five of these protesters were arrested.
But by that time, about 4:30 a.m., a new wave of protesters had begun to show up -- about 50 of them. "As the last person was being arrested, we marched around into the alley and flanked the sheriff and they retreated," said one of the protesters, Nick Espinosa. "We've been holding the house every since."
The connection between the Cruz family and the activists goes back several years. Alejandra Cruz is a familiar figure in local immigrant-rights circles. So are some of the Occupy activists who have protested on the family's behalf, including Espinosa, whose father is from Ecuador and has been deported.
Martha Ockenfels-Martinez, another member of the protest group, said she's been talking to executives at PNC about finding an amicable solution to the dilemma. "They reached out to me beginning to me a few weeks ago to start getting the ball rolling to work on a loan modification package," she said.
A spokesman for PNC told The Huffington Post that the bank would not comment on the case.