WASHINGTON -- Labor leaders spoke out Tuesday afternoon in support of foreclosed homeowners protesting outside the Department of Justice, a day after many of the protesters were arrested.
Union leaders lauded the actions of those arrested, and condemned the DOJ and the practices of the largest banks in the country during a press conference. The leaders were flanked by about 25 protesters and foreclosed homeowners, who stood in the same place where men and women were arrested Monday afternoon as they demonstrated against the DOJ. The protesters targeted the department's failure to take legal action against major banks that foreclosed on homes due to potential bank errors or using now-banned practices.
"This is wrong," said Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, the largest media and communications labor union in the United States. Cohen was referencing flimsy mortgages sold to potential homeowners before the recession hit in 2008.
"Shame ... on the bankers and shame on the Justice Department that somehow they think these banks are not only too big to fail, but too big to jail," Cohen said.
In addition to the protesters arrested Monday, most of whom were homeowners, many of the protesters that spent the night in tents were arrested Tuesday morning in continued acts of civil disobedience. Police used a stun gun on some.
According to Brian Kettenring of the Leadership Center for the Common Good, 25 protesters remained in jail at the time of the press conference, five of whom planned to stay at least another night because they refused to give the police their real names. Instead, they gave the names of the CEOs of some of the United State's largest banks.
Those arrested were charged with obstructing traffic.
A couple whose New Jersey home was foreclosed upon three days after Hurricane Sandy talked about the frustration of dealing with mortgage lenders after having difficulty finding work.
"They didn't want to accept our monies. And that was money that we worked so hard to gather," said Theresa Hamilton, choking back tears. "We're here today to ask the DOJ to help us ... make the banks accountable for what they're doing."
Laura McCleary, of National Nurses United, harped on the DOJ's failure to protect people like the Hamiltons. She also chided the federal government for allowing the top-earning 1 percent of Americans to prosper during the economic recovery while stifling the remaining 99 percent, a trademark of the Occupy movement that inspired the DOJ protests.
"The government has really not done what it should to protect people and hold the banks accountable for fraud, shoddy record keeping, predatory loans, fake loan documents, and the suffering of millions of individuals and families who lost their homes to criminality and soulless profiteering," McCleary said.
Big banks have posted huge financial gains since the recession hit and they were bailed out in 2008. In 2012, banks pulled in their second-highest profits on record -- $141.3 billion.
A call for comment from the DOJ was not returned.
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