San Francisco spiritual leaders gathered at City Hall Wednesday, April 4, to commemorate the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and express outrage at the slaying of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, local homicides claiming the lives of three young men this week, and "economic violence" resulting in foreclosures and poverty.
"I've been in San Francisco three years, and I've had to walk 16 mothers to the grave as they bury their boys who were murdered right here," said Rev. Malcolm Byrd from First A.M.E. Zion Church in San Francisco. "Let us pray that the death of Trayvon Martin, or the homeowner facing eviction, is not seen in isolation."
A candlelight vigil was held Thursday evening for Lawrence Richardson, a 21-year-old who was shot and killed Monday as he left a corner store in San Francisco's Western Addition neighborhood. Jahmad Karriem, 20, was shot and killed Sunday in the Ingleside district, and the body of 21 year old Diondre Young was discovered near the Bay Bridge on Friday.
"We have violence that has taken place against our children, against our communities, against our homes and against good jobs," said Archbishop Franzo King from the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church. "We have to stop the violence. We have to stop the assault on our community." King is facing foreclosure of his Bayview district home.
About 80 people joined representatives from the San Francisco Interfaith Council and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment in a march from City Hall to the Wells Fargo bank at 1266 Market Street, where the crowd demanded that the bank reduce principle and interest on all "underwater" mortgages and offer families sustainable monthly payments and the ability to stay in their homes.
ACCE also demanded that Wells Fargo stop all foreclosures and evictions for nine months. The group also called for a meeting with a senior executive or director of Wells Fargo.
"If we don't see you before, we'll see you on the 24th at the Wells Fargo shareholders meeting," St. John Coltrane congregation member Marlee-I Hand told the crowd gathered around the bank's entrance.
Security guards at the doors of the Wells Fargo checked bank cards of anyone asking to enter. Demonstrators outside did not attempt to enter the bank, and the rally was entirely peaceful.
Real estate broker and founder of Home Owners for Justice C.J. Holmes urged the crowd to lobby their supervisors to slow the explosion of San Francisco foreclosures.
"You can get them to change your code, and the recorders can have an affidavit of authority for every foreclosure filing," she said. "In Nevada when they did that, the foreclosures dropped 97 percent."
If San Francisco changed the law right now, foreclosures in April would total 9 instead of 392, Holmes said.
San Francisco assessor-recorder Phil Ting released a report in February that found 85 percent of the audited foreclosures in the city had issues or were illegal. ACCE, the Interfaith Council and Home Owners for Justice want foreclosures and evictions to stop until legal safeguards can be implemented and some relief is offered to California homeowners.
Former San Francisco resident Dexter Cato was evicted from his Bayview home in October after Wells Fargo foreclosed his property. Cato's wife died from a medical accident during the process, he said, and the bank left him and his four children to fend for themselves without a home.
"One part of the Wells Fargo processing center was giving me a loan modification while the other part was evicting and selling my house underneath me," Cato said.
While Cato's wife was still alive, the family sent Wells Fargo a $2,500 check to restart the loan modification process. Cato said he sent the money but received no response from the bank.
"I assumed when they asked me to send in my wife's death certificate that they would work with me under the circumstances, and no response from Wells Fargo," he said.
Rev. Arnold G. Townsend, vice president of the San Francisco NAACP and associate minister at Without Walls Church, is currently engaged in a foreclosure fight to save his church.
"When you start having problems, where do you go for support? You go to your church, you go to your community organizations, but when you get there, they're already gone," Townsend said. "They're not only taking our property; they're taking our support system away from us."
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