If You Don’t Arrest Them…They’ll Just Do it Again

  • 05/28/2013
  • Terelle Jerricks

Sherry Hernandez in handcuffs during the Home Defenders League's demonstration at the Justice Department in Washington D.C. on May 20.

By Sherry Hernandez, Guest Columnist

On May 20, in protest of the lack of Wall Street prosecutions, The Home Defenders League, Occupy our Homes and several others organized an action to open dialogue with the Department of Justice regarding mortgage fraud.

Four to five hundred people marched on the Department of Justice in Washington DC.  It was about 2:30 p.m. We were stopping traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Shouts of, “The banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” filled the air as the protesters marched toward their destination.  Buses of people had come in from surrounding cities and states to take part in the march.

This action had not been secret. It had been on the social media for about a month.  It could not have caught the Department of Justice by surprise. The Home Defenders League had written a letter to Eric Holder asking for an appointment where the homeowners could come and share their issues. Predictably, there was no response.

Our march was escorted by policemen on motorcycles.

A young man kept beat on a drum as the crowd chanted, “Jail the bankers, not the people.”

In weather that was hot and humid, we marched on Washington in defense of our homes, in hope to get our congress and our justice department to LISTEN.  These were home buyers that had written letters, made calls and sought help from every branch of government only to be put off, again and again.

The entrance to the Department of Justice was barricaded by a heavy steel gate chained to the massive planters.  There were several security guards and some officers from Homeland Security Police waiting there, standing behind the barricade. Hundreds of protesters stood on the other side of the barricade chanting: “No Justice, No peace.”

One of the officers approached, a grey-haired woman standing close to one of the planters and asked her if she really wanted to be “tased.”  The officer then looked over to his superior officer and asked for consent and his superior officer shook his head.

During the excitement, one of the protesters climbed over the barricade and stood at the front of the stairs, another followed her, asking her to come back, but instead they locked arms and stood before the stairs.  They simply stood there not moving and during that stand-off there was no violence by the officers or the protesters.  The officers stood fast in front of the door to the Department of Justice.

Suddenly the crowd took the opportunity to climb over the planters and ascend the stairs.  It was like a wave as they climbed over the barricade.  The security guards fled inside the door of the Department of Justice and barricaded themselves and those inside.  One of the protesters discovered that the padlocks on the chains around the planters had not been closed.  We dismantled the chain and the barricade and we made our way inside.  The demonstrates procured old couches that they set up on the stairs of the Department of Justice and a large wooden home facade that read “Bank Foreclosed.”

We called for Eric Holder to come out and just talk to us…just talk to US.  There has been a litany of discussions with the bankers and Wall Street, but the homebuyers get shut down at every turn.  The prejudices about us being “deadbeats” is allowed to fester, while few actually ask us what happened.

The police and/or homeland security began to come in numerous squad cars, and  parked rapidly along the road.  The protesters moved aside to let them through as they came armed with guns, batons, and tasers.  By that time, two groups of protesters had moved out to the sides of the building blocking the driveways.

The officers came to the Department of Justice stairs and commanded the protesters to move away.  The protesters locked arms in protest.  They were given another warning.

The third warning came quickly, and then the officers commanded them to unlock arms and just as quickly began to use their tasers on the protesters.  Vera, the older woman who had previously been standing near the planter when the officer asked to use his taser, heard the same officer say that he told her she would get tased and she was lucky he did not use the barbs.

Like children anxious to use their new toys the officers tased the peaceful protesters prior to their formal arrest. One of those arrested was a Pastor, who was also tased.  A war veteran, a former school principle, several retirees were included in those arrested.

The protesters that were arrested were taken away in a police wagon.  When the police asked them their names, they gave the names of Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein, Brian Moynihan, or John Stumpf, among several of the executives named that should have been arrested instead of the protesters.

The steel barricade was erected again, this time the padlocks were locked.  The remaining  protesters gathered on the other side of the planter and as the police wagon drove away, we climbed back over.

The following morning, still more protesters were arrested, a total of 27 in all.

On the 3rd day we met at Freedom Plaza and marched onto Covington and Burling LLC to protest their revolving door policy.

Covington and Burling LLC is the firm that Eric Holder hails from.  Many appointed position in Washington, D.C. come from law firms that work in the private sector. Those of us who arrived first were arrested for sitting in the revolving doors at Covington and Burling LLC.  We were all grandma’s.  We were all women who were involved in fighting for the future of our children and our grandchildren.

As we were handcuffed and waiting for the police to decide what was to be done with us, I heard the DC Police say to the security guard, for the second time….” What do you want me to do with them?”

The security guard answered, “Arrest them.”

The DC Police walked away, looked at us and walked back to the security guard…”This is on you, then,” he said.

On of the employee of Covington and Burling said next….” If you don’t arrest them, they’ll just do it again.”

I find some genuine irony in those words.

The DC police were actually kind to us.  Debra, reminded us that we are the ones that chose to take a stand and they were just doing their job.  I think they knew that, too.  Covington and Burling, has chosen to charge us with unlawful entry.

I had a chance to think about it on the plane on the way home.  I thought about the charges against our “grandma brigade” and all the home buyers I had met.  No two stories were identical, some had never been late on a payment, some just needed to catch up, others would not be able to save their homes, but they had all been victims of a pervasive fraud that has still not stopped.  Even as the “independent” foreclosure review board is still handing out the checks for the fraudulent foreclosures of 2009 and 2010, the fraud continues.

“If you don’t arrest them, they’ll just do it again.”


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