Monday, May 11, 2009
Mothers who've been foreclosed on seek help
By Jana Shortal, KARE 11 News
Updated: 5/11/2009 7:44:16 AM
If a home is the family castle, in many cases, the castle is crumbling.
On Sunday, three mothers stood with the group 'Minnesota Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign' to state their cases about being foreclosed upon and beg for mercy from the lending institutions.
"There have been three generations of Parks' to live in my mom's house," Leslie Parks said breakind down. "My mother, me, and my 88-year-old grandmother and to throw us out on the street makes no sense.
Leslie says her mother's home will be taken from them in a matter of weeks. Victims of a predatory lender, Leslie says, who sold them a mortgage her mother couldn't refuse and now a mortgage she couldn't possibly pay.
"We've been in that house 21 years, it just shouldn't happen."
Ann Patterson has a job, a husband and children.
She claims her bank will "not" work with her on a new mortgage and the result will be homelessness.
"The myth is not true; people that lose their houses deserve a break, a second chance, my children do not deserve to lose their house," Patterson said.
On Sunday the group came to call elected officials, the city and the county to action. They ask for help they say. They will pay their way but they want some help to find a mortgage rate that is livable.
Sheila Nelson came to the rally today to advocate for renters rights. Nelson has 4 children and says she was evicted after her landlord, unbeknownst to her, stopped paying his mortgage.
"I've got four kids, living on the streets. The shelters are full and we have been on the streets 3 months now," Nelson told the group.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Rosemary Williams eviction trial pushed back to May 26; Momentum builds in fight against foreclosures.
April 26, 2009
Rosemary Williams eviction trial pushed back to May 26.
Momentum builds in fight against foreclosures
Press conference and picket
April 28, 9 am
Front of Hennepin County Government Center (5th St side)
Rosemary Williams, her attorneys and leaders of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign and the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout will be available to speak on important developments in her case.
The eviction trial of Rosemary Williams will be pushed back to May 26. Rosemary Williams, a 55-year resident of the Central Neighborhood in south Minneapolis was scheduled for trial April 28. But now she will remain in her home while the legal proceedings continue.
“I intend to stay and fight,” said Williams. “We are building a movement to get a measure of justice for everyone who is facing foreclosures and evictions. We need a mortitorum on foreclosures.”
Rosemary’s decision to fight the foreclosure and related eviction has drawn broad community support. In addition to the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout and the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, the effort to defend Rosemary’s home and stop foreclosures has the backing of ACORN, the MN Tenants Union and the Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization.
Cheri Honkala, of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign, states, “With the trial delayed, we will use the added time to build the fight to keep Rosemary in her home.”
In a unique legal strategy, hundreds of neighbors, friends and community members have signed legal requests to intervene in her case. They argue that her eviction, which will lead to another vacant home, would create a public nuisance for the entire neighborhood. Low-income neighborhoods with high concentrations of people of color have been the hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.
Linden Gawboy, of the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout, said, “We are sick of politicians - both republican and democrats - doing nothing about this crisis. In the weeks ahead we are going to turn up the pressure on the bankers and legislators so we can save homes, protect renters and save our neighborhoods.”
For more information contact:
Linden Gawboy / Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout @ 612-296-5649
Cheri Honkala / Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign @ 267-439-8419
Monday, April 20, 2009
Neighbors, Friends and Community Organizations Rally & Intervene in Court on Rosemary Williams Eviction Case.
April 20, 2009
Neighbors, friends and community organizations
Rally & Intervene in Court on Rosemary Williams Eviction Case.
Wednesday, April 22, 9:30 am.
Outside Hennepin County Government Center
Rosemary Williams, a 55-year resident of the Central Neighborhood, in south Minneapolis will be going to court the morning of April 22, where she will face evictions proceedings from her foreclosed home. Rosemary's decision to fight the eviction and stand up to foreclosures has drawn broad community support.
Prior to the court hearing, Rosemary Williams will be speaking at a 9:30 press conference and protest organized by the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign and the MN Coalition for a Peoples Bailout. Other organizations backing the effort include;
ACORN, MN Tenants Union, ECAG and CANDO.
Rosemary Williams states, "Housing is a human right and we need a moratorium on home foreclosures. I am taking a stand for all people facing homelessness from foreclosures and evictions from foreclosed properties. We can not be sacrificed to the greed of bankers and mortgage companies."
Cheri Honkala, of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign, states "Rosemary Williams is on the front lines of the fight against foreclosures. We are organizing in our neighborhood and our neighbors are behind her. We will do everything in our power to prevent her eviction."
In the April 22 Court appearance, attorneys for Rosemary Williams will ask the judge to allow her to stay in her home, while the legal issues relating to her case are sorted out.
Specifically, the attorneys will argue that her eviction, which will lead to another vacant home, would create a public nuisance for the entire neighborhood. Low income neighborhoods with high concentrations of people of color have been the hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. Hundreds of residents of the Central Neighborhood and other concerned people have signed legal requests to intervene in her legal case on these grounds.
Linden Gawboy, of the MN Coalition for a Peoples Bailout states, "Rosemary Williams is helping to build the movement against home foreclosures and we will fight with her every step of the way."
For more information contact:
Linden Gawboy / Minnesota Coalition for a People's Bailout @ 612-296-5649
Cheri Honkala / Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign @ 267-439-8419
Friday, April 10, 2009
New York Times: With Advocates’ Help, Squatters Call Foreclosures Home
April 10, 2009
With Advocates’ Help, Squatters Call Foreclosures Home
By JOHN LELAND
MIAMI — When the woman who calls herself Queen Omega moved into a three-bedroom house here last December, she introduced herself to the neighbors, signed contracts for electricity and water and ordered an Internet connection.
What she did not tell anyone was that she had no legal right to be in the home.
Ms. Omega, 48, is one of the beneficiaries of the foreclosure crisis. Through a small advocacy group of local volunteers called Take Back the Land, she moved from a friend’s couch into a newly empty house that sold just a few years ago for more than $400,000.
Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said about a dozen advocacy groups around the country were actively moving homeless people into vacant homes — some working in secret, others, like Take Back the Land, operating openly.
In addition to squatting, some advocacy groups have organized civil disobedience actions in which borrowers or renters refuse to leave homes after foreclosure.
The groups say that they have sometimes received support from neighbors and that beleaguered police departments have not aggressively gone after squatters.
“We’re seeing sheriffs’ departments who are reluctant to move fast on foreclosures or evictions,” said Bill Faith, director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, which is not engaged in squatting. “They’re up to their eyeballs in this stuff. Everyone’s overwhelmed.”
On a recent afternoon, Ms. Omega sat on the tiled floor of her unfurnished living room and described plans to use the space to tie-dye clothing and sell it on the Internet, hoping to save some money before she is inevitably forced to leave.
“It’s a beautiful castle, and it’s temporary for me,” she said, “and if I can be here 24 hours, I’m thankful.” In the meantime, she said, she has instructed her adult son not to make noise, to be a good neighbor.
In Minnesota, a group called the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign recently moved families into 13 empty homes; in Philadelphia, the Kensington Welfare Rights Union maintains seven “human rights houses” shared by 13 families. Cheri Honkala, who is the national organizer for the Minnesota group and was homeless herself once, likened the group’s work to “a modern-day underground railroad,” and said squatters could last up to a year in a house before eviction.
Other groups, including Women in Transition in Louisville, Ky., are looking for properties to occupy, especially as they become frustrated with the lack of affordable housing and the oversupply of empty homes.
Anita Beaty, executive director of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, said her group had been looking into asking banks to give it abandoned buildings to renovate and occupy legally. Ms. Honkala, who was a squatter in the 1980s, said the biggest difference now was that the neighbors were often more supportive. “People who used to say, ‘That’s breaking the law,’ now that they’re living on a block with three or four empty houses, they’re very interested in helping out, bringing over mattresses or food for the families,” she said.
Ben Burton, executive director of the Miami Coalition for the Homeless, said squatting was still relatively rare in the city.
But Take Back the Land has had to compete with less organized squatters, said Max Rameau, the group’s director.
“We had a move-in that we were going to do one day at noon,” he said. “At 10 o’clock in the morning, I went over to the house just to make sure everything was O.K., and squatters took over our squat. Then we went to another place nearby, and squatters were in that place also.”
Mr. Rameau said his group differed from ad hoc squatters by operating openly, screening potential residents for mental illness and drug addiction, and requiring that they earn “sweat equity” by cleaning or doing repairs around the house and that they keep up with the utility bills.
“We change the locks,” he said. “We pull up with a truck and move in through the front door. The families get a key to the front door.” Most of the houses are in poor neighborhoods, where the neighbors are less likely to object.
Kelly Penton, director of communications for the City of Miami, said police officers needed a signed affidavit from a property’s owner — usually a bank — to evict squatters. Representatives from the city’s homeless assistance program then help the squatters find shelter.
To find properties, Mr. Rameau and his colleagues check foreclosure listings, then scout out the houses for damage. On a recent afternoon, Mr. Rameau walked around to the unlocked metal gate of an abandoned bungalow in the Liberty City neighborhood.
“Let the record reflect that there was no lock on the door,” Mr. Rameau said. “I’m not breaking in.”
Inside, the wiring and sinks had been stripped out, and there was a pile of ashes on the linoleum floor where someone had burned a telephone book — probably during a cold spell the previous week, Mr. Rameau said.
“Two or three weeks ago, this house was in good condition,” Mr. Rameau said. “Now we wouldn’t move a family in here.”
So far the group has moved 10 families into empty houses, and Mr. Rameau said the group could not afford to help any more people. “It costs us $200 per move-in,” he said.
Mary Trody hopes not to leave again. On Feb. 20, Ms. Trody and her family of 12 — including her mother, siblings and children — were evicted from their modest blue house northwest of the city, which the family had lived in for 22 years, because her mother had not paid the mortgage.
After a weekend of sleeping in a paneled truck, however, the family, with the help of Take Back the Land, moved back in.
“This home is what you call a real home,” Ms. Trody said. “We had all family events — Christmas parties, deaths, funerals, weddings — all in this house.”
On a splendid Florida afternoon, Ms. Trody’s dog played in the water from a hose on the front lawn. The house had mattresses on the floors, but most belongings were in storage, in case they had to leave again.
“I don’t think it’s fair living in a house and not paying,” Ms. Trody said.
She said the mortgage lender had offered the family $1,500 to leave but was unwilling to negotiate minimal payments that would allow them to stay. She said she and her husband had been looking for work since he lost his delivery job with The Miami Herald.
In the meantime, she said, “I still got knots in my stomach, because I don’t know when they’re going to come yank it back from me, when they’re going to put me back on the streets.”
The block was dotted with foreclosed homes.
Three of her neighbors said they knew she was squatting and supported her. One is Joanna Jean Pierre, 32, who affectionately refers to Ms. Trody as Momma.
Ms. Pierre said Ms. Trody was a good neighbor and should be let alone. “That’s her house,” Ms. Pierre said. “She should be here.”
Ms. Trody said that living here before, “I felt secure; I felt this is my home.”
“This is where I know I’m safe,” she added. “Now it’s like, this is a stranger. What’s going to happen?”
Even without furniture or homey touches, she talked about the house as if it were a member of her family.
“I know it’s not permanently, but we still have these couple days left,” she said. “It’s like a person that you’re losing, and you know you still have a few more days with them.”
Monday, March 16, 2009
Video from the foreclosures action at the Hennepin County Sherriff's Office.
Action to Stop Foreclosures at Hennepin County Sheriff's Office
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Sheriff’s office pressured to stop selling foreclosed homes: Local groups gathered outside sheriff sales to protest foreclosures.
By Taryn Wobbema, Minnesota Daily
A coalition of local grassroots organizations sought a meeting with Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek Wednesday to encourage the end of foreclosed home sales.
The Association of Community Organizaton for Reform Now, the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign and the Economic Crisis Action Group were among the participants. According to PPEHRC national organizer Cheri Honkala, about 150 people joined the demonstration.
A press advisory released by ACORN stated, “This new coalition is calling for Sheriff Stanek to affect a moratorium on local home evictions and foreclosures.”
Stanek wasn’t in his office today, but demonstrators were given time with Chief Deputy Mike Carlson and County Commissioner Gail Dorfman.
Honkala called the meeting with Carlson a “good first step victory.” The organizers and the sheriff’s office reached two agreements during the meeting. The first said that Stanek has agreed to meet with the organizations. The second indicated that the meeting would be set up within a couple days.
Officials at the sheriff’s office said sheriff sales are mandated by state law and ending them would be breaking that law. However, sales are conducted “in a professional and compassionate way.”
Demonstrators also hoped to disrupt the sheriff sale that took place Wednesday morning.
According to Lisa Kiava, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, usually about 20 properties are sold each day, but only five properties were bought while the protesters were present.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Honkala banned from HUD Office in Court Yesterday
Economic Human Rights Campaign were both given
fines today in court for being in a public HUD office
during buisness hours. Honkala and Abdi went to
Housing And Urban Development with other members
of PPEHRC after HUD Director Dexter Sidney went back
on his written commitment to meet with families who were
being foreclosed on in the state of Minnesota during
the Republican National Convention.
Dexter himself appeared in court today along
with his attorney and five other staff members of
HUD's attorney argued that the HUD office was in
danger of being visited again by Ms. Honkala and a
stay away order was than placed on Cheri Honkala.
A stay away order wasn't given to Deeq Abdi.
Honkala's closing statement to the Judge was "It's
a sad day in Minnesota when we have a foreclousre
crisis in our state and I'm not allowed to go into a
public government office during office hours to
petition my government."
Abdi & Honkala were represented by Ted Dooley of the National Lawyers Guild.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Group rallies in support of cottages
By J.R. WELSH - email@example.com
WAVELAND — A small group of residents rallied Monday in support of a pending lawsuit and their push to keep living in Mississippi cottages when a state program expires.
About 20 cottage residents gathered at the Waveland ball field on Central Avenue, carrying homemade signs and making short speeches. Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed Friday on the issue is expected to make its way to court this week.
“We need this permanent housing,” Andrew Canter, a lawyer at the Mississippi Center for Justice, told those at the rally. “We’re not going to let it be taken back.”
Canter and another lawyer from the justice center filed suit on behalf of eight Waveland residents still living in the small hurricane-relief cottages. They sued Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo and the Board of Aldermen, saying the city acted improperly when it decided to allow cottages to stay only in areas zoned for trailers when a housing program by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency expires at the end of March.
In response, Longo said the lawsuit was “unbelievable.” He said the city had already taken steps to change its position, renegotiate a memorandum of understanding with MEMA, and allow cottages to remain in areas zoned residential.
Canter said he would be filing an additional brief in the case, which is scheduled to be heard at 9 a.m. Friday in Chancery Court in Gulfport.
The Hancock County Board of Supervisors decided last week to allow the cottages to stay in residential neighborhoods, citing a state law that considers the structures to be modular homes, not mobile homes. Thus far the Bay St. Louis City Council has continued to restrict cottages to trailer parks.
Not everyone watching Monday’s rally of about 20 people favored the cottages. Waveland resident John Peterson, 73, sat in his car across the street holding an anti-cottage sign. He said the small, shotgun-style Mississippi cottages are ruining his investment in his home, which he rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina.
“I rebuilt a $179,000 home and I’ve got Katrina cottages near me,” Peterson said. “What does that do to my property values?”
But one after another, cottage residents and their supporters made short speeches invoking their rights to a home. MEMA has offered to sell the cottages at low prices to residents who can meet a list of criteria.
Waveland rally a huge success!
More pictures and stories to come.
Residents file lawsuit over Katrina cottages
WAVELAND — A group of Waveland residents has filed a lawsuit against city aldermen and the mayor, claiming their rights were violated when they were refused permits to remain in Hurricane Katrina cottages.
The lawsuit was filed in Hancock County Chancery Court Friday by lawyers with the Biloxi-based Mississippi Center for Justice. It asks the court to issue a preliminary injunction against the city, forbidding officials to force the residents from their cottages when a housing program by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency expires.
MEMA officials started distributing the cottages to displaced homeowners after Katrina.
There are eight plaintiffs, some of whom are disabled. Defendants named in the suit are Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo and the city’s board of aldermen.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Groups rally for Waveland cottage dwellers
Original Article: http://www.wlox.com/Global/story.asp?S=9736905&nav=6DJI
WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - Two national social justice organizations brought their voices to Hancock County Monday. The Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, based in Minnesota, and the Social Welfare Action Alliance of Tennessee sent representatives to Waveland.
Watch Video of the MEMA Cottage Rally
The groups are trying to rally support for those who want to make Mississippi Cottages permanent homes. Cheri Honkala helped to organize the rally because of what she calls a reluctance by elected leaders to allow the Mississippi Cottages to become permanent homes.
"I'm with the Poor People's Economic Human Right's Campaign. I'm a formerly homeless mother and I'm very passionate about this issue.You dare touch any of these families, we'll come make Mississippi our home. We will set up tents. We will go to jail," Honkala said.
The protestors then paused for prayer. Rev. Bruce Wright with Refuge Ministries of Florida said, "I believe firmly that people that claim to follow Jesus should be concerned about people having a place to live, and not being put out on the streets."
The rally sparked a counter protest from people who don't want to see the cottages become permanent.
"Not everybody's for this. Not everybody's for the cottages next to their houses that they built brand new and spent thousands and hundreds of thousands and their whole grant money. Some people are responsible, some people are not," Waveland resident Scott Peterson said.
John and Silvia Peterson said, "Why not go into a trailer park? No, they think they're too good for that."
Waveland Resident Mary Sherrouse says it's not her fault the cottage has become a necessity.
"I have tried to rebuild, but had to let go of a contractor that wasn't building to code and lacking some money because of it. And I love my MEMA cottage and am just horrified to think people are so, the city is so heartless to want to throw us out," Sherrouse said.
Bayside Park resident David Winkles agrees.
"Don't put the old people, the sick people, the people with no place to go, the people with kids out on the streets - don't send them to trailer parks. Do the right thing. Let them have MEMA cottages on their own property," Winkles said.
City and county leaders have taken steps to allow the cottages to become permanent. But cottage-dwellers are concerned that the rules will be so strict they will not qualify.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
MS Center for Justice sues city of Waveland
WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - The cottage battles in Waveland will now be fought in court. Friday afternoon, the Mississippi Center for Justice filed suit on behalf of eight Waveland residents who want to keep their temporary cottages as permanent dwellings in the city.
Waveland leaders have been struggling with a decision on whether cottages can stay after the end of the government's temporary housing program March 31st.
The suit, filed in Hancock County Chancery Court, says the city wrongly denied permits to cottage residents when it misclassified the cottages as mobile homes instead of modular homes.
Riley Morse is an attorney with the Mississippi Center for Justice.
"Within a week a court is going to hear arguments whether Waveland's effort to split hair between other kinds of modular and the Katrina Cottages hold water," Morse said. "We think they won't, and we hope that when the court hears the argument they will agree with MEMA and most of the other jurisdictions that say modular embraces these cottages and they should be allowed to stay permanently."
The case will be heard next Friday. To see the filed suit, click here.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Cheri Honkala on Trial
Visit www.economichumanrights.org for the national campaign and www.ppehrc.org for the Minnesota Chapter.
Court room 130, 15 West Kellog Boulevard, St. Paul, MN, 55101.
In front of Judge Wilson
January 20th 9:00 am
Manuel Levins Holden/Deeq Abdi
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Democracy NOW!: Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign Takes Cause to Streets Outside RNC
One day after the historic Poor People’s March in St. Paul, we speak to the group’s national organizer, Cheri Honkala. She’s a longtime organizer and director of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union in Philadelphia. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: I am joined right now here in St. Paul on Democracy Now! by the national organizer of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, Cheri Honkala, longtime organizer and director of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union in Philadelphia, now living in Minneapolis here in the Twin Cities.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Cheri.
CHERI HONKALA: I’m very happy and very thankful for shows like yours.
AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts on the Republican convention and what you feel needs to be the policy, the way to deal with the poor in this country?
CHERI HONKALA: Well, we’ve been trying to organize a poor people’s movement for over a decade now. And we’ve just been fighting to, I think, do the most important thing, which is to make poor people visible.
I think that the majority of the people in this country don’t know the conditions in which people live in, and only if they saw with their own eyes seniors having to share medication, farmers being thrown off their land, homeless people living under bridges—and I think that if they saw those daily images, that the American people are good people, and I think that they would be moved to do something about the situation.
But with the combination of the lack of civil liberties and the ability to march and to speak about what’s happening in this country, as well as the takeover of corporate media in this country, it’s one of the hardest struggles that I’ve been a part of, to show the faces of poverty in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Your group was also at the Democratic convention in Denver.
CHERI HONKALA: Yes, members of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign were also at the Democratic
National Convention. Things were also difficult for folks there to put a face on what’s happening to the majority of the people in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about your own story, Cheri Honkala. How did you get involved with this?
CHERI HONKALA: I’m a formerly homeless mother from here, from the Twin Cities, and I have an older son who’s twenty-eight now, but at the time, he was nine years old. And—
AMY GOODMAN: He’s Mark Webber, the actor?
CHERI HONKALA: Mark Webber, the actor now. And the both of us almost froze to death on the streets of Minnesota, because we couldn’t get into the homeless shelters here. And so, I decided one day to move into a government-owned, abandoned HUD property, because they had the heat on in the wintertime. And I made that decision—I had never broken any laws before in my life—because I wanted to stay alive and not die. And it’s been, ever since that time, some twenty-eight years ago, that I’ve been doing this kind of work, because I knew that if I could have died and nobody cared about what was happening to me, that that had to have been happening to thousands of other people across the country.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s the fortieth anniversary of King’s Poor People’s March that he started, and then was assassinated, but continued. What is the relevance of that to today? Were you inspired at all by that?
CHERI HONKALA: Our movement is very much trying to take up the baton where Dr. Martin Luther King left off. We now have the largest multiracial movement of poor people in this country. The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign can be found on—it has over 200 affiliates. We have members like the Immokalee farm workers, to the Coalition to Protect Public Housing, to trailer park residents in Minnesota, to some of the largest Indian reservations, you name it. And we have one message, which is, we’re calling for the elimination of poverty in this country, not the reduction, no more band-aids, not a bigger and better welfare system, but an elimination to the kind of conditions that we’re faced with.
AMY GOODMAN: The message to end poverty in this country, will you talk about the corporate media and how it deals with these issues, or doesn’t?
CHERI HONKALA: Yeah, I mean, I’ve been involved in large demonstrations for like the last twenty years, and I’m very ashamed of my home state. I’ve never seen so many reporters like yourself being detained. A Channel 5 reporter was trying to cover a story of us; he was thrown into an elevator. A couple other folks that we know that were trying to cover some of our events were also detained and then later released on two different occasions. We were inside the Capitol trying to have a peaceful demonstration during regular open hours of the Capitol, and the reporters were literally locked out of the Capitol and unable to come in, even though they showed their credentials. And so, I don’t quite get what is so horrible about covering a story of women and children and the elderly and people of all colors trying to come together to talk about the day-to-day reality of their lives.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, I was astounded when I talked to the St. Paul police chief yesterday, and, you know, with the arrest, how is he instructing the press to—the police to deal with the press, and how are we supposed to operate when we are trying to cover this and the police arrest us. And he said you can embed yourselves with the police department. And you saw Rick Rowley, Big Noise filmmaker in this piece, he’s covering the riot police, and he sees there the Fox News reporter. As they’re pushing him away, she’s in the midst of them. And he yells to her, “Are you embedded with the police?” She comes in and out with the police.
CHERI HONKALA: Yeah. I mean, for us, that’s no surprise, when it comes to Fox News. But we’re just absolutely outraged. And, you know, like my son said, “Mom, when you get up this morning, don’t read any of the papers. You know, don’t even turn on the television,” because regardless of the fact that poor people came together from all walks of life, every color, every age, yesterday, regardless of being terrorized for actually the last month—we had two Bushvilles that were knocked down, encampments. When we came—
AMY GOODMAN: Bushvilles?
CHERI HONKALA: Yeah, we set up encampments, particularly during the Republican National Convention, for some place for people to sleep, because we can’t afford the W or the Hilton. And so, people were staying at the Bushville, and our first Bushville that we set up on Harriet Island, the first night we were surrounded by 200 police officers in riot gear. They turned on the sprinklers on our children while they were sleeping, turned off all the park lights and drove their police vehicles up onto the lawn with their brights on. And myself and a couple of our other leaders were then arrested, and our Bushville was torn down. Later through the week, they brought dogs to our Bushville, while the kids were sleeping, let the dogs bark and scare the kids, and then periodically would just go by and drive up and run their sirens at 2:00, 3:00 in the morning, just to make people afraid.
AMY GOODMAN: Cheri Honkala, can you describe the conditions of the poor, the daily challenges faced?
CHERI HONKALA: Yeah. Actually, later this afternoon, I leave to go to a funeral in Philadelphia, where a woman, a good friend of mine, Esther, struggled her whole life, because she was right on the borderline in terms of not being able to qualify for medical assistance. And I think she spent each and every day trying to figure out how to pay for the many different medications that she had. So her whole life was about how does she get up every morning and figure out how to pull together, you know, that $80, $90, or whatever, for one individual prescription after another. And these were in the last dying days of her life. People shouldn’t have to live like this.
I have a six-year-old son who needs serious eye treatment. I, as well, don’t qualify for medical assistance, and I’m right on the borderline. And he’s supposed to have regular eye checks, because —
AMY GOODMAN: Glaucoma?
CHERI HONKALA: Glaucoma runs in my family, and he’s stopped seeing out of his right eye. So I have no idea how I’m going to cover those costs.
My older son, who has now become a movie star, has spent every waking moment of his life using his power and his financial resources to fund and give us resources. And, you know, as this movement continues to get larger, there’s never enough money, but he’s committed to helping to fund a movement that wants to eliminate poverty and homelessness. He’s not interested in giving money to a charity. He knows, as a formerly homeless boy in this country, that he has a responsibility to do whatever he possibly can to help make this movement grow and give it visibility.
AMY GOODMAN: Cheri Honkala, your website?
CHERI HONKALA: Our website is www.economichumanrights.org. And people can see lots of the footage that they never will see on any television program on that website.
AMY GOODMAN: Cheri Honkala, thanks so much for joining us, of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, and we’ll link to it at democracynow.org.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Bushville 2: State Capitol Rotunda
Shortly after we arrived, the State Police evicted us from the Rotunda. In the process, police force the media and laywers out of the building preventing them from entering the Capitol.
Here is the video of a police manhandling and injuring Cheri Honkala as she attempts to help the media gain access to the building in order to cover the protest, protect our freedom of expression, and document the actions of the officers on site.
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