Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Open Letter To DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann


Today American Friends Service Committee joined struggling DeKalb residents and members of Occupy Our Homes Atlanta to hold a press conference and deliver a letter to acting Sheriff Jeff Mann. The reason we were hand delivering the letter was because Sheriff Mann's office received about a dozen calls from us asking for a meeting to discuss the issue of heavy handed eviction procedures.


When we showed up to the door to deliver the letter we were stopped in the doorway. An officer told us that we could crowd the rather large, totally empty lobby because the building was open for peoples legitimate business. We explained that we were there for legitimate business. We were forced to share our concerns outside the building and deliver the letter to one of Jeff Mann's deputies. DeKalb County deserves better.

Below is the letter we delivered:


Dear Sheriff Jeff Mann,

We are deeply concerned at the alarming number of foreclosures and evictions in DeKalb County. A recent study by the Haas institute shows that DeKalb County is home to 6 of the top 15 Counties in the country for homeowners with underwater mortgages.

We know the Sheriff has little power over the foreclosure process but you do have a tremendous amount of power when it comes to the eviction process. Eviction can be one of the most humiliating, dehumanizing experiences a person ever faces and there’s simply no way one can make it a pleasant process.
We are aware that as recently as last week you had 30 Sheriff Deputy’s evict a struggling family simply because they had launched an online campaign against her mortgage servicer for wrongful foreclosure.

There are policy’s that are working in counties in Georgia and around the country to make the process easier to move through for struggling residents. We have attempted to create dialogue on these issues for several month with no success. For this reason we have decided to bring our recommendations right to your office and we truly hope you will not only consider them, but that you will follow up with us and our members.

Recommendations:
1.         Scheduled Evictions
Many counties and states around the country schedule evictions. We already know that evictors have to schedule eviction with moving companies, why not schedule evictions with the resident. As things stand now residents are subject to a knock on the door at any hour. Scheduled evictions allow residents the final reminder of the coming crisis at hand and gives them a last chance to secure their own belongings.

2.         No evictions after hours
After hours evictions can leave families with nowhere to go, no truck to rent, no storage facility to move things into. We know after hours evictions have been facilitated in DeKalb County. This is a cruel practice that no family should be subjected to. We ask that you commit to making evictions outside the hours of 9am-4pm against DeKalb County policy

3.         No evictions during extreme weather
Going through the evictions process means immediate homelessness for some, it also means all of your life belongings are put out on the street in the elements. Many counties will not do evictions in freezing, raining, or 100 degree weather.

4.         Costs paid by the evictor or a cap of public spending
Evictions can bring an enormous cost the county. The banks and private equity groups that do most of the evicting make an enormous profit. In many counties the evictor pays for the process, in some cases counties put a cap on what they will pay for.

5.         Relocation and 30 days storage for belongings
One of the most dehumanizing parts of the eviction process is having your things dumped in the front yard. Not only are families immediately faced with the prospect of having nowhere to go, they also have to protect their belongings. Furthermore this process is bad for the whole community, effecting the financial and spiritual value of the neighborhood. Many counties, and some states, require the evictor to pay property to be moved to a storage facility for at 30 days.

6.         Handle belongings with care
Often times peoples belongings are destroyed or stolen during the eviction process. We hope that as Sheriff you are able to facilitate stringer accountability for your constituent’s belongings during the eviction process.

7.         Referrals for housing services
Many facing evictions have now where to go. As a point of policy it would be fairly simple to provide those being evicted with a comprehensive list of service providers in the area.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Community Demands Dignified Eviction Procedures From DeKalb Sheriff’s Office


After months of attempting to create dialogue with acting Sheriff Jeff Mann around troubling eviction policy’s which include afterhours evictions, excessive force, and alleged theft of evictees personal property, DeKalb residents plan to bring concerns and eviction policy recommendations to the Sheriff’s department tomorrow(7/16) at12pm.


   DeKalb County is home to the zip codes of 6 of the 15 highest rates of underwater homeowners in the entire country according to the Under Water America report published by the Haas Institute.

  Occupy Our Homes Atlanta continues to be overwhelmed by the number of DeKalb County residents in immediate housing crisis. There is a clear moral imperative to make the eviction process more humane for folks going through a very difficult time in their lives.


In our attempt to reach out to both Sheriff candidates Vernon Jones committed to enact a six month moratorium on evictions in DeKalb County and appoint a committee to make recommendations on changing the eviction process in the county.

Tomorrow American Friends Service Committee joins DeKalb residents and Occupy Our Homes Atlanta as we deliver a letter to acting Sheriff Jeff Mann that includes practical recommendations that are already working in other parts of Georgia and the rest of the country.



Recommendations include:

1.         Scheduled Evictions

Many counties and states around the country schedule evictions. We already know that evictors have to schedule eviction with moving companies, why not schedule evictions with the resident? As things stand now residents are subject to a knock on the door at any hour. Scheduled evictions allow residents the final reminder of the coming crisis at hand and gives them a last chance to secure their own belongings.

2.         No evictions after hours

After hours evictions can leave families with nowhere to go, no truck to rent, no storage facility to move things into. We know after hours evictions have been facilitated in DeKalb County. This is a cruel practice that no family should be subjected to. We ask that you commit to making evictions outside the hours of 9am-4pm against DeKalb County policy

3.         No evictions during extreme weather

Going through the evictions process means immediate homelessness for some, it also means all of your life belongings are put out on the street in the elements. Many counties will not do evictions in freezing, raining, or 100 degree weather.

4.         Costs paid by the evictor or a cap of public spending

Evictions can bring an enormous cost the county. The banks and private equity groups that do most of the evicting make an enormous profit. In many counties the evictor pays for the process, in some cases counties put a cap on what they will pay for.

5.         Relocation and 30 days storage for belongings

One of the most dehumanizing parts of the eviction process is having your things dumped in the front yard. Not only are families immediately faced with the prospect of having nowhere to go, they also have to protect their belongings. Furthermore this process is bad for the whole community, effecting the financial and spiritual value of the neighborhood. Many counties, and some states, require the evictor pay for property to be moved to a storage facility for at least 30 days.

6.         Handle belongings with care

Often times peoples belongings are destroyed or stolen during the eviction process. We hope that as Sheriff you are able to facilitate stronger accountability for your constituent’s belongings during the eviction process.

7.         Referrals for housing services

Many facing evictions have now where to go. As a point of policy it would be fairly simple to provide those being evicted with a comprehensive list of service providers in the area.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gaza Under Siege


For thousands of years, Gaza has been an important seaport and trade community, exporting agricultural produce to other areas of historic Palestine and serving as a way station for traders traveling along the Egypt-Syria trade route. Located in the southwest most corner of historic Palestine, Gaza is home to a wealth of natural resources including fertile agricultural land, rich fishing grounds, and large offshore natural gas reserves. Gaza also has beautiful beaches, a rich history, and a moderate climate, all of which make it a potentially attractive tourist destination. Add to this a highly educated and youthful population (60 percent under the age of 18, and over 40 percent age 14 or younger), and you might expect  that Gaza’s development prospects were positive. 
Unfortunately this is not the case. Gaza’s wealth is largely unreachable as a direct result of Israel’s occupation and blockade. Most agricultural land is located in places declared closed military areas (“no go” zones) or has been destroyed during military attacks. Access to traditional fishing grounds is restricted by the Israeli navy. Development of the natural gas reserves is forbidden by the Israeli government. All of this while the movement of people into and out of Gaza is severely restricted and both the import of goods and the export of products from Gaza is strictly limited. Military attacks over the last 13 years have also resulted in the near complete destruction of Gaza’s business and manufacturing base. As a result, the unemployment rate among Gaza’s 1.7 million residents is over 35 percent  and poverty rates are even higher. More than 80 percent of the population is now dependent on international assistance for survival. Yet the people of Gaza have not lost hope, continuing to dream about and work for a better future.
This paper provides additional information about Gaza and the impact of Israeli policies on the people living there...Read more

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Assaulted By US Marshalls Delivering Petition with Struggling Homeowners


Today I joined struggling homeowners and those who have been displaced in from their homes to peacefully deliver a petition to the US Attorney’s office asking them to push for the 4 billion dollars that are supposed to go to struggling Americans from the recent Chase Bank settlement. We were greeted by Federal Marshalls who harassed our group and attempted to bar anyone with our group from entering the public building.


At one point Marshalls began a second line in the building for “regular” citizens as we were told we couldn’t enter, this is of course a gross violation of our rights.

When we attempted to enter the building I stated that if officers believed I was breaking the law by entering I would certainly not resist arrest and they were under no threat of violence from me or anyone else in the group. An officer immediately grabbed me, threw me to the ground and kicked me in the side while I was down. I stood back up and the officer shoved me back onto the ground, this was repeated two more times until the officer restrained me. At no time did I resist, wiggle, yell, or do anything that could be perceived as aggression toward him or others present.


Eventually the officer let go of me. Minutes later a representative allowed us to enter and do what we intended. We were there to peacefully deliver a letter and petitions on behalf of thousands of homeowners, demanding to know what happened to billions of dollars in relief promised as part of the settlement with JP Morgan Chase. By contrast, Chase Bank CEO Jamie Dimon is able to walk right in to the Department of Justice and meet with Attorney General Eric Holder face to face with no issues. There is something very wrong with our system of justice in this country.

Sadly this isn't the first time struggling homeowners and displaced Americans have been met with violence at the department of justice. We know we're in a crisis of moral and economic priority when the folks that have stolen wealth and homes from people are given private meetings with the highest officials while those that have been victimized by the thief's are beaten, bared from entering the building, and even arrested.

This evening I will be submitting a letter to US Attorney Sally Yates asking her to meet with me and a few other homeowners to talk about what happened.



Saturday, July 5, 2014

March Against Israeli Brutality



Today around 100 Atlantans gathered at Troy Davis Park (Woodruff Park) and marched to the CNN Center to protest the recent revenge killings of Palestinians by Israeli citizens and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). These killings can be seen in the wider context of the ongoing brutality of Israel’s military occupation, which has left six Palestinian children and twenty six Palestinian adults dead in 2014 alone.

Now Israel and Israeli citizens are charging all Palestinians, void of evidence, of killing three Israeli teenagers. This purported crime against Israel has been used to justify dropping bombs on the Palestinian population that is living in open air prisons.  While Israeli citizens have autonomy to travel openly, Palestinians are subjected to apartheid occupation and have very little freedom of movement for things such as, travel or work. Sadly, we continue to see Israel using collective punishment against an entire population for crimes which have not yet been fully understood.

How is the conflict across the globe connected to Georgians? Georgia tax dollars, to the tune of 10million per day, are used to fund mothers dying of bombshells and children being beaten, abducted, and shot by IDF soldiers. It is the responsibility of every American not only to care about where their taxes are going, but to be morally indignant at such crimes against humanity. Some of the F16’s the Israeli military uses are made in Marietta, just outside Atlanta


Today’s march was organized by The Movement to End IsraeliApartheid-Georgia is an Atlanta-based group dedicated to the global campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel until it abides by international law and human rights and supported by a number of groups including American Friends Service Committee.