Members from an Occupy chapter in Georgia have joined forces with Atlanta police. The unlikely partnership emerged when Detective Jaqueline Barber was informed she faced eviction after falling behind on her medical bill payments (Barber has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cell cancer).
That’s when activists joined current and retired Atlanta police Monday for a demonstration.
“The police are in the 99 percent and when it comes down to their economic struggles, we’re going to be there to shine a light on those and organize around those,” said Tim Franzen. He and others who were involved with Occupy Atlanta are now part of a group called Occupy Our Homes ATL, which focuses on the housing crisis.
The mood at the protest was a marked departure from last year when police dressed in riot gear (and some rode on horseback and other officers on motorcycles) moved to violently disperse Occupy from downtown Woodruff Park. Dozens of demonstrators were arrested during the eviction.
Barber is raising four grandchildren (ages 2 through 10) and says that if she’s evicted, she expects that she will be homeless.
She is the second police officer Franzen’s group has attempted to help avoid foreclosure, the first being a law enforcement officer who ended up losing his home in Snellvile, but who is still involved in a court battle over the property.
A twenty-year veteran with APD, Barber retired in 2001 after being struck by a car while on duty. Afterwards, she received the diagnosis of multiple myeloma, and her financial struggles began in 2007 when her adjustable rate mortgage payments when up to $3,886 a month from $2,400. Subsequently, her cancer has come out of remission and she has had to resume aggressive treatment to fight it.
“I didn’t know where else to turn,” said Jacqueline Barber, 62. “I called them because I needed help.”
For two years, Barber tried to get a loan modification from Wells Fargo, and officials at the bank informed her they were working on her case.
“I felt a sense of hope at the prospect of finally getting some relief,” she told The Atlanta Journal Constitution. However, Barber said Wells Fargo sold her mortgage at auction to US Bank while she was in the process of working out the loan modification. A few weeks later she said she received a letter from US Bank demanding she leave the property.
In a last ditch move of desperation, Barber filed for bankruptcy in August, which granted her a temporary stay from eviction.
“U.S. Bank is not interested in helping me. They just want me out,” Barber told the AJC.
Even though family members and supporters are willing to buy back her home, US Bank refuses to consider any options, Barber says.
“She’s not the only one going through this, it could happen to any of us,” said Joyce Sanders, a fellow APD retiree, who stood in Barber’s front yard with other retired officers and members of Occupy Our Homes.
The AJC reports that tens of thousands of other Georgians are in a similar situation. According to federal data, at least 32,000 state residents are now working their way through a federal mortgage modification program.
Fighting back tears, Barber addressed the media in front of her home, saying, “It’s just been hard.”
“I’m just numb, very numb,” she added, “I don’t know what’s going to happen one day to the next. We have no place else to go.”
Sanders took issue with the banks’ seeming unwillingness to work out a payment arrangement with Barber.
“Surely they can bring the mortgage payment down so she can afford it,” Sanders said to CBS Atlanta.
Barber expressed hope that Occupy Our Homes protesters would return if the eviction becomes a reality.
“If they come to put me out, I’ll hope (Occupy Our Homes protesters) will be carried out with me because they’re going to have to physically remove me from the property.”
“I just want to see the bank do the right thing. I want them to negotiate and talk with me to see if we can work something out,” Barber said to CBS.
CBS Atlanta contacted a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, who says the mortgage company GMAC now holds Barber’s loan.
For more Occupy dispatches from across the US, check out Allison Kilkenny’s coverage of Occupy DC.