Protesters calling for an end to home foreclosures from the roof of a bank in San Francisco’s Mission District were arrested this afternoon.
Police around 1:45 p.m. arrested five protestors who had climbed on top of the roof of the Wells Fargo at 16th and Hoff streets more than an hour earlier as about 200 people gathered on the streets near the bank.
The arrests came after protesters on the roof refused to come down until representatives in the bank below faxed a demand letter to Wells Fargo CEO John Stump calling for an immediate moratorium on home evictions and foreclosures.
A police liaison apparently told protesters that the letter had been faxed to another company representative and not to Stump, according to Occupy SF Housing organizer Julien Ball.
Moments later, police arrested the five protesters, who climbed down a fire engine ladder before being led to a nearby patrol van.
Before the arrests, a protester on the roof announced to the crowd that if the group could not arrange a meeting with Stump by midnight on Jan. 19, Occupy SF Housing protesters would “occupy every bank in the Financial District the next day.”
Occupy SF Housing is a coalition that includes Occupy San Francisco, San Francisco Tenants Union, Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco and other community groups and individuals. The coalition says it aims to stop banks from evicting tenants and homeowners through foreclosures.
A statement released this morning by coalition members said that “targeting people for predatory equity scams, Ellis Act evictions or immoral home loans can no longer be tolerated.”
Ted Guillicksen of the San Francisco Tenants Union said, “It’s well known how big banks have unfairly evicted homeowners. Less well known is how banks evict renters by partnering with speculators to buy apartment buildings, evict all tenants to raise rents or sell the housing stock as condominiums.”
Event organizers say that today’s demonstration is a primer for the larger event on Friday that aims to shut down the city’s Financial District.
Many protesters this afternoon voiced their outrage over banks’ actions against local homeowners that they say, combined with the city’s high rents, make it difficult to find and keep affordable housing.
One protester, Richard Eastman, 58, a San Francisco native living with HIV/AIDS, said he was forced out of the city years ago because of soaring rents.
“Many people who were born in this town are living on the streets,” he said, adding that he currently lives in a rent-controlled situation in Los Angeles and probably could not afford to return to his hometown. “If I had to come back to San Francisco, is this what I’d face?”
Demonstrators this afternoon chanted, “What do we want? No evictions!” and “They take our roof, we take their roof!”
Some people held signs reading, “Banks: no more evictions and foreclosures for profit!”
Security guards manning the bank’s entrance during the protest allowed only Wells Fargo customers and staff to enter the building.
Bus routes traveling along 16th Street were not disrupted by the protest.
Laura Dixon/Patricia Decker, Bay City News