Worcester, MA—(ENEWSPF)—November 8, 2011. Just before 11 am today, Tuesday, members of the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team (WAFT), homeowners Pablo and Shirley Travieso and family, and members of Occupy Worcester lined up in front of the Traviesos’ two-story house at 24 Illinois St., drowned out the voice of auctioneer John Baker by chanting loudly, and blocked his entry to the property. The 44 protesters held signs and their chants included “Bank of America/Bad for America”, “Banks got Bailed Out/We got Sold Out”, and “What does democracy look like?/This is what democracy looks like!” The auctioneer, John Baker, acting for Bank of New York Trust, trustee for a bundle of mortgages in which this one was included, gamely proceeded with the auction at 11am despite the noise, and as there were no other bidders, the bank took back the house for $79,900.
Mr. Travieso said they still owed $193,000, and added that if the bank would reduce the principal on the loan to its current market value and set a reasonable fixed rate they could easily afford the payments.
After the auction, the protesters and the Travieso family gathered. “This protest was very powerful, an incredible experience for me,” said Mrs. Travieso. “This house is our family. The banks need to know we are in it and we’re going all the way. It’s our home and they can’t have it.” Mr. Travieso added: “The bank was misleading toward us from the very beginning, when they showed up with their lawyers when I refinanced. If I had known they would adjust the rate up so much I would have never refinanced, I would have made other plans around home improvement.” One of the Traviesos’ nieces was in tears as she talked about what the house had meant to them.
The house at 24 Illinois St. is famous in the Main South neighborhood for the huge spray-painted message across its side, painted over now but still faintly visible, saying “Bank of America Didn’t Help Us!” Mr. Travieso explained that when BoA, the loan servicer, sent them threatening letters they painted the house in protest and moved out, believing they were about to be thrown out into the street. An auction was scheduled for January 10, 2011, but apparently never took place, and in the meantime the Traviesos, learned they still had rights and reoccupied the house. “The most important thing people need to understand”, said Grace Ross, an activist in WAFT, “is that in Massachusetts, unlike any other state, ownership and possession are separate, so that even when a home is foreclosed the owners and tenants still have rights, and the bank cannot evict anyone without first taking them to court.”
When asked why he spray-painted his house, Mr. Travieso explained “trying to get a loan modification from the bank was like getting ten root-canal jobs at the same time! I wanted to express our frustration and let other people know what we were going through.”