9/27/12 Bank Action for Zaki

In a shared action with ACCE, we went to the Chinatown branch of BofA, to demand help for Zaki Alshalyan, an Iraqi immigrant who faces foreclosure on a four-unit building on Curran Avenue. Important note, he lives in one of the four units. Please see Zaki’s story, for details of his situation.

Eve Lindi’s report from inside the bank: Two OOFDG members, along with Zaki and his friend Asmat went into the bank first at about 4:40, well before closing time, and asked to speak with the manager. They were seen by and presented their demand letter to the branch manager, who said she would fax it.Our main contingent had stayed behind until these folks got into the bank (protesters showing up have a way of prompting bank employees to lock the doors these days). When we arrived, several more of us (myself included) went into the bank, at which point the security gates were closed and no more people were allowed in. We stayed with Zaki and waited for the manager to return with our fax receipt, all the while customers were doing their business and leaving. At no point did any bank employees or security guards tell us to leave. We waited for 20 minutes, with no bank employees approaching us for any follow-up or questions.

As the last of the other customers left, the manager returned and said she was having trouble sending the fax (she said she did not have the fax number on file, and had been trying to send it to the phone number on our flyer!) We said we would stay until she was able to obtain the correct number and return with our receipt. In the meantime, we called the number ourselves and Zaki got on the phone with a representative to ask for the fax number.

While this was happening, police arrived and told us the bank had called them to have us removed. At this point, we had the fax number ourselves, and asked to stay until our letter could be faxed. We explained that we had legitimate business to conduct, that we had done nothing disruptive inside the branch, and that we had always intended to leave when our business was done. Despite all this, we were told not to argue and were given one minute to leave or face arrest.

We discussed together and decided to leave – we joined our group on the sidewalk outside, where we were able to have our press conference, together with our group and the ACCE members who had been to Wells Fargo and Chase Bank.

Debbie Notkin’s report on the scene outside the bank: JP and I were holding the banner out in the street, blocking one of the three lanes of very light traffic. Other folks were handing out flyers and talking with passersby, some of whom were very interested and sympathetic. The first policeman who came to evict the folks inside asked us to move out of the street, which we had privately agreed to do, so we did, but we kept the banner visible on the sidewalk. The cop had asked us not to block the sidewalk, which we kind of half-complied with.

When Zaki and our contingent left the bank, an African-American cop tried to explain to us that we had a right to be on the sidewalk (of course, unless they decide we don’t), but no right to be in the bank if they don’t want us there. He was not interested in questions about whether Zaki, as a customer of the bank, could be removed even if he had done nothing disruptive. The police got in their cars and left, to a certain amount of jeering and taunting, before the ACCE contingent arrived.

They reported success at both their banks–Wells Fargo faxed the loan modification demand letter even though the bank had been shut to let in one customer at a time, and Chase not only faxed the “end credit default swaps letter” but the person who helped them said she agreed with us!

“B of A, send the fax/
That will get us off your backs.”

The best news is, last night Zaki received a call with an offer to reconsider his modification application, and an assurance that his auction date had been moved to November 4.

In late October, he received the paperwork guaranteeing him a temporary modification. We’ll let everyone know either when it’s converted to a permanent modification, or when we need to put the pressure back on

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