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Group urges civil disobedience in foreclosure evictions

The Assn. of Community Organizations for Reform Now has launched a campaign encouraging people facing eviction to summon volunteers to their homes to resist orders to leave.

February 20, 2009|Jessica Garrison

A national community organizing group Thursday announced a campaign of civil disobedience designed to help families resist eviction and remain in their homes after foreclosure.

Activists with ACORN, the Assn. of Community Organizations for Reform Now, said they would encourage people facing eviction to use text messaging and cellphones to quickly summon volunteers to their homes. The entire group would resist orders to leave, forcing sheriff's deputies to arrest large numbers of people to complete the eviction -- and drawing attention to the evictees' plight in the process.

The HomeStaying campaign is being waged in Los Angeles and more than 20 other cities, including Oakland, Houston and New York, said Charles Jackson, an ACORN spokesman.

Jackson and others with the group met with reporters outside a Watts house with comedian Roseanne Barr to demonstrate how the campaign would work.

Debora Beard said she and her husband, Tommy, have received an eviction notice requiring them to leave their home of 20 years.

Beard, a teacher's assistant, said she would not leave unless she was "led out by the sheriff. . . . I am not leaving without a fight."

As she spoke, more than 20 of her neighbors and other activists burst into cheers, yelling "Enough is enough" and pledging that they would join her in refusing to leave.

It's unclear how effective the campaign will be -- no mass civil disobedience has yet taken place.

But the group, whose actions have been described as both progressive and radical, is clearly tapping into populist resentment toward the high number of foreclosures.

Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, said his office, which carries out eviction orders on behalf of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, is sensitive to the issue.

He refused to speculate about what his department would do if confronted with dozens of people refusing to vacate a house. Last week a Carson man refused to leave when deputies showed up to evict him; deputies did not arrest him.

People who refuse eviction orders could be charged with trespassing, a misdemeanor.

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jessica.garrison@latimes.com

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