People from as far away as Perris and Ontario came to express their outrage at the banks and demand just and adequate housing. The federal bailouts of financial institutions was another sore point with demonstrators. One man handed out copies of a mock e-mail from "Minister of Treasury Paulson" asking Americans for a 800 billion transfer of funds, promising that "If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you." The letter, a spoof on the "Nigerian scam," helped lighten the mood for a while.
But the atmosphere changed once passersby began to share their stories with us. "Yeah, the bank sucks!" one woman called out from her car after reading a protest sign reading "Banks Make People Homeless Every Day." "They foreclosed on us!"
One young couple who came walking by thanked us for what we were doing. "It happened to us, and we still don't know where we're going to end up. She's from Pennsylvania, and I'm from Michigan, and neither of us have anyone out here." Many of those evicted had reported staying with friends and relatives. "We're just glad someone is taking us into consideration." They assured us they had a place to go for the night, but their situation seemed precarious.
At one point, bank employees came out to find out what we were doing. "I see it everyday," one said of the foreclosures.
Activists shared information they had about foreclosures, evictions, and bank scandals. "Did you know that a lot of the property that is being foreclosed was being rented out? People are losing their contract because the landlord is being foreclosed!"
Soon topics turned to ICE raids, the presidential race, and the difficulty of building a movement in the Inland Empire. Discussion centered on geography (the population is widely dispersed over a large area) and politics (the people tend to be very conservative.)
"On my way over here, I saw a 'Yes on [gay marriage ban] prop 8' rally. It was mostly young people! It nearly made me sick!" said one young man. "I've seen fascist graffiti in my neighborhood," said another. "We have a neighbor whose Mexican gardener is afraid to look in the eye," shared the members of a family. "They do a lot of deportations we never even hear about!" voiced one young woman.
Overall the response to the protest was positive, but organizers are ready to take it to the next level. To counteract apathy in the mainstream media, they have set up a website where people who have been evicted or foreclosed on can share their stories with others. The goal is to show the human side of the sub-prime mortgage lending injustice perpetrated on our communities. People that have had to deal with these problems can publish their narratives at http://foreclosurestories.somee.com