On Dec. 6, 2011, syndicated radio personality and MSNBC host, Ed Schultz, broadcasted his television show live from the home of United States military veteran, Bobby Hull. Hull’s home, in the 3700 block of Columbus Avenue South in Minneapolis was foreclosed upon by his lender, Bank of America, but he refused to vacate the property. Following the national media attention, Bank of America made the decision to allow Hull to remain in the home. To mark the pivotal moment in Occupy Homes MN’s movement – a year to the date, nearly 200 people gathered at Hull’s house for a rally and march to an unoccupied home in the neighborhood which it claimed for another homeless veteran who was foreclosed upon.
“My neighbors are here, my family and friends are all here, just like you were a year ago,” said Hull, speaking to the large group gathered on his front steps and lawn. “Last year we took over my house, and this year we’re going to take over the neighborhood.”
This time around, the Minneapolis grassroots organization was joined in its fight by music icon, Chuck D of the group Public Enemy. The iconic rapper was joined by Wise Intelligent, formerly of the group Poor Righteous Teachers. The two were asked to attend the rally by fellow hip-hopper, Brother Ali, who is a Minneapolis resident and whose current CD is charging up the Billboard charts.
“I called (Chuck D) and said I need you to come to this protest and he didn’t even ask, he just said, ‘I’m down,’” said Brother Ali. Brother Ali was arrested in June on charges of trespassing and refusing to depart during an Occupy protest at a home being foreclosed upon by PNC Bank.
Chuck D said the fight being waged in Minneapolis is no different than many other fights throughout the nation.
“When I was growing up during the time of R and B – Reagan and Bush – I couldn’t understand why there were so many vacant homes,” said Chuck D. “All these boarded-up cribs and banks getting bigger and bigger. This is happening everywhere in the country. Never have so many been screwed by so few.”
Wise Intelligent said the Occupy Homes MN mission is right in line with the mission of hip-hop music and culture.
“Hip-hop is about empowering the people,” said Wise Intelligent. “Let’s occupy Minneapolis, occupy Trenton (the city in New Jersey from which he hails), let’s occupy America.”
Hull said Occupy Homes MN and the city of Minneapolis brokered a deal where nonprofits would manage vacant homes owned by the city and allow homeless individuals to inhabit the properties.
Once such property is the home where the group marched to and moved in U.S. Air Force veteran, John Vinje. Vinje and his family are recently homeless after their home was foreclosed upon.
“What’s going on with the foreclosure crisis does not represent the country I fought for,” said Vinje.
According to Anthony Newby of Neighborhoods Organized for Change and Occupy Homes MN, homelessness in Hennepin County is at a six-year high and one in four homeless people is a veteran. Newby said 8,000 people in the metro area sleep on the streets or in shelters daily.