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Protesters March In Loop, Demand Freeze On Foreclosures

Updated 05/16/12 - 9:19 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With just four days to go before the NATO Summit, protesters have already been making their presence known for three days.

As CBS 2's Mike Puccinelli reports, activists with Occupy Chicago and Communities United against Foreclosures and Evictions gathered in front of the Citibank branch at LaSalle and Madison streets Wednesday morning, in a call for a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.

That came as new numbers released Wednesday showed Illinois ranked 3rd worst in the nation in terms of foreclosures, with 7 percent of all mortgages in foreclosure. Only New Jersey and Florida are doing worse.

The protesters said you can blame that on the banks and richest one percent.

Parading through the Loop, protesters chanted "housing is a human right. Fight, fight, fight."

The group set up a makeshift plan for a house in front of the bank. They lay an oriental rug on the ground, and set up a couch, an easy chair and a couple of vases.

Occupying the makeshift living room were protesters who had been victims of foreclosure themselves. A couple of people who were foreclosed by Citibank took a bullhorn to address the crowd about their experiences.

Virginia Gonzalez spoke about her family's foreclosure fight with the bank.

"We owe more on the mortgage than the market value of the property," she said.

The protesters carried the furniture with them as they marched to Daley Plaza later Wednesday morning. They have collected about 1,000 signatures for a petition calling on Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to enact a moratorium on evictions.

Back in 2010, Dart made national headlines for enacting a month-long moratorium on evictions. This time, the group wants Dart to up the ante considerably, by enacting a one-year moratorium.

Protesters also performed a mock eviction, complete with a uniformed sheriff's deputy.

Dart said he sympathizes with the protesters, but his hands are tied legally.

"A moratorium that will quickly be overturned in the courts probably is not the way to go right now," Dart said.

But two of his deputies accepted a box containing hundreds of petitions from constituents, asking him to stop carrying out evictions for a year.

When the protest ended, a splinter group decided to continue it by moving their furniture into the lobby of a Citibank at LaSalle and Jackson.

Bank Protest Couch
Protesters attempt to put a couch inside a Citibank branch at LaSalle and Jackson during a foreclosure demonstration on Wednesday. ( Credit: Lauren Buttle)

When police arrived, they did not arrest any of those protesters, but did load the furniture onto the back of a police wagon before driving away.

The protesters said their demonstration dovetails with the NATO Summit, because NATO is controlled by the same "1 percent" that controls the banks.

The protest was peaceful, but there was some rhetorical conflict. Police would not let the protesters set up the couch on the sidewalk because it was obstructive, so some of the members picked up the couch and walked across the street, then continued with the protest with a smaller love seat.

Later Wednesday, another group of protesters joined immigrant rights and anti-war activist Carlos Montes at Federal Plaza, for what they described as a stand "against FBI repression and frame-ups."

The group blasted a criminal case against Montes, who is charged with illegally possessing a firearm -- since he is a convicted felon -- and perjury for allegedly lying on gun registration paperwork.

Montes was arrested after an FBI raid on his home in 2010. Prosecutors have said he was charged with a felony in the 1960s for hitting a sheriff's deputy with an aluminum can during a student protest at East Los Angeles College.

But Montes said the recent charges against him are a form of political repression for his anti-war views.

Many of the protesters at Federal Plaza had most of their faces covered with black bandanas or masks, similar to a group of protesters who marched through Bridgeport, Canaryville and Back of the Yards on Tuesday to decry police brutality.

Several of those protesters clashed with local residents who came out to oppose their obscene chants against police, although no one was arrested during that march.

Wednesday's protest in Federal Plaza ended without incident.

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