Two weeks ago, the Chicago city council passed a new statute that “will make lenders liable for the upkeep of vacant homes even when the borrower still holds the title.” The law was passed unanimously and will take effect in September. The importance of this new law came into focus last week when two firefighters were injured battling a fire that sprung up in a vacant home in the Englewood neighborhood on the south side of Chicago.
As Aaron Krager notes, this outraged activists from Action Now, a local community group. Marsha Goddard, who is a board member of the organization, led a group of five people to a local branch of Bank of America, which owned the vacant property, to inform the bank about code violations that it would be liable for when the law goes into effect.
The megabank responded by having Goddard arrested. Action Now explains that it was not engaging in a civil disobedience action and simply wanted to share the code violations with Bank of America:
Marsha Godard, 52, a Westside mother and account holder at Bank of America, is a board member of Action Now. She led a group of five people into the Bank of America headquarters at LaSalle and Jackson today with copies of complaint forms filled out by community residents who want the bank to clean up and maintain the thousands of vacant properties the bank owns in neighborhoods across the city. Bank of America had refused to accept the complaints, and Marsha had said she wasn’t leaving until they did. They had her arrested immediately. […] This was not a planned civil disobedience action. We had no intention of taking arrests. In fact, we thought we had gone out of our way to do Bank of America a favor by doing the research for them on code violations.
Goddard and her fellow activists are not deterred by the arrest. They plan to hold rallies outside the bank branch every day for the rest of the week and will continue to call attention to dangerous vacant properties that it will soon be liable for maintaining.
Aaron Krager notes that Bank of America is now essentially claiming that Goddard is lying.