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Police Arrest Seven Protesters at Foreclosed Home

by Madeleine Baran

Minneapolis - Police arrested seven people today outside the foreclosed home of Rosemary Williams, a Minneapolis woman who has publicly refused to leave the property for months.

Linda Norenberg, lower right, has vowed to fight eviction from her home in Robbinsdale. Rosemary Williams, upper left, inspired her to make her case public. (MPR Photo / Elizabeth Baier) About a dozen Minneapolis police officers arrived at the south Minneapolis home this afternoon, at the request of GMAC Mortgage, the legal owner of the property. A private company boarded up the house with bright metal sheeting, after officers allowed Williams and several supporters to remove personal belongings.

The arrests occurred after protesters broke through plastic police tape roping off the property and sat down on the sidewalk. Police sprayed the group with pepper spray as they broke through the tape.

The protesters will likely be charged with misdemeanors for obstructing the legal process, police officials said.

Williams' lengthy fight to remain in her house has inspired several local homeowners to remain in their homes despite eviction orders. Three women facing foreclosure arrived at the property today to show their support.

"What good is this?" said Linda Nurenberg, a Robbinsdale woman who has refused to leave the foreclosed home her father built in 1944. "Another vacant house, and of course I'm scared I could be next."

Nurenberg has a motion pending to fight eviction from her home. She said she attended a prayer vigil with Williams last night, and characterized Williams' mood as upbeat, and grateful for community support.

About 50 supporters stayed at the property throughout the early evening, chanting, "Foreclose the banks, not people's homes. Let Rosemary stay."

Minneapolis police spokesperson Sgt. Jesse Garcia, who spent his morning at the funeral of slain North St. Paul police officer Richard Crittenden, said that the heavy metal materials used to board up the house were unusual. A vacant home across the street has been boarded up with simple wood slabs for months.

"They secured my house with military armament," Williams said.

Activists outside the house speculated that breaking through the metal barriers would be difficult, if not impossible. They declined to comment on whether more civil disobedience is planned.

Police officers plan to remain at the property at least overnight to prevent trespassing.

Williams has been fighting eviction for months. GMAC said in a statement that it has attempted to negotiate several arrangements that would have allowed Williams to remain in her home, but they all fell through.

Williams was ordered to leave her property on Aug. 7, when Hennepin County sheriff's deputies served the eviction notice and changed the locks on her house. But a group of her supporters broke the locks and have been occupying the home ever since, vowing to stay despite the order.

"We intend to protest this," said activist Mick Kelly this afternoon. "Our goal is to get justice for Rosemary, to allow Rosemary to stay in her home."

Williams accepted a $5,000 check from GMAC this afternoon, but has not yet decided whether to cash it. A GMAC spokesperson said the company provided the money to help Williams relocate to a new residence.

"Today's actions were very difficult, and a regrettable end to 18 months of seeking a solution with Ms. Williams, with local non-profits and with the mortgage investor to keep her in the home on Clinton Avenue," said GMAC officials in a statement. "Unfortunately, Ms. Williams was chronically unable to meet her payment commitments under the adjustable rate mortgage she originated with BNC Mortgage."

Williams, who recently started working as a home health care assistant, vowed to continue her fight to purchase the property. She also plans to hand out flyers protesting foreclosure at President Obama's rally in Minneapolis tomorrow.

But Friday night, Williams' concerns are more immediate. While she was trying to decide where to spend the night, she realized she left her antique sewing machine in the boarded up garage.

"Oh well, it happens," Williams said. "With everything that's been going on these last few months, you never know what to expect."

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