CRA in the streets
colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu
colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Tue Nov 9 16:40:09 CST 1999
[ed: thanks to Steven for the inspiring story on real organizing around
the destruction of the Community Reinvestment Act. I will have some
From: Steven Kest <natexdirect at acorn.org>
Comm-org members might be interested in this report from Chicago ACORN,
which turned out 300 members to confront the President when he came to
Chicago last week, to demand that he veto the just passed financial
Three hundred ACORN members
marched on Clinton today, to demand that he Save CRA
and veto the financial modernization legislation.
We had started the week telling members to turn out
at 8a.m., then on Wednesday switched the turnout
time to 1p.m. Then it turned out Clinton would really
be here 5p.m-7p.m., but we went with the 1p.m.
The march looked huge, the signs were great (I live
in Englewood; Save the CRA), the yard signs
were up throughout the community(Save our
Community; Save CRA). Spray painted sheet signs
that looked great (Clinton: Save CRA) hung from
senior building windows, from fences and took up
the whole front windows of stores near the small
business that Clinton visited tonight.
We owned the neighborhood, in the way only a
grassroots organization in a poor community can do.
Folks came off their porches on a balmy autumn day
and joined the march, along with the kids and teens
who wanted in on the excitement. We took the
street and no one could challenge us--the cops had
no idea or plan.
By the time we marched down to the high school
where Clinton would speak, the cops stopped us
from marching right up to the entrance. So we
went around the block, and incredibly, they let
us. We showed up right across the street from
the entrance all the dignitaries and guests had to
use, and, as it turned out, we were right on the
street that the guests had been told to come down
to get in...only they had to come through us.
So we hit "Live at 5" with great coverage, because
the president hadn't arrived yet, so the reporters
came over and hung out with us and signed
autographs(!) They mentioned ACORN, explained
the CRA, and did a great job.
Meanwhile, we are rallying, singing, and carrying
on for a couple of hours, waiting for the pres to
show up. Suddenly, three coaches pull up our
street, and guess who they are? The national
press corps, no less, three buses full of them.
Once up our street, they couldn't get out, so
they had to get out and walk the gauntlet to
get in. A dour, intimidated group who looked
like they thought we might be taking them
hostage, but we'll see what happens.
We never saw Clinton, though we all enjoyed
the six or more huge helicopters landing right
in front of us when it was time for him to arrive.
But the press reported later that despite our
protest, Clinton says he is going to sign the
bill (!) Can't you see the look on his face when
he was faced with those questions?
It was old home week for ACORN, with old
members that we hadn't seen in years coming
back for the action, and new members having
a great time with it. We also enjoyed seeing Jesse
Sr, Jesse Jr. and Bobby Rush go in. It was sort
of like the Oscars, with the dignitaries going
by (but less than adoring fans sending them
messages as they did).
This was very good for us. We owned the
neighborhood, and it was obvious that we
did. No one took down our signs, the police
were ineffective in controlling us, the people
were on our side. As Cora Coleman said
at the rally: "How can Clinton have a
town meeting without the town?"
[ed: I have been troubled by the lack of truly visible organizing around
CRA. It has looked to me like our lobbyists against their lobbyists. And
that's a game we can never win. The story Steven tells, as far as I can
tell, is very much the exception. So I am trying to figure out what is
going on. Was there a lot of organizing but it just never made it into the
corporate-owned media? Or was there really not much organizing? And, if
so, was there not much organizing because, like most of the gains of the
Civil Rights, student, and women's movements, it is easier to organize to
get something than to keep it? Was there not much organizing because CRA
really became a tool of CDCs, which to me was the "becalming" of community
organizing, so when CRA was threatened there wasn't a base to defend it?
In addition, I worry about the "glass half full" analyses by some. I am
pretty convinced that CRA as a community tactical tool is a thing of the
past. It was hard enough for groups to use CRA under its old version--it
took a lot of research and a lot of time and a lot of paperwork and a lot
of studying to even understand it. Now there will be less and worse data,
and onerous reporting requirements for community groups to scare them away
from even starting a CRA challenge. This seems like bad news.
On the other hand, maybe there is an opportunity here. One of the most
interesting set of victories recently has come from class action suits
against insurance redlining, with one famous case against Nationwide here
in Toledo. Maybe we will all have to go back to collecting original data
rather than rely on the "massaged" data from the corporations which will
now be all but useless. That requires a rather dramatic change in strategy
from the old CRA complaints, but one perhaps worth considering. That and
an increasing number of well-placed highly-visible large-numbers old-style
Anyway, some thoughts on CRA for what they are worth, inspired by the folks
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