Desert Storm veteran Mark Harris and supporters defend his home after eviction by Fannie MaeShab Bashiri on August 14, 2013
Early Friday morning, Desert Storm veteran Mark Harris was greeted at gunpoint by Dekalb County Marshals, there to evict him from his home of 18 years. ELS, a contracted eviction company, worked quickly to move all of the veteran’s belongings to the lawn as Harris and community members watched in dismay. As more people arrived at the scene, they were able to pressure the police into backing down on Friday and assumed control of the property.
After helping Mark secure his belongings, community supporters and Occupy Our Homes Atlanta launched a 24-hour peaceful occupation of Mark’s property, calling out Fannie Mae for putting another veteran on the street and refusing to work out an agreeable loan modification. For 10 months Mark has been in negotiations with Fannie Mae to modify his mortgage, even traveling to Washington DC to meet with executives from the company. However, Fannie Mae made it clear last weekend that they were not willing to negotiate a deal to keep Mark in his home, despite his willingness and ability to pay if a modification were worked out. Instead, Fannie Mae has hired private security to monitor Mark's home 24/7.
On Saturday afternoon, community members gathered in the front yard of Mark's home to fend off a second eviction threat by Avondale Estates police. Four non-violent home defenders were arrested, including Harris and charged with criminal trespassing. Around 3:30pm, officers arrived on the scene armed with excessive backup including multiple patrol cars, three prisoner transports, and a SWAT team in waiting as back up. The police spent hours breaking up the peaceful protest targeted to keep Mark in his home. Linked arm-in-arm, protesters formed a soft blockade, chanting and singing, as four protesters willing to risk arrest, including Mark, stood behind them with no intentions of leaving the property. Police sidestepped the soft blockade and headed towards Mark who was holding an American Flag. Police cuffed the veteran by removing the flag and placing it in a nearby trash can. Immediately a second home defender was arrested while a crowd gathered in the street. Two more members of Occupy Our Homes Atlanta had locked in to a device that took the police about 2 more hours to remove before finally hauling the arrestees to jail.