by Anne Meador
Protestors blocked the front door of corporate law firm Covington and Burling today, labeling it a “Wall Street Revolving Door.” A former Department of Justice official who now works at the firm, they say, is an example of a “revolving door” policy between government and private sector employees. Seven protestors, all of them foreclosed homeowners, were arrested and charged with unlawful entry.
Lanny Breuer, former head of the DOJ’s criminal division, took up the vice chairmanship of Covington and Burling less than four weeks after he resigned his position at the DOJ. He was accused of failing to prosecute corrupt executives who played a major role in the financial crisis of 2008. Organizing groups Home Defenders League and Occupy Our Homes allege that immunity from prosecution has allowed the bailed-out banks to exploit homeowners.
Coincidentally, the front door of Covington and Burling is in fact a revolving door. It’s the same one Breuer exited four years ago to take up his government job.
The now-familiar chant “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” filled the lobby of the office building early this afternoon, and three activists sat inside the revolving door. Among the 50 protestors were homeowners who allege that they were the victims of bogus foreclosures.
Eric Krasner, a homeowner who lost his Maryland house, said, “My home was illegally foreclosed on while it was protected under bankruptcy.” He says that according to the Independent Foreclosure Review, established by federal regulators to determine whether homeowners incurred injury during foreclosure, he should have received $62,000 in his settlement. Instead, he got only $2,000.
Today’s sit-in and arrests follow two days of protests against the Department of Justice. On Monday activists from Home Defenders League and Occupy Our Homes rallied at the John F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building to bring attention to illegal bank foreclosures and the plight of thousands of families who have lost their homes. Department of Homeland Security officials, who have jurisdiction outside the federal building, arrested 17 people.
In spite of the highly charged face-off with Homeland Security, protestors erected tents on the steps of the DOJ building and about 40 people spent the night there. Early Tuesday morning more than 25 DHS vehicles unloaded dozens of agents armed with tasers and tear gas guns. During the raid of the makeshift camp, one woman, Carmen Pittman of Atlanta, was tasered by a DHS officer while another held his arm around her neck. There is no indication from videotape that she was resisting.
Misty Novich, an activist with Occupy Our Homes in Atlanta, said, “Were going to stay here as long as it takes.”
“Its outrageous that this nations resources are devoted to enriching these very powerful financial institutions,” her friend Daniel said. “America’s money is being used to bailout banks [while they] continue to foreclose on American homeowners.”
No bank executive in the U.S. has been tried for fraud, yet 7,700 people have been arrested in protests against banks. Major financial institutions like JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America have been called “too big to fail.” Senator Elizabeth Warren recently said that banks have also attained “too big for trial” status.
Lanny Breuer resigned after the airing of PBS program “The Untouchables,” which called out Breuer for ignoring ample evidence of banking fraud for fear that conviction would cause banks to go under. Breuer got a “soft landing” at his old firm Covington and Burling, the target of today’s protest. It is also the former employer of Attorney General Eric Holder.
Watch video of protestors pushing back Homeland Security officers: