Occupy Baltimore protesters set a new scene Tuesday for their stand against corporate greed and social injustice: a red-brick rowhouse in Union Square where a 65-year-old widow has made her home for nearly six years.
As many as 100 protesters gathered outside Lila Kara's house, where faded American flags occupy a curbside flower bed, to block the Baltimore City Sheriff's Office from evicting the Bulgarian immigrant — at least for a day.
The action is an evolution of Baltimore's version of the three-month-old national movement, when protesters camped at McKeldin Square.
Chris Lavoie, a Towson University art professor from Hampden, said the Occupy protesters used the Inner Harbor encampment as a springboard to grow their localized movement around the issues that excited or enraged them. Fraudulent foreclosure is among the issues they have pledged to fight, Lavoie said, along with matters such as the planned youth detention center downtown.
The protesters were evicted peacefully from their encampment Dec. 13.
Kara, who works in merchandising, said she reached out to the Occupy protesters for help when she received an eviction notice. She said she would have to pay more than $50,000 to bring her mortgage up to date and that her loan is for $138,000 more than her home is worth. Her house has been in foreclosure for about three years. She has tried unsuccessfully to modify her loan and has a pending court case to appeal foreclosure.
"At least for one day I will not think about this," Kara said.
The sheriff's office scheduled the eviction for Tuesday, but Capt. Sam Cogen, deputy chief of operations, said the office postponed it because of the protest. Cogen said the office is evaluating its options and is sympathetic to the situation.
Still, Cogen said the eviction is expected to proceed and could occur Wednesday. The sheriff has an obligation to act on the court order, he said.
Kara said she will continue to pack up and make temporary living arrangements but hoped Tuesday's protest would give her a month to sort out the situation.
Athena Tsakos, a 30-year-old activist from Pigtown, said Tuesday's effort was part of the vision for local Occupy protesters from the start.
"We've always had plans to fight injustice," Tsakos said. "Foreclosures around the country are a huge injustice, the way people have been rammed through the process. People are not getting due process. This is just one avenue, one voice of our larger cry."