NEW YORK An auction of foreclosed homes in New York City on Sunday drew protesters who blamed banks for an epidemic of home losses and called for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.
Two dozen people marched outside a Manhattan convention center where Real Estate Disposition Corp was auctioning off several hundred foreclosed homes, chanting and carrying signs reading "Banks get bailed out, people get thrown out."
The protesters said their argument was not with would-be homebuyers, who streamed into the auction without taking much notice, but with banks that had reaped benefits of government bailout funds after years of irresponsible lending practices.
"We're not angry at the people who are looking for a cheaper home," said Larry Holmes, a spokesman for the Bail Out the People Movement, which staged the demonstration.
But REDC, which the group said was the nation's largest private auctioneer of foreclosed homes, was "making money off other people's misery," Holmes said.
He called on Washington to declare a moratorium on foreclosure and evictions to give struggling families a chance to get their finances in some kind of order and potentially keep their homes.
"Many of these homes being auctioned today may still be occupied," Holmes said. "What is happening to these families. Are they living in their cars? And are they being bailed out, like AIG or Citicorp?"
Major insurer American International Group and banking giant Citigroup Inc have been two key recipients of U.S. government bailout funds.
"I'm sorry for anybody losing their home," said one man going into the auction who would not give his name, adding he had a low-paying job. "But this is probably my only way to ever get my own home."
The protest group said that millions of people had already lost their homes in the mortgage and financial crisis, with millions more expected to suffer the same fate.
Foreclosures taking place are in violation of the federal Housing and Economic Recovery Act, it alleged. The group plans to stage a major demonstration on Wall Street on April 3.
(Writing by Chris Michaud; Editing by Eric Walsh)