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ACORN held a demonstration during the lunch hour on Tuesday in front of the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown St. Louis. There were only eight people–strolling in a circle, holding handmade signs and shouting–in front of that imposing building. It would be easy to judge the whole event as kinda pitiful, but that’s only if you don’t understand the big picture. In the big scheme, Tuesday’s event was a resounding success. More about that later.

First, let me explain that the rally was aimed at putting pressure on four of the biggest mortgage servicers in the country–Litton (owned by Goldman Sachs), HomEq (owned by Barclays), American Home Mortgage (owned by Wilbur Ross), and OneWest, the new IndyMac. ACORN wants those four to allow their mortgage holders to refinance if they need to in order to avoid foreclosure. Eighty percent of the mortgage industry is voluntarily allowing people with adjustable rate mortgages that have exploded on them to refinance so that their payments will be no more than 31 percent of their earnings. In return for agreeing to help stop the wave of foreclosures in this way, companies were offered $75 billion in relief funds through the “Making Homes Affordable” act last March.

All the big mortgage servicers, when surveyed before the act passed, promised to help people in danger of losing their homes to refinance. So Congress did not deem it necessary to make such cooperation mandatory by law in return for the funds the banks would receive. Our lawmakers should have known better. Four of the biggest lenders–scum in $4,000 suits–took the money and thumbed their noses at the federal government and their own customers.

Helping out desperate homeowners is, one would think, the least these financial barons could do, considering how they’ve ravaged our economy. Here’s what they did. Mortgage servicers used to offer fixed rate loans to people who were good financial bets, reserving adjustable rate loans only for riskier borrowers. But there’s no law requiring they do it that way. So, since they could make more money from the adjustable rate loans, they began offering low teaser rates to borrowers, assuring them that the rates would only go up if interest rates went up (which was a lie). Often, they didn’t even mention that a fixed rate was available to people who qualified for it. It was just a little a sin of omission.

Then, once the initial teaser period ended, usually in two years, the mortgage servicers could raise the rates for any reason whatsoever–or none. Oh, and did they ever, because higher payments for homeowners meant more commission for those servicing the loans.

Glenn Burleigh, the St. Louis Metro Political Director for ACORN–that’s him in the red cap–experienced the misleading tactics himself when he bought a home. He had gone to the library and done research on his credit rating, so he knew he qualified for a fixed rate loan. But the loan officer where he applied insisted that he didn’t. Glenn told the man that he would pass up the loan rather than accept an adjustable rate loan and left. Later, the loan officer called him and–surprise–had “discovered” that Glenn was correct about qualifying for a fixed rate loan.

The first wave of foreclosures from this practice hit in 2006, but two more waves resulting from slightly different lending practices are due in the next couple of years. Amazingly, the four holdout companies are willing to see the entire economy go under rather than sacrifice their quarterly profits, because short term profits and balance sheets that look good for a nanosecond but don’t take the future into account are what determine CEO pay.

The young woman doing most of the yelling in the video is saying that her house payments went from $600 a month to $1,000 and she lost her home. The banks got their bailout, she says. “What about me?”

She’s already lost her home, but her actions today contributed to a victory for other homeowners. It didn’t happen in St. Louis, because none of the four offenders is headquartered here. This rally was just a show of support for the demonstrators in the four headquarter cities. The number here was small because a rally gets no mainstream press coverage unless it happens before 5:00 (or unless it’s huge), and most ACORN members work and can’t be there at noon.

But in Indianapolis, where OneWest is headquartered, the turnout was large; and eventually the president of the company, Terry Laughlin, walked out of his fortress and said his company would start helping customers refinance their loans. Americans are so angry at bankers and mortgage lenders that he apparently decided to cut off the bad publicity, knowing that Tuesday’s rally was only the first salvo from ACORN.

At the Goldman-Sachs headquarters in Boston, where fifty demonstrators showed up, the bank told its employees to leave for lunch by the back door. The honchos were well aware of what was going on outside. They wanted to avoid confrontation, and they did. For one day. But ACORN is far from through with this fight.

These Davids are going to hurt Goliath-Sachs.