Local foreclosure crisis victim arrested at protest

(Gazette Photo by Courtney Sacco) Ken Tilton is arrested during the Sept. 30 protest downtown.

While the foreclosure crisis largely passed Jamaica Plain by, not everyone escaped unscathed, and one local resident and former business owner, Ken Tilton, has found some redemption in fighting back.

Tilton—the former owner of landmark JP businesses Zon’s restaurant and the novelty store Pluto—has been working with the local anti-foreclosure group City Life/Vida Urbana since Bank of America foreclosed on his house in 2009. He was one of 24 arrested Sept. 30 when over 3,000 people protested at Bank of America’s Boston headquarters in the Financial District.

Trespassing charges against the City Life arrestees were reduced to civil charges in the week following the action.

The high-profile protest—which benefited from happening at the same time and place as the first day of Occupy Boston—was organized by Right to the City, a broad-based coalition of Massachusetts groups focused on economic justice issues.

Since 2009, Tilton has been paying rent to Bank of America on an Egleston Square house that he and his partner, Frank—who died of cancer in 2007—purchased with a $400,000 mortgage in 2005.

“I now know that Frank and I weren’t even qualified for that mortgage and that we should not have bought a house at this price…We bought it for $370,000. Now it’s worth” between $200,000 and $300,000, he said.

Working with City Life, Tilton struck a deal with Bank of America allowing him to rent his home from the bank, he said. He expects to be evicted soon, but does not plan to fight the eviction, he said.

City Life’s organizing is largely based on empowering victims of the foreclosure crisis. The group hold’s weekly meetings for people affected by the foreclosure crisis, where they are encouraged to “leave their shame at the door.” People who speak at those meetings hold a wooden sword while they are speaking.

Tilton told the Gazette that taking a leadership role in that effort, “changed my life. So many doors opened.”

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