By David Edwards, The Raw Story
The 99 percent movement, which has been evicted from many of their encampments across the country, is finding common cause with thousands of homeowners who are also being evicted from their homes.
Even though the movement has often been criticized for a lack of defined goals, Tuesday’s “Occupy Our Homes” action in at least 20 cities makes it clear that they are standing up to banks to reverse foreclosures.
“We’re in the neighborhood in New York City that had the highest number of foreclosure filings in 2010 to send a message that the economy is failing the 99 percent,” Vocal New York organizer Sean Barry told Raw Story from a Brooklyn neighborhood as about 200 protesters chanted in the background.
“We’re here because [there are] a lot of empty buildings owned by Wall Street banks and we’re going to liberate them.”
Tasha Glasgow, the single mother of a 9-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son, was expected to be one of the first occupants of a reclaimed home. Barry said that Glasgow, who had been in and out of the shelter system in New York City, had been slated to get a Section 8 voucher before budget cuts by Mayor Michael Bloomberg put an end to that promise.
“We’ve gained access to the home, and we’ve got the support of the neighbors,” Barry explained. “They’re going to start occupying it. … And then, there’s going to be 24/7 eviction defense by Occupy Wall Street.”
There were over 40 events planned in more than 20 cities Tuesday, but that is just the beginning.
“When it comes to Wall Street’s control over our economy, our democracy and our lives, there’s few better examples than the housing crisis,” Barry noted. “Occupy Wall Street is going to continue to support this national Occupy Our Homes campaign, and both defend homeowners who are being threatened with eviction due to foreclosure, and to move families that need homes into vacant buildings that banks are just sitting on.”
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he’s also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
By Arthur Delaney, Huffington Post
Bobby Hull is scheduled to be evicted from his Minneapolis house in February, but he won’t leave without a fuss. He’s invited 100 people from the local version of the Occupy Wall Street movement on Tuesday to protest his foreclosure.
Hull said he doesn’t know if the attention will help him win back his home, which Bank of America sold at a sheriff’s sale in August, but he considers the effort worthwhile no matter what.
“If I lose it, I lose it. But I might be able to open the door for somebody else,” Hull told HuffPost. “It might inspire somebody else to stand up and say, ‘Yeah, you’re right, what the banks are doing is wrong.'”
That’s the idea behind the action at Hull’s house: to draw attention to an unending foreclosure crisis. The rally is one of several events scheduled across the country as the Occupy Wall Street movement, defined in part by its broad critique of economic inequality, focuses in on the narrower issue of housing. Events like the rally at Hull’s house will occur in more than a dozen cities, according to organizers, who have received help from more traditional community organizing and labor groups.
The “Occupy Our Homes” protests come as banks face a reckoning for foreclosure malfeasance nationwide. A coalition of state law enforcement officials and the Obama administration have sought a settlement with the biggest lenders over rogue foreclosures and poor treatment of homeowners. But the talks, led by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, have dragged on for longer than a year, and several state attorneys general have defected because they say the $25 billion settlement Miller’s seeking is too small and would let banks off the hook for too much bad business.
From Democracy Now!
“The banks are occupying many of our homes. And we are removing the banks from their occupation, and we’re liberating those homes.” -Max Rameau
A loose-knit coalition of activists known as “Occupy Homes” is working to stave off pending evictions by occupying homes at risk of foreclosure when tenants enlist its support. The movement has recently enjoyed a number of successes. We speak with Monique White, a Minneapolis resident who is facing foreclosure and recently requested the help of Occupy Minneapolis. Now two dozen of its members are occupying her home in order to stave off eviction. We are also joined by Nick Espinosa, an organizer with Occupy Minneapolis, and Max Rameau, a key organizer with Take Back the Land, who for the past five years has worked on direct actions that reclaim and occupy homes at risk of foreclosure. “The banks are actually occupying our homes,” Rameau says. “This sets up for an incredible movement, where we have a one-two punch. On the one hand, we’re occupying them on their turf, and on the other, we’re liberating our own turf so that human beings can have access to housing, rather than them sitting vacant so that corporations can benefit from them sometime in the future.”
Read the full story here.
Related: Occupy defends the homefront
Following their evictions, six families have occupied empty housing in Parma, Italy and are refusing to leave. Below is a translation of a statement from the ‘Parma Housing Rights Network’.
The crisis hits hard and indiscriminately. Just a little bad luck and suddenly you can’t find the minimum social guarantee and well-being that allows you to have a peaceful life.
Migrants, who are the weakest link in the chain because they are blackmailed at all levels, and young people are seeing more and more that they are being denied any prospect of a future. But the crisis is beginning to hit many Italian families and individuals hard, even the Parmigiani [people from Parma – ed.].
Evictions are one of the clearest indicators of the fact that the crisis is deep: evictions are mainly for rent arrears of those who can’t pay it anymore because income is scarce and rents are exorbitant, thanks to the trust that our leaders have placed on the market.
Today [19th November 2011 - ed.], six families with very young children were forced to recover for themselves what the market continues to deny them: access to housing that corresponds to their income. These are families who have been evicted because of economic difficulties that arose due to the loss of work or because the jobs that they have can’t sustain the astronomical rents.
After their eviction they were only offered the possibility of dividing the family, with assistance only provided to mothers with young children. Now they have occupied housing that had been left empty for years to the advantage of speculators.
They did this to live; because after the eviction they were forced to find refuge in their car or in shacks or as temporary guests of friends or at hotels at their own expense (€ 2500 per month).
The failure to respond to natural and human social needs will force more people more often, following their normal instincts, to take what they are entitled to. We will be at their side.
Parma is a city too often mistakenly considered an exemplary model of welfare: as regards housing policy, blatant announcements of interventions have been made one after the other and are praised as resolving the emergency (Parmabitare, Casadesso, Social House, etc.).
Nothing could be further from the truth. Emergency measures – such as blocking evictions, requisition of vacant properties and a serious tax on big properties – should be taken following the 500 evictions in 2011, almost all of which were for rent arrears, as well as the real estate repossessions for those who could not pay the mortgage.
None of that. In fact, only widespread mobilisation, radical and continuous will be able to change drastically the existing situation and recover the right to housing now denied to too many.
Some worry that camping on private property may invite more extreme police attacks.
A couple of days after the Occupy Portland encampment was busted up by police, 15 occupiers took over a vacant, foreclosed home owned by Bank of America. “We have occupied a bank-owned house in the northeast suitable to house 30 to 40 people (and encourage others to do the same)” they wrote on a flyer left at the house.
Bank of America, the Portland police department and the homeowners of nearby condos were not pleased by the occupiers’ experiment in egalitarian living and on Friday, police battered down the door, kicking the occupiers out and throwing two in jail, the Oregonian reported.
Other cities also haven’t taken it well when occupiers set up camp on private property. Two weeks ago, police armed with assault rifles stormed into an abandoned car dealership in Chapel Hill, North Carolina to arrest protesters who’d taken over the vacant property. “We had breaking and entering of private property downtown. The government has to respond, ” the mayor said in a press conference the next day, unapologetic about the use of military firearms to subdue a handful of unarmed protestors.
After a coordinated national crackdown that dispersed occupations from the public parks and plazas of Portland, Denver, Oakland and New York, occupiers have floated the idea to camp on private space, confronting banks and mortgage servicers at ground zero of their disastrous policies: the foreclosed home.
One tactic is to occupy the home of a family facing eviction, in the hopes that media attention will encourage the bank to rethink whether the homeowners have exhausted their options after all. Another, more radical action is to take over a vacant property, co-opting it for use by a family that’s already homeless (or by occupiers).
There’s a clear difference between the two tactics, but both confront big banks and mortgage servicers’ virtually unchecked exploitation of struggling homeowners, through such shady, or outright illegal practices as pushing foreclosures based on shoddy or falsified paperwork; robosigning; kicking people out of their homes when they are eligible to refinance; starting foreclosure proceedings after just one late payment; and capping it all off by letting foreclosed homes sit vacant and fall apart.
Occupations around the country are already holding actions to aid homeowners threatened with foreclosure, using their bodies — and the TV news vans Occupy actions attract — to pressure banks into negotiations.
Rose Guidel fell just two weeks behind on her payments after a family member who was helping out financially was shot and killed. Despite being served with an eviction notice in September, she’s still in her home, thanks in part to a series of protests that grew larger as members of Occupy LA joined in.
After getting kicked out of Woodruff Park, Occupy Atlanta relocated to the lawn of a police officer who thought his family would be evicted within days. The family ended up leaving the house following threats by the local sheriff that they could be arrested for being accessories to trespassing, the occupiers claimed.
In Ohio, a single mother expecting eviction papers contacted Occupy Cleveland through Twitter, prompting the group to set up tents and stage a sit-in at her house. The action earned her a 30-day extension, which she tells the Cleveland Plain Dealer helped her secure a rental for herself and her two kids.
Right now, members of Occupy Minneapolis live on the lawn and in the home of Monique White, a mother of two who lost her job when her nonprofit employer was hit with budget cuts. When her part-time job at a liquor store couldn’t cover her payments, US Bank moved to foreclose, even though White says she was eligible for a program helping laid-off homeowners stave off foreclosure.