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Occupy Our Homes: Bank Accountability Movement Merging with OWS on Foreclosure Defense

Justin Elliott reports on the next step in the Occupy movement, or rather a merger between the Occupy movement and the growing movement against illegal foreclosures and for bank accountability:

Occupy Wall Street is promising a “big day of action” Dec. 6 that will focus on the foreclosure crisis and protest “fraudulent lending practices,” “corrupt securitization,” and illegal evictions by banks.

The day will mark the beginning of an Occupy Our Homes campaign that organizers hope will energize the movement as it moves indoors as well as bring the injustices of the economic crisis into sharp relief.

Many of the details aren’t yet public, but protesters in 20 cities are expected to take part in the day of action next Tuesday. We’ve already seen eviction defenses at foreclosed properties around the country as well as takeovers of vacant properties for homeless families. Occupy Our Homes organizer Abby Clark tells me protesters are planning to “mic-check” (i.e., disrupt) foreclosure auctions as well as launch some new home occupations.

“This is a shift from protesting Wall Street fraud to taking action on behalf of people who were harmed by it. It brings the movement into the neighborhoods and gives people a sense of what’s really at stake,” said Max Berger, one of the Occupy Our Homes organizers and a member of Occupy Wall Street’s movement-building working group.

This is a fantastic evolution for the movement. Obviously most state and federal regulators aren’t going to do a thing about illegal foreclosures. At the state level, Tom Miller is trying every trick in the book to get Attorneys General to grant amnesty for big bank crimes. At the federal level, it was always clear that the government’s big gun, the refinancing effort for underwater borrowers, was more a stimulus measure than an attempt to keep people in their homes (as evidenced by the fact that most HARP refis affect positive equity mortgages). A few lonely souls, like Eric Schneiderman and Catherine Cortez Masto and registers of deeds, are working on behalf of the public, but they are about it.

So it’s up to activists to stop waiting for a savior and start doing this for themselves. And they have been. This evolution with Occupy, as I’ve said, is more of a merger. There’s been a years-long movement for bank accountability that has targeted the foreclosure crisis with direct actions. Many of the groups involved in that movement, like The New Bottom Line and New York Communities for Change, are also spearheading efforts for Occupy Our Homes. The Occupy movement provides more shock troops and a higher profile for that effort. Already it’s winning results. Occupy Rochester in New York just succeeded in stopping a foreclosure, by securing a 30-day suspension of the eviction notice. This builds on other successes in Cleveland and Minneapolis.

The courts have been another arena for those fighting illegal foreclosures, with varying degrees of success. The case of Lillie Mae Washington, age 96, is inspiring. But often success depends on the judge or the jurisdiction. Foreclosure defense is difficult work. It’s great to have people in the streets advancing the ball. And it emboldens other efforts. Giving a high profile to the attempted eviction of an 103 year-old woman in Atlanta led sheriffs and movers to refuse the order to evict.

The banks are clearly stealing homes. It’s a classic example of the 99% being brutalized at the expense of the 1%, in this case the big banks. It’s a fertile ground for protest and direct action. And the Occupy movement is picking up the mantle, merging with the already existing activism that has been taking place for years, and providing additional energy and support. Maybe now we will stop hearing about how the protesters lack an agenda.

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David Dayen

David Dayen