What's Next for Occupy Wall Street? Activists Target Foreclosure Crisis

By Bloomgarden-Smoke, Kara | The Christian Science Monitor, January 29, 2012 | Go to article overview

What's Next for Occupy Wall Street? Activists Target Foreclosure Crisis


Bloomgarden-Smoke, Kara, The Christian Science Monitor


As the protest movement heads into spring, Occupy Wall Street activists are interrupting foreclosure auctions and helping families re-occupy their homes.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, which cut its teeth last fall by occupying streets and parks across the country, is moving into a new phase as it gears up for spring: occupying homes.

The movement that claimed to speak for "the 99 percent" and made income inequality part of the national discussion now is organizing protests at housing auctions to support those affected by the foreclosure crisis.

"At first, we were occupying parks, then homes," says Sofia Teona, an organizer with Occupy Atlanta, of the movement's evolution. "We are starting locally, but it's a national movement."

On Thursday, dozens were arrested when a group in New York interrupted a foreclosure auction in a courtroom, and Occupy organizers say more events are planned nationally in coming weeks.

According to Michael Premo, an organizer for "Occupy Our Homes" in New York, the movement has carried out 50 similar actions nationally in the past month, including foreclosure disruptions, eviction defense actions, and home re-occupations.

Although sales by banks of foreclosed houses were down in the third quarter of 2011, they still made up 20 percent of all homes sold. At the height of the housing boom in 2005 and 2006, that number was less than five percent.

Foreclosure sales lower property values, and many economists don't think that the economy will restart without dealing with the issue, says John Taylor, president and CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a Washington-based nonprofit that urges banks to provide credit and investment capital to low-income communities.

"I think that it's good that they are focusing on something the average person can understand and something specific like foreclosures," Mr. Taylor says of the Occupy activists. "It makes sense because foreclosures are the smoking gun. They are evidence of the malfeasance of predatory lending."

At the foreclosure auction in Brooklyn on Thursday, nearly 100 protesters started singing to disrupt bidding on foreclosed homes. Approximately 35 people were arrested, according to the National Lawyers Guild. A video of the event posted on the Internet shows the protesters singing slightly off-key and out of sync as some are arrested and led out of the auction. …

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