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Occupy Our Homes: From the Streets to Foreclosed Homes, OWS Finds a New Frontier

As occupiers prepare to take over foreclosed homes, an exciting new phase of action on behalf of the 99 percent begins.
 
 
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Today, Occupy Wall Street and Occupy movements around the country will "go out of the streets and into the homes" of the 99 percent to draw attention to the economic, social, and racial injustice of the foreclosure crisis.

Through vacant home reoccupations, eviction resistance actions, and foreclosure auction disruptions from Brooklyn to Atlanta to Minneapolis and beyond, activists will highlight the families and individuals who live with the threat of eviction ever looming or those who have already lost their homes but are barred from ones that sit empty, owned by banks.

"We want people to pick sides — are you going to side with a bank sitting on an empty house when there's record family homelessness in NYC? Or will you side with a homeless family that is really desperate for a better environment for their kids to grow up in?" says VOCAL-NY organizer Sean Barry, one of many activists involved in the New York City action, which will begin at 1 p.m. at the intersection of Pennsylvania and Livonia in East New York, Brooklyn.

Indeed, the optics are perfect for OWS: not only will the actions highlight the plight of America's families, but they will also point to the indifference and callousness of the 1 percent — the bankers and financiers who speculated on subprime mortgages, turned the other way knowing that many mortgages were being signed — or robosigned — to individuals who could never pay.

Last week, Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times interviewed one such banker who is now wracked with regret about the racist, predatory lending policies of his former employer, Chase:

One memory particularly troubles Theckston. He says that some account executives earned a commission seven times higher from subprime loans, rather than prime mortgages. So they looked for less savvy borrowers — those with less education, without previous mortgage experience, or without fluent English — and nudged them toward subprime loans. 

These less-savvy borrowers were disproportionately blacks and Latinos, he said, and they ended up paying a higher rate so that they were more likely to lose their homes. Senior executives seemed aware of this racial mismatch, he recalled, and frantically tried to cover it up.

It should be noted that this kind of eviction resistance action being planned today is not unique to OWS — and that in some ways, it was a logical growth point for the new movement's energy. For years local groups like Take Back the Land, Viva Urbana, and many more have been doing this in local communities. In New York, Picture the Homeless has been training other activists in eviction-resistance tactics, Barry says.

And the fusion between these movements and Occupy is very much in full swing: in cities like Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Rochester, local Occupy movements have already joined forces with these grassroots groups to stave off, delay, or avoid evictions, as AlterNet recently reported. In San Francisco, occupiers joined with local activists to prevent the eviction of a 75-year-old woman. In Atlanta, the woman protected was 103. In Harlem, occupiers refused to leave a building's boiler room until the indifferent  landlord had the broken heater fixed.

Just this summer, in New York, the aptly named grassroots group " Organizing for Occupation" delayed the eviction of a woman in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Their meetings have now been flooded by Occupy Wall Street activists who want to help. (Video below)

The movement has global roots as well, as Roar magazine notes:

The action is partly inspired by the  15-M movement in Spain, which — through the  Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca, or the platform of those affected by their mortgage — has stopped hundreds of evictions in Spain and has occupied numerous large vacant buildings and offered them to people who had been kicked out of their homes by their banks. 

Not only does Occupy Wall Street's mission of exposing the gap between the 1 percent and the 99 percent dovetail and overlap with the foreclosure crisis, but its methods of reclaiming space are obvious matches for the burgeoning eviction resistant movement as well.