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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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What's going to happen is "satellite mini-occupy sites around the country so heroic battles can be fought and won on the local level, but can also connect to a much bigger theme," says Stephen Lerner, a veteran organizer with SEIU who has been helping to plan Occupy Our Homes. Beyond the individual efforts, Lerner notes that there's a policy proposal floating around that's connected to these actions, too: the idea of " principal reduction" — or in layman's terms, reconfiguring mortgages to be commensurate with the noninflated, actual value of a property (rather than the inflated "bubble" price). 

"This is about how to make Wall Street pay, not in terms of retribution but in terms of actually fixing the economy," he says. "It's not enough to say we should stop individuals from losing homes, but we also must fix the housing bubble: these unfair, illegal, cheating mortgages which are terrible for economy and terrible for people."

The specific goals and targets of these occupations, the issues they highlight, and the solutions proposed, as well as the interfacing with the communities hardest hit by the recession and the policies of the 1 percent, are incredible rejoinders to the mainstream critiques of OWS – its alleged purposelessness, its failure to interface with communities of color and on the margins.

"The foreclosure crisis is really the rot at the center of our economy. This is a predominantly black and Latino neighborhood is at the very forefront of the foreclosure crisis, which had highest number of foreclosure filings in New York last year," says Barry of East New York, the site of today's action. "And the foreclosure crisis is arguably the largest theft of black wealth since slavery."
 
And while the occupiers young and old have learned about eviction-resistance activism from their partners in the communities, the communities have been emboldened, too.
 
"This action takes the spirit, energy, and excitement of Occupy and connects it with communities that have been most devastated by economic crisis," says Lerner. "Occupy and their willingness to be arrested has almost mainstreamed this idea: we've occupied public space — now we need to occupy private space that's been stolen by banks."
 
Within activist communities, the boldness of OWS has "forced people to drop the self-censorship and embarrassment about being audacious," says Barry.
 
This plan has brought out admiration and praise from those who have watched Occupy Wall Street evolve. Last week, Rachel Maddow discussed the historical context of this new phase of the movement — eviction resistance actions were common during the Great Depression — and the solidarity of its principles: "If you're coming for her, you're coming for us." Police crackdowns have "forced this movement into a new evolution," says Maddow. There's "a concerted effort to move it into the neighborhoods where you can really see it ... this is the real deal."
 
Watch her segment below, and the stirring video for Occupy Our Homes below that.
 

 

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Occupy Our Homes from Housing is a Human Right on Vimeo.

Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet, a staff writer at RH Reality Check, and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published in Jezebel.com and on the websites of The Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Wall Street Journal. Find her at sarahmseltzer.com.