The Occupy movement in the United States took its first step towards civil disobedience on Tuesday when it occupied homes foreclosed by banks in a bid to prevent families from being evicted.
In what it described as “a national day of action” Occupiers in Brooklyn, New York, said that their action was aimed at highlighting fraudulent lending practices and “illegal evictions by banks,” according to reports.
Besides New York, the aptly named “Occupy Our Homes” marches targeted near-foreclosed and vacant homes in Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Portland.
While the movement, which began in mid-September, was greeted with harsh crackdowns by police entailing the frequent use of pepper spray and mass arrests, there have been no reports of police action against the home occupiers thus far.
The latest phase in the movement underscores the economic havoc wreaked by continuing foreclosures in a post-recession U.S. economy that is tottering and enervated.
According to real estate site RealtryTrac “foreclosure activity recently hit a seven-month high, reported last month, [and] there were foreclosure filings on 230,678 properties across the country in October... an increase of seven per cent from the previous month.”
The website for the newly-created sub-group of the Occupy movement is www.occupyourhomes.org, in which it argues that the basic motivation for the focus on real estate was that, “Not only do we have thousands of people without homes, we have thousands of homes without people. Boarded-up houses are sitting empty – increasing crime, lowering the value of other homes in the neighbourhood, erasing the wealth that lifts families into the middle class.”
The group added that in 2008 it had discovered that “bankers and speculators had been gambling with our most valuable asset, our homes – betting against us and destroying trillions of dollars of our wealth.”
Arguing that the Occupy Wall Street movement and homeowners around the country were coming together to say, “Enough is enough," the home occupiers said that the 99 per cent standing up to Wall Street were demanding that they negotiate with homeowners instead of fraudulently foreclosing on them.