Saturday, 19 November 2011

#Occupy The Homestead



It seems that while I was otherwise preoccupied this last week, an interesting and (so far) experimental new phase in the strategy of national #Occupy protests was launched.

Adbusters, the situationist anti-capitalist magazine that originally incubated the idea of the national #Occupy protests, published a blog post on 11/9/11 that reads:

Throughout the day [of strikes and protests that shut down a major US port in Oakland, CA], there had been talk of escalating #OCCUPY from being a movement to take the squares into a movement to reclaim foreclosed space. The tantalizing idea of turning bank-owned, dormant buildings into radical housing, squats and community spaces floated amongst the encampment.

This is a direction that has enormous potential.

Unlike the use of force to remove #Occupy protesters from public encampments like the one in Pioneer Park - which ultimately is a simple matter of enforcing curfew or anti-camping ordinances - evicting committed activists from bank-foreclosed properties will provide an interesting wrinkle for the political/financial status quo.

Many foreclosures, you see, are actually proceeding quite illegally.

Illustration by Victor Juhasz from Rolling Stone

Matt Taibbi wrote a jaw-dropping piece about foreclosures in the US a year ago for Rolling Stone. The whole thing is worth reading - you can find it here. An excerpt, regarding the so-called "rocket docket"s that have been established to speedily process foreclosure cases:

The rocket docket wasn't created to investigate [wrongdoing by banks]. It exists to launder the crime and bury the evidence by speeding thousands of fraudulent and predatory loans to the ends of their life cycles, so that the houses attached to them can be sold again with clean paperwork. The judges, in fact, openly admit that their primary mission is not justice but speed. One Jacksonville [FL] judge, the Honorable A.C. Soud, even told a local newspaper that his goal is to resolve 25 cases per hour. Given the way the system is rigged, that means His Honor could well be throwing one ass out on the street every 2.4 minutes.

If you have time, give the whole article a careful perusal when you have a minute. The evidence that is right there in plain sight, out in the open, regarding fraud and criminal malfeasance on the part of banks throughout the foreclosure process is pretty astonishing.

This is why #OccupyHomes has such potential. The banks emphatically do not want these foreclosures examined in court. Anything that slows down that rocket docket, or, worse, that brings foreclosures and the legal processes attached thereto into the spotlight, has the potential to do enormous damage to the power imbalance that large financial institutions have so carefully accumulated.

Google "vampire squid housing bubble"

Minneapolis, MN is leading the way so far. #OccupyMinneapolis (that has to suck as far as Twitter hashtags go) is taking what I sincerely hope is the first of many stands.

A loose-knit coalition of activists known as "Occupy Homes" is working to stave off pending evictions by occupying homes at risk of foreclosure when tenants enlist its support. The movement has recently enjoyed a number of successes. [We conducted a radio interview with] Monique White, a Minneapolis resident who is facing foreclosure and recently requested the help of Occupy Minneapolis. Now two dozen of its members are occupying her home in order to stave off eviction.

The Huffington Post has another write-up of Ms. White and her supporters here. #OccupyHomes has a twitter feed  here  .

I'll be keeping an eye on this emerging #Occupy effort. Exotic banking and finance frauds and their bureaucratic necromancers fear the sunlight, and rightly so.


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