Occupy Our Homes: protesters bid to move families into foreclosed houses
[The above move] was part of a national day of action targeting the issue of foreclosures and marking the beginning of Occupy Wall Street’s Occupy Our Homes campaign. Various demonstrations were carried out in over 25 cities, including Seattle, Washington, Atlanta, Georgia and Riverside, California.
New York City’s action kicked off with a brief tour of East New York, which last year had the highest foreclosure rate of all the neighbourhoods in the city. Nationwide, an estimated 4m homes have been seized by banks since 2006, according to RealtyTrac, a California-based real estate data firm. Roughly 300 marchers made stops at several foreclosed homes along the route. Filling the stoops of dilapidated Brooklyn houses, members of the community joined with local lawmakers and religious figures to denounce widespread foreclosures.
The march ended at two-storey house with a large yellow sign mounted above the front door. In all capital letters it read: “FORECLOSE ON BANKS NOT ON PEOPLE.”
There are those who said early on that one of #OCCUPYWALLSTREET’s weaknesses was it’s decentralized structure. The idea of #OWS was initially to bring large groups of people from all over the country to New York, to Wall Street, as the largest possible singular demonstration would logically have the largest possible impact. Centralization was thought to be necessary if the media was to take the movement seriously and to get their message out. While this was the initial focus, eventually people began to create Occupations in their own home cities across the country. And this decentralized model proved to be a great success: once there was an occupation in almost every town in the country, a resurgence of political awareness and meaningful communication began. We, the people, had truly found our voice.
Occupy started as a political movement, an expression of dissatisfaction with the status quo imposed constantly in the bourgeois political sphere. In the days following the initial push to reclaim public space, however, the movement transformed into a very fight for survival. Occupy had the attention of the people in whatever city it was gathering in, but this means nothing if the movement cannot sustain itself. Soon, kitchens opened up, bringing food and drink to Occupiers in the public squares. Libraries were started with donated books, bringing literacy, entertainment, and the spark of new ideas to the embryonic communes. Media centres, art production, and other forms of community sustenance began to take root in these reborn public spaces. In this, people began to rediscover - on a personal level - their connection to themselves, the work of their hands, and their fellow citizens. No longer were they alienated through the structures of capitalist society.
Though this light of hope burned brightly in most Occupations for several weeks, the time soon came for the institutional reaction. Occupations across the country were raided, pepper-sprayed, and generally harassed into oblivion. Due to a combination of severe repression and the onset of winter, #OWS has entered the twilight of its first phase. Only a handful of camps remain, and their numbers are light. However, the aims of the new Occupiers have shifted in an important way: from creating a media spectacle to capture the public interest, to concrete and meaningful direct actions. An example lies in the “Occupy Our Homes” movement, helping homeowners stay in their homes when facing foreclosure by a faceless financial institution. Another great case is in the reclamation of private space to serve the needs of the community in cities like London, Oakland, and Chapel Hill, NC. Along with the cold air of winter descending across North America and Europe, the passion of direct action is slowly reappearing in our communities. With the burst of awareness and the excitement therein now passed, the focus of our new-found consciousness will develop itself.
A popular meme in the early days of the protests was “They don’t even know why they are protesting. What are their demands?” It is time to provide solid alternatives and to lead by the example of direct action in our own communities. The resounding message of Occupy is clear: we cannot afford to rely on the will of others in order to make the society we want. We must “take the bull by the horns” and propose our own alternative to the sterile capitalist vision. We can build our new societies on the praxis we are currently developing in these new communities.
This blog is aimed at providing local alternatives to the globally-connected capitalist exploitative system. With a focus on individual actions, community projects, and creating local, sustainable systems of self-reliance, we will try to share items that inspire people to look forward. What is the best vision for society? There will not be a spectacular revolution as long as the masses are alienated from their fellow citizen, so how can we begin to achieve this vision of a more compassionate, more equitable, more ecological society? How can we break this alienation on a personal level, without needing to rely on the very systems that alienate us? We will try to answer those questions here, all the while focusing on providing concrete actions and ideas people can take on to enrich their own communities.
To ensure our society is sustainable over the long term, we have to attend not just to environmental issues and climate change, but to the economic crisis, and the depletion of natural resources. Responses that deal with all three aspects of our sustainability predicament will not only be more effective than those that don’t, but they can be framed in terms of whichever aspect can gain broader public support.
The powerful corporate elites who profit from our continued addiction to fossil fuels have misled the public and blocked climate change response. On the other hand, the Occupy Wall Street movement is successfully raising public attention to economic injustice and the financial crisis, also caused by those elites. Both campaigns are missing crucial parts of the story, but each can supply what the other lacks: a message that has traction with the public, and a clearer strategic focus[…]
Personal changes are necessary but insufficient. Government action is needed, but is often blocked by political and cultural factors. By organizing at the community level, wherever we can get traction, we can eventually involve enough citizens to trigger the wider government responses needed.