Our guest blogger is Micah Uetricht, a labor organizer, freelance writer, and former Campus Progress staff writer based in Chicago.
The big banks’ worst nightmare may be coming true: occupations of foreclosed homes and eviction blockades are going viral.
Over the weekend, Occupy Minneapolis teamed up with a former homeowner to occupy her foreclosed home. Sára Kaiser, a divorced single mother who immigrated to the U.S. from Hungary to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota, bought the home with a $40,000 down payment and an adjustable rate mortgage in 2006. Monthly payments soon ballooned, and Kaiser’s $900-a-month adjunct teaching position at the university could not keep her afloat. She went into foreclosure, and says U.S. Bank, who owned her mortgage, refused to negotiate lower monthly payments with her. She and her family left the home.
After meeting up with Occupy Minnesota activists, who had successfully fought off an eviction from a foreclosed home in North Minneapolis earlier in the month, Occupy Minnesota occupied Kaiser’s former home. When Minneapolis police arrived to remove them and board up the house, 150 activists surrounded it, forming a human chain around the entire perimeter.
Two protesters were arrested during the action –- including one who can be seen in the video attempting to block a police car holding a protester arrested inside the house from leaving the scene by standing in front of the cruiser. Watch it:
After the arrests and the massive blockade, the officers left. “You guys outnumber us right now by a lot,” one can be heard saying in the video. The next day, however, police kicked in the door of the house and removed the protesters.
Various Occupy encampments throughout the country have been evicted by police in recent weeks–including the original camp in Zuccotti Park –- prompting a torrent of speculation about how the movement would advance with fewer and fewer fixed locations. Signs from around the country seem to indicate that occupying foreclosures could be that next step.
A movement to begin occupying foreclosed houses has long been nascent. Occupy movements around the country have begun lending their support to similar actions in Atlanta, Cleveland, and Harlem. Occupy Oakland voted to encourage the occupation of abandoned and foreclosed homes, and in Boston, the community organization City Life/Vida Urbana has organized eviction blockades for years.
Kaiser, for her part, described her situation in a video as something that “could happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time, unless people start fighting back together.”
“I’m not ashamed,” she stated. “I’m not the moral hazard.”
Occupy Minnesota organizer Nick Espinoza told ThinkProgress that the eviction “will not deter us” from expanding their work with families
“As we continue to fight and win,” Espinoza says, “people are coming out of the woodwork to ask for our support in standing up to the big banks. We will be seeing more home occupations soon.”