Photograph courtesy of New American Media

The nationwide Occupy Movement has turned its focus to home foreclosures. Protesters in several U.S. cities are occupying homes that have been foreclosed or are at risk of being taken over by banks.

Protesters around the country are diversifying their efforts to highlight major economic issues facing the nation, such as the home foreclosure crisis. After several weeks of authorities dismantling major Occupy encampments throughout the nation, grassroots organizations, such as Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI), are standing in solidarity with struggling homeowners.

"Officials from the Obama Administration need to hear from homeowners in crisis and realize that their failure to control the big banks is having devastating consequences for everyday people," Chris Neubert, an organizer with ICCI, said on Dec. 6 in the Huffington Post.

During rallies and marches on Dec. 5, designated as "Occupy Our Homes Day," Occupy Oakland protesters drew attention to this issue by reclaiming foreclosed properties and demonstrating their discontent outside of banks and other institutions responsible for the plight of homeowners facing foreclosure.


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"I'm a resident who has decided I'm not going to take this anymore," foreclosure victim Galya Newsome told the San Jose Mercury-News at an Oakland rally. She lost her home after she lost her job as executive director of a nonprofit Girls Inc. and went without work from 2007 to 2009.

About 100 Oakland protesters occupied another foreclosed duplex on 10th Street near Mandela Parkway, owned by Fannie Mae, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Dec. 7. The protesters demanded that the property, as well as other vacant homes owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration, be converted into affordable, low-income housing.
"The protesters demanded that the property, as well as other vacant homes owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration, be converted into affordable, low-income housing."
"We are diversifying, trying to address issues people find most problematic," Julia Sebastian, an Oakland social justice activist and a member of Occupy Oakland's Home Defense Committee, told the newspaper. "We want to put more pressure on banks and show how they caused this problem."

The Chronicle cited a report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch's senior U.S. economist that said more than 6 million homes have been "seized by banks" since 2007 and another 8 million more "are likely to undergo foreclosure" in the next four years.

A report from the Center for Responsible Lending, "Lost Ground, 2011," found that at least 2.7 million mortgages loaned from 2004 through 2008 have ended in foreclosure, and another 4 million still remain at serious risk, according to a New York Times story published on Nov. 30.

With efforts to stop the widespread home foreclosure epidemic happening in more than 25 cities, Occupy Our Homes protesters drew attention to the lack of bank regulations for loan modifications, failures to slash mortgage principles, unpredictable rates and other features solely designed to yield short-term profits for financial institutions.

Campaign contributions were an emerging issue in Washington DC, where demonstrators met at McPherson Square on Dec. 7 for a march on an undisclosed lobbying firm. Later in the afternoon, they marched to the White House, objecting to President Obama's expected $1 billion in campaign contributions, an amount that could be used to employ 20,000 teachers over the course of a year. Then they marched to the Supreme Court to protest its Citizens United decision, which allows unlimited corporate campaign contributions.

"This decision promises to unleash a flood of corporate campaign contributions unlike anything seen before, until the American citizens unite to overturn it," according to Occupy DC's website.

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Meanwhile, in efforts to contain and ultimately stop nationwide Occupy protests, police forces around the country have continued dismantling camps in overnight raids and arresting protesters, some forcefully, with others being taken willingly into custody as peaceful protest.

On Nov. 28, Occupy Philadelphia protesters marched with their arms linked as police forces demanded they evacuate their camps at Dilworth Plaza near City Hall. The organizers had been encamped there since early October. They were told to gather their belongings before authorities dismantled the camp using bulldozers.

"The police officers involved in this operation were hand-picked for this assignment and highly trained and disciplined," Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told the media after the encampment was dismantled. "They showed a tremendous amount of restraint and professionalism in carrying out this morning's operation."
"In efforts to contain and ultimately stop nationwide Occupy protests, police forces around the country have continued dismantling camps in overnight raids and arresting protesters."
City authorities assert that arrests were made in peaceful, non-violent fashions. Approximately 50 arrests were made, and the space was cleared for a $50 million renovation project, according Nutter.

"Through Wednesday, we've spent a little bit more than a million dollars in extra cost," said Rebecca Rhynhart, budget director for Mayor Nutter, in a CBS Philly, story about the cleanup. "The majority of that is police overtime. About $930,000 is overtime."

But activists charge overwhelming use of force and unwarranted violence during the eviction process, which added to the costs. Occupy Philly protesters met at the Liberty Bell to share stories about the police violence from the morning of Nov. 28 and discuss the movement's determination to not be silenced by militarized streets and police brutality, according to the Occupy Philly website.

"Is this movement worth it?" Gwen Snyder of Occupy Philadelphia said in another CBS Philly story. "Yes, I mean, did I go in hoping to be arrested? No. This was something the police forced upon us."

Many in the Occupy Philadelphia movement claim their forced eviction from Dilworth Plaza will not stop their protest.

Emmanuel Bussie said city officials should join, not confront the protesters. "The mayor needs to find a way, council needs to find a way, to partner with this movement," she told CBS Philly.

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Across the bay from Oakland, San Francisco authorities moved in on Justin Herman Plaza early on Dec 6. and dismantled the main Occupy encampment, giving the city's occupiers five minutes to gather their belongings. They arrested about 70 protesters. The remaining belongings, such as medical supplies, personal documents and crutches, were directly thrown into a compacting garbage truck, without any regard for the well-being of occupiers, most of whom owned little else.

Despite their camps being demolished, protesters around the nation, as in Philadelphia, have refused to end their efforts to combat corporate greed and economic inequality. If anything, the forceful clearings of the encampments and the escalating number of arrests made throughout the nation have only fueled the spirit of the movement.

The total number of Occupy arrests that have been made around the country so far is more than 5,400, according to the Occupy Arrests website. More than a dozen protesters were arrested in Cincinnati last month, and another five during the JP-Morgan-Chase protest at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, none of whom were affiliated with the Occupy Bloomington movement.

"It's just a happy day today because even though we got kicked out, we're still together," protester Demi Chae Moore told , after police moved in to evict Occupy Los Angeles protesters from their encampment on Nov. 28.

Diana Petrova can be reached at dianapetrova90@gmail.com.