OCCUPY MOVEMENT GETS MORE INVOLVED IN SPECIFICS

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EDITOR’S COMMENT: The Occupy movement is taking on a life of its own, expressing citizen outrage over the behavior of the banks and the complicity of the government in aiding and abetting the stealing of homes. As the movement matures, it is getting increasingly focussed on the weak spots of the Banks and it is having a political effect as well as a judicial effect. Judges are having conferences that differ substantially from the ones they had only 6 months ago.

Judges still want to move their calendar along. And the issue of “finality” still looms large for them — someone has to say “game over.” But they are expressing doubt and dismay as more and more cases show up where it is obvious that the Banks are playing fast and loose with the rules of evidence and more importantly, violating criminal statutes to get a house in which they have no economic interest.

I say we should give the Occupy movement as much support as possible and that we should encourage Occupy leaders to take whatever political action they can to turn the course of the country from becoming a third world nation. The failure of the judicial system and the failure of law enforcement to lead the way on this, as they did when we had the savings loan scandal in the 1980’s is a sure sign that our system is broken and we know who broke it — the Banks.

If we succeed, then we will have reversed control over the government to the people, and reverted to the rule of law required by our Constitution. For those who depend upon the Bill of Rights for their existence, like the NRA (which depends upon the second amendment) they should be aware that acceptance of the status quo means that government can and will take any action it wants ignoring the Constitutional protections that were guaranteed. First, they take your house, then your guns.

Occupy Protests Spread Anti-Foreclosure Message During National ‘Occupy Our Homes’ Action

WASHINGTON — In the late evening on Tuesday, Brigitte Walker welcomed Occupy Atlanta onto her property in an effort to save her Riverdale, Ga., home from foreclosure.

Walker, 44, joined the Army in 1985 and had been among the first U.S. personnel to enter Iraq in February 2003. “I wasn’t happy about it,” she told The Huffington Post early Tuesday afternoon, speaking of her deployment. “But it’s my call of duty so had to do what I was supposed to do. It was a very difficult duty. It was a very emotional duty.”

Walker saw fellow soldiers die, get injured. She saw a civilian with them get killed. “It was very nerve-wracking,” she said. “It makes you wonder if you’re going to survive.”

She was in Iraq until May 2004, when the shock from mortar rounds crushed her spine. Doctors had to put in titanium plates to reinforce her spine, which had nerve damage. Today her range of motion is limited, and she still experiences a lot of pain. She still struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. Loud noises and big crowds are painful. The Fourth of July is difficult for her

She settled in Riverdale, a town outside of Atlanta, after purchasing a house in 2004 for $139,000. She has a brother who lives in the area and enjoyed it when she would visit him. “It seemed peaceful and quiet,” she said. “That’s what I needed.” Her active duty salary covered the mortgage.

But in 2007, the Army medically retired Walker against her wishes. “I thought I was going to rehab and come back,” she said. “But they told me I couldn’t stay in.” Walker now has to rely on a disability check.

After retiring from the Army, Walker used up her savings, and then got rid of a car to help pay her monthly mortgage payment. “I didn’t have problems until they put me out of the military,” she said. “It was just overwhelming.”

By April of last year, she was starting to fall behind on her mortgage. JPMorgan Chase — which owns Walker’s mortgage, according to an Occupy Atlanta press release — has since begun foreclosure proceedings. She said the bank is set to take her house on January 3.

“Nobody is willing to help me,” Walker said. “Where are the programs to help vets like me? I know I’m one of many.”

Enter Occupy Atlanta.

“I’m very hopeful that it will help me save my home and allow Chase to give me a chance to keep my home,” Walker said, speaking of the Occupiers. She added that she’s willing to celebrate Christmas with the activists.

“I guess,” she said with a laugh. “As long as it takes.”

Hours before Occupy Atlanta joined Walker at her home, the activists organized protests aimed at disrupting home auctions at three area courthouses. At a Fulton County Courthouse, civil rights leader Dr. Joseph Lowery joined 200 demonstrators at the county’s monthly foreclosure auction.

Across the country, activists associated with the Occupy movement and Occupy Our Homes reached out to families threatened by foreclosure and highlighted the crisis with marches, rallies and press conferences.

“Occupy Wall Street started because of a deep need in our country to address the financial and economic crisis that’s been created by the consolidation of wealth and political power in our country,” said Jonathan Smucker, 33, an organizer with Occupy Wall Street in New York. “The foreclosure crisis, at least as much as anything else, illustrates the deep moral crisis that we are facing. It illustrates what you have when you have your whole political system serving the needs of the one percent.”

Mothers spoke out on front lawns. In New York City, Occupy Wall Street marched through the streets of East New York. At the same time, Occupy groups were protesting home auctions in Nevada and New Orleans. In Seattle protesters tried to save a family from eviction. In all, activists took over vacant homes or homes facing foreclosures from being evicted in 20 cities.

During the actions, the activists tried to keep the mood light. In Chicago they planned a house-warming party for a family moving into an abandoned home. To announce their presence in New York, protestes held a block party and, in a play on police tape, wrapped a home in yellow tape bearing the word “Occupy.”

As the protest were taking place, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, released a new report that found an increasing number of American homes are going unused, a spike attributed to high foreclosure and unemployment rates.

“According to Census Bureau data, nonseasonal vacant properties have increased 51 percent nationally from nearly 7 million in 2000 to 10 million in April 2010, with 10 states seeing increases of 70 percent or more,” the report read. “High foreclosure rates have contributed to the additional vacancies. Population declines in certain cities and high unemployment also may have contributed to increased vacancies.”

Vacant homes can cause a number of problems for the communities their located in, the report noted: “Vacant and unattended residential properties can attract crime, cause blight, and pose a threat to public safety.”

The need for action was obvious to Smucker.

“People need a place to live,” he said. “People need to have homes. Kids need to be able to count on not having to move, having some stability in their lives. That’s something we can all agree on in this country.”

Some of the most powerful stories came from the homeowners Occupiers targeted during the day’s events. One mother from Petaluma, Calif, held a press conference outside her home and discussed her struggle with foreclosure. An Oregon mother talked about her lose of a second job, cancer and bankruptcy at an event at her house.

In Old Fourth Ward neighborhood of downtown Atlanta, Occupiers came to the Pittman family home. Carmen Pittman, 21, said the home has been the backdrop to every family function and holiday dinner as far back as she can remember. The ranch-style home had been in the Pittman name since 1953.

“My every Christmas, my every Thanksgiving, my every birthday, my every dinner was in this house,” Pittman told HuffPost early this afternoon. “This was the base home. We could not stay away form this home. This home is my every memory.”

Now she worries that the last memory she will have is the home’s foreclosure. Her grandmother had become too sick to deal with the ballooning mortgage, and never addressed the court papers that arrived in the mail. Shortly before she passed away, the family finally realized the home was being foreclosed on when they got a notice on the front door. They have had to scramble ever since.

But on Tuesday, Pittman was feeling good about her prospects after the Occupy group had come to the house. “Maybe somebody heard my cries,” she said. “I’m full of sadness and joy. It’s like two mixed feelings at the same time.”

Walker, the Iraq War vet, let the Occupy Atlanta activists set up tents on her property this evening. While her eviction date is still set for Jan. 3, she said she remained cautiously optimistic that her situation could change.

“Everything’s fine,” she said. “Everything’s good. They have the tents set up outside. It’s awesome. I was a little nervous. But it’s awesome. I’m really hopeful and happy. I’m feeling really hopeful. I don’t feel like all is lost anymore.”

Additional reporting by Arthur Delaney.

Just some of the odd foreclosure stories of the last year:

CT Family Never Missed A Payment
Shock Baitch and his wife Lisa of Connecticut were threatened with foreclosure by Bank of America after never missing a payment. BofA mistakenly told credit agencies they were seeking a loan modification. “Now I am literally and financially paying for it,” Baitch told CTWatchdog.com.

Occupy Wall Street Groups Protest Foreclosure, Try To Halt Evictions

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11/16/11 04:49 PM ET

Occupy Wall Street Foreclosures

Monique White of North Minneapolis has been hosting weekend barbecues for friends and family for years. On Sunday, her usual guest list of friends and neighbors expanded to include protesters from the local spinoff of the Occupy Wall Street movement. They’d come to try and stop the bank from throwing White out of her house.

“These people are here to support me — and not only me, just to let other people know and be aware of what’s going on,” White said.

What’s going on is American homeowners are still slogging through the aftermath of a recession caused by the near-collapse of the financial sector in 2008. Since then, bailed-out banks have allegedly treated struggling homeowners so badly that state and federal law enforcement agencies are negotiating a multi-billion dollar settlement, and federal bank regulators have offered to check for wrongdoing in any foreclosure that happened in 2009 or 2010.

Occupy Wall Street kicked off in September to protest economic injustice, and now in at least three American cities, Occupy protesters are using the stories of local residents losing their homes to dramatize and protest the ongoing foreclosure crisis. In each case, Occupy-affiliated protesters have pitched their tents on the lawns where they don’t want to see local sheriff’s deputies pile the belongings of an evicted family.

On Sunday evening, 15 or so protesters came to Elizabeth Sommerer’s home in Cleveland. They’d heard via Twitter that Sommerer, a mother of two, would be evicted on Tuesday.

“We’d been talking for a few weeks about ways to draw attention to what’s going on with the foreclosure crisis,” said protester Chris Soboleski, a 29-year-old web developer from Painesville, Ohio.

Sommerer’s home went into foreclosure in 2009, Cuyahoga County records show. Her husband postponed the sheriff’s sale by filing for bankruptcy. But they couldn’t keep up with their Chapter 13 payments, and then, Sommerers said, she and her husband split up. Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored mortgage company, bought the property in August.

Soboleski and other Occupy protesters helped Sommerer connect with her local representative on the Cleveland City Council, Brian Cummins, whose staff helped her get to court on Monday to file a request to postpone the eviction for 30 days. Her request was granted, court records show.

“I think it was a huge day for the movement,” said Cummins, a member of the Green Party. “This is really great because it got them out in the community and in touch with someone in a very real life situation.”

“They stand up for the little guy,” Sommerer said of the protesters in a video uploaded to YouTube on Monday. (Soboleski said Sommerer did not want to do another interview about her situation after already providing details to local reporters. Independent attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.) “This is Main Street. Wall Street can take care of itself. Main Street needs everybody.”

Sommerer said she’s looking for work and a nearby place to live so her kids don’t have to change schools. She’d be happy to rent her former home from Fannie Mae if possible. “I was not raised to be a freeloader. I don’t want to be a freeloader. I will pay my way. I just need time to put it together,” she said in the video.

“Even if you do have to foreclose on someone, you can do it with a certain amount of compassion and humanity,” Soboleski said. “There’s a certain amount to be said for rules, but on the other hand we all want to live in a society where humanity matters more than bureaucracy.”

Not all of the Occupy actions have been successful. In Snellville, Ga., protesters failed to prevent the eviction of the Rorey family, who told the Gwinnett Daily Post they fell victim to a scam artist who promised them lower monthly payments in 2010. The difficulty of obtaining loan modifications since the collapse of the housing bubble has made it easy for scam artists to prey on desperate homeowners, who have been susceptible to claims that a hired “expert” knows secrets to obtaining loan mods they don’t.

Fannie Mae, which has owned the property since last year, said it works to prevent foreclosures.

“We have a Mortgage Help Center in Atlanta where homeowners can meet with a trusted housing counselor to discuss their mortgage situation and options to avoid foreclosure,” a Fannie Mae spokeswoman said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the homeowner did not seek assistance from our Help Center.”

Occupy protesters in Minneapolis hope they’ll have better luck with Monique White. Thirty or so protesters have been camping in her living room and kitchen, with some spilling out onto her lawn, since November 8.

“I’ve never had this many people in my house before. It gets kind of overwhelming sometimes,” White said. All the same, she added, “I appreciate everything that they’ve done for me.”

White fell behind on her payments in 2009. The following February, as she was trying to get a loan modification from U.S. Bank, she said, budget cuts cost her her job counseling at-risk kids for a non-profit. “That’s when everything started spiraling out.”

The Occupy protesters say U.S. Bank should cut White some slack.

“They just had record profits this quarter, and the CEO of US Bank, Richard Davis, just doubled his salary to $19 million,” said Nick Espinosa, 25. “So what we’re talking about with a family like Monique’s is pennies to them.”

Government-backed mortgage company Freddie Mac bought her house as a foreclosure in January, and U.S. Bank said what happens is now up to Freddie. Freddie Mac said White’s eviction has already been postponed and that the company was considering her for a program that would allow her to rent the property.

White said she has been working a part-time job at a liquor store and is desperately looking for new work.

“Basically what I’m looking for is for U.S. Bank to rewrite my loans in order for me to stay in my home and make it affordable for me,” White said. “I’m not asking for a handout. All I’m asking is for time or for Freddie Mac or U.S. Bank, whoever owns the house or is trying to take the house, to come to the table.”

 

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