Occupying Homes and Hartford

Protesters at Occupy Hartford.

Several months ago when the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has spawned Occupy protests across the globe, critics predicted that activity would slow, particularly in Zuccotti Park, as winter neared.

Despite the mass arrests by police all over the world, and despite attempts by law enforcement to dismantle encampments, the movement has endured, taking on myriad faces.

In New York City, where the movement first began in September, protesters have adopted a new tactic that focuses on foreclosures, which have been rife since the housing bubble burst a few years ago.

Rather than taking to the streets, Occupy protesters have started occupying foreclosed homes, specifically the homes of people who are about to be evicted because of foreclosure. The movement has been dubbed “Occupy Our Homes,” and seeks to place blame on big banks for precarious and “shady” mortgage practices that encourage risky loans, allow highly speculative investing, take taxpayer money for bailouts and carry out illegal evictions.

As a result, a new mantra has arisen from this new offshoot of the movement: “Foreclose on banks, not people.”

Since Tuesday, December 6, the Occupy Our Homes movement has attempted to open already foreclosed homes and install homeless families in them, in addition to keeping families in homes that are about to be foreclosed.

Through the use of Twitter and other social networking sites, in addition to the tight-knit network of Occupiers across the country, Occupy Our Homes has taken place in more than twenty-five United States cities. In Atlanta and Seattle, the new movement has actually had some success in getting banks to delay foreclosures and work with their clients on loan modifications.

In Washington, D.C., protesters do not seem to have let up. This past Wednesday, December 8, at least sixty protesters were arrested on K Street NW, which is a historic lobbying hub. Occupiers blocked four key intersections, shutting down the street for much of Wednesday afternoon. Protesters joined with the group “Take Back the Capitol,” a union-backed group that sought to highlight the impact of lobbying firms that represent corporate interests.

And while the fervor of Connecticut College’s latest group, CC Dissent, seems to have dissipated as of late, the group has moved its efforts downtown, joining the local New London movement.

CC Dissent Organizer Mihir Sharma ’12, is working on a facility working group with Len Raymond and Ronald Steed, both New London residents. They plan to visit Occupy Hartford next Thursday, reflecting the group’s commitment to supporting other local movements.

In the group’s last General Assembly, they decided to continue working locally over the winter, so there will be two general assemblies, allowing New London residents to continue collaborating with working groups.

The New London movement is becoming increasingly diverse, as several students from Norwich High School and Three Rivers Community College recently joined the local effort.

In terms of efforts on campus in the coming semester, Sharma said he knows of a few avenues where the group can act, but that “action is the tough part.”

“Can we take a stand to support the service staff at Conn to address the pressing issues concerning contracts and wage rates?” he said, hinting at future projects. •

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