Occupy Homes Takes Fight to MN Capitol and Nationwide

Click on Photo to View Video of Occupy Homes Rally

What’s next for the burgeoning Occupy Homes movement? Should local activists continue to add — one by one — to the tally of foreclosed homes they are defending, as they continue to occupy Monique White’s house in North Minneapolis and ex-Marine Bobby Hull’s home in South Minneapolis? Or should they push to broaden the movement?

Anthony Newby, an activist with MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), who spoke at an Occupy community meeting at Green Central School in Minneapolis on Saturday, pushed for homeowners facing foreclosure to join forces across the country and hold a rally sometime in February, during which they would simultaneously refused to vacate their homes unless the banks make a good-faith effort to negotiate with them. Gathering 100 homeowners from around Minnesota together would be more effective than expanding the movement one by one, he opined.

Meanwhile, Leslie Parks, who successfully prevented banks from taking her home, announced a rally that the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout will hold on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at the Minnesota State Capitol — the first day of the 2012 legislative session. The Coalition will sponsor a bill for a two-year moratorium on home foreclosures.

“Do you want your homes and neighborhoods to be saved?” Parks asked dozens of activists gathered at Green Central. “Well then stand up, get involved, and make your voices heard now!”

According to Chris Gray, a teacher at Green Central, which offers Kindergarten through eighth grade, the families of roughly one in 10 students are homeless, and the home mortgage crisis has cost the school system $150 million. Diana Williamson of the Northside Community Reinvestment Coalition said that between 2008 and May 2011, the Minneapolis area saw 21,258 home foreclosures.

Bobby Hull: “When banks are in the monopoly business, I call that cheating,” said Bobby Hull, whose foreclosed home has been occupied since early December. “I want my money back!”

The Occupy Homes movement is growing. NOC activist Newby said that he has received calls from distressed homeowners throughout the rural Midwest, looking for help. Calls have come from Rochester, Bemidji, Cass Lake and Appleton, Wisconsin, in particular.

While activists in other U.S. cities have occupied foreclosed homes, Minneapolis has emerged as a leader, said Newby.

“People around the country are asking us what we’re doing. What’s the next plan? They’ve seen what we’ve done with Monique and with Bobby, and they’re asking what the strategy is going forward.”

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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