Occupy Minnesota fights the banks

Organization builds a tight-knit national community while preventing foreclosures

"This is costing money — money that could be used for roads and schools, especially after we're told repeatedly that there is no money for public services," said Occupy's Newby. "If that's the case, why are we using public funds to arrest peaceful protestors? In the Cruz case, it cost over $40,000 in public money to pay police overtime and fees to carry out these evictions."

With PNC Bank unwilling to budge, Alejandra and David Cruz traveled to the bank's corporate offices in Pittsburgh as part of a nationwide Occupy Homes day of action, but were unable to secure a deal.

Meanwhile, in south Minneapolis, 13 demonstrators, including hip-hop artist Brother Ali, voluntarily crossed a police line in solidarity with the Cruz family's struggle and were arrested.

Monique White
Peter Leeman
Monique White
Bobby Hull
Peter Leeman
Bobby Hull

In mid-October the Cruz house was put on the market, and Occupy returned to hold a series of candlelight vigils. PNC Bank had shown a willingness to negotiate, but Freddie Mac refused to budge.

Occupy has begun to realize that the bigger impediment to compromise isn't the banks but the national lenders Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Edward DeMarco, who directs the Federal Housing Finance Agency, declared that he wouldn't allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to participate in a White House program that provides principal reduction for troubled homeowners. In response, liberal groups and Democratic politicians have called for President Barack Obama to fire him.

With a new target in mind, Occupy activists traveled to Freddie Mac's headquarters in Washington, D.C., in late September along with more than 100 homeowners from around the country who face eviction at the hands of Freddie Mac. The Minnesota delegation included Anthony Newby, Sara Kaiser (who lost her south Minneapolis home a year ago), Bloomington veteran John Vinje, and Bobby Hull, who refused to stop agitating even though he won his house in February.

"One of the most exciting things about this movement is that it's not only the people who are facing eviction, it's people who have won their house, and are still fighting for others," explained Newby. "Bobby Hull was as excited as anybody to go to D.C. and deliver a direct message."

The trip to the nation's capital was bigger than the fight for John Vinje or Sara Kaiser's house, or to get Edward DeMarco's attention. With a presidential election now just weeks away, this was a deliberate bid by the Occupy movement to thrust the issue of home foreclosures onto the national stage.

"We need to make housing an issue in this election, because right now it's not," says Nick Espinosa. "Both Democrats and Republicans have essentially the same housing policy, and both parties are in danger of alienating [the public] if they continue to serve the banks and not the people." 

Jacob Wheeler has covered the Occupy Homes movement for the past year for TheUpTake.org.
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