Occupy protesters settle into another foreclosed home despite arrests [PHOTOS] [UPDATE]
Protesters form a human chain around a foreclosed home
Occupy protesters moved into a foreclosed south Minneapolis home Saturday night.
The protest almost failed at the beginning: Two occupiers were arrested after police descended on the house to evict the demonstrators.
But the rest of the group retook the home, forming a human chain around the house before police could board up the building. The cops left and protesters moved back inside for the night. Their ranks swelled throughout the evening as text messages spread the word that an action was ongoing.
A few dozen protesters moved into 3334 25th Ave. S. around 2:30 in the afternoon. The house was formerly owned by Sára Kaiser, pronounced "Shara," an adjunct professor of anthropology at several universities in the Twin Cities (including the University of Minnesota). Occupy Minnesota wants to help Kaiser reclaim her home and bring attention to the foreclosure crisis.
Michael Bounds was arrested by Minneapolis police Saturday night
Cops showed up around 5 and ordered the protesters to leave the house. Most complied with the order, but not Michael Bounds, known as Panda, who sat inside on the stairs just behind the front door. Bounds was arrested.
Fellow protester Devin Wynn blocked the squad car, which began driving over him before cops got out and pinned him to the hood, under arrest, as demonstrators chanted "the whole world is watching!" The arrest was broadcast online.
The arrests led to much soul-searching inside the house as demonstrators held a long meeting to discuss their occupation plans. Dozens of protesters sat against the empty home's naked walls.
"We almost lost the house," said Scott H., a protester who declined to give his last name for the record.
Protesters discussed tactics for handling future engagements with the police.
Devin Wynn was arrested outside the south Minneapolis home
Several occupiers were tasked with guarding the doors while others discussed possibly creating a human chain next time police arrived. Protesters stationed outside came in to give sporadic updates on the police presence in the neighborhood. Several squad cars hung out around the block.
Many protesters expressed concern about the logistics of being arrested: how long they might be in jail, what the bail process looks like, and what they might be charged with. Word going around the house was that Bounds had been charged with felony burglary, though Bounds was charged with trespassing while Wynn was charged with obstruction of justice.
But there was a general resolve to hang onto the home for as long as possible.
People introduced themselves to each other and gave their reasons for participating in the protest. Several spoke of being moved by Occupy and wanting to combat inequality, injustice, and poverty.
"There isn't enough transparency in the world," said Kendra Sundvall, a photojournalist.
Others called it the "right" and "logical" thing to do.
"Apathy is boring," said Lindsey Kuehl, a nurse.
Ty Moore and Camille Roberts helped organize discussion and planning inside the house
Camille Roberts and Ty Moore led the meeting and set ground rules at the house.
The rules were created, in part, due to difficulties encountered during the occupation of Monique White's foreclosed north Minneapolis home.
Drugs, alcohol, and "intoxication" are forbidden in the house; "quiet hours" begin at 10 p.m.; three warnings are given for disrespect and disruptiveness, followed by expulsion. The house will appoint at least one steward whose job will be to move people along.
"This movement is going to live or die based on how much community support we can build," Ty Moore said.
Shortly after, a couple neighbors of Sára Kaiser's arrived at the house to address the protesters. An unidentified female neighbor joined Mark Edwards in expressing concern over the protest next door.
"A mob scene scares our children," Edwards said.
Both Edwards and the unidentified woman suggested Sára Kaiser's problems were of her own making.
"I think it's important we not set thresholds," one protester shot back.
"We hear you," Moore told the neighbors, but he and Camille Roberts were rather curt with them. Several protesters stepped outside to talk with the neighbors after they'd made their points.
Edwards told City Pages he's sympathetic to the Occupy movement but thinks Kaiser hasn't done everything she could have done to keep from losing her home. He said she'd held "part-time jobs," a reference to her adjunct professorships.
He also said the protest was scary.
"It's a shock to the system when you get 60 people outside chanting, and cops," Edwards said. "It's not your normal Saturday."
Sára Kaiser's house was occupied by protesters who hope US Bank will renegotiate her loan
Kaiser herself showed up about an hour later and explained her situation to City Pages.
Kaiser, 43, is a single mother to an 8-year old girl. She's a Hungarian immigrant who moved here in 1998. Kaiser put down 20 percent on the house, about $40,000, several years ago. $10,000 came from her grandmother's will in Hungary.
She said she'd been trying to renegotiate her mortgage with US Bank for a year and a half. The bank, she says, basically blew her off by offering her workshops on how to better manage her money.
"I don't even drive a car. I don't eat out," Kaiser said. "I buy used clothes, I use public transportation."
Eventually she defaulted and decided to move out of the house, abandoning it for an apartment. The house was empty when Occupy arrived Saturday afternoon.
Asked about Edwards's criticisms, Kaiser suggested that she's done everything she could to make a good-faith effort at modifying her loan and said there needs to be greater transparency in the banking industry.
"I didn't do anything wrong," Kaiser said. "I'm not morally responsible."
Kaiser addressed the protesters and thanked them. "Whose house? Sára's house!" chants broke out as the protesters began settling in for the long haul.
"We should leave feeling this aliveness," said Camille Roberts, one of the lead organizers. "What it means to be a citizen."
UPDATE (Sunday, 10PM): The occupation of Sára Kaiser's lost home was short-lived.
The Fire Department boarded up the home after cops kicked the protesters out this afternoon
Police arrived at the house a little after noon and kicked all the protesters out. They hung around while firefighters boarded up the building to keep protesters from returning.
Minneapolis police Sergeant John Sullivan told City Pages the protesters were peaceful and left the home without incident or arrest.
It's unclear what OccupyMN will do next. The group held an "emergency meeting" this evening to discuss the situation at the home in south Minneapolis and has been on the receiving end of criticism from activists. One person asked on the group's Facebook page: "so the plan was to occupy the home until the police asked people to leave, then leave?"
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