I’ve been covering the foreclosure crisis for a long time, and for most of that period, it was a lonely backwater. It’s harder than you would think to get the traditional media interested in the systematic theft of homes. But at least for one day, the nation’s attention may move to this sad circumstance.
In dozens of cities across the country today, members of the Occupy movement will participate in a national day of action known as Occupy Our Homes, with rallies, street actions, and mainly the defense of properties facing foreclosure. In New York City, the group Organizing for Occupation is leading the way. We’ve seen several isolated incidents of protesters occupying foreclosed homes, to save the owners of the house from eviction. This is the first coordinated day of action.
As I’ve been saying, this is a natural evolution of the Occupy movement. The history of America suggests that protests involving occupations of public space do not last very long before police take them out, often with force. The history of America also suggests that the movements evolve and grow, shifting to a new set of tactics with more foot soldiers.
Given a political system vulnerable to challenge and strong internal organization the main challenge confronting insurgents is a preeminently tactical one. Lacking institutionalized power, challengers must devise protest techniques that offset their powerlessness. This is referred to as a process of tactical innovation. Such innovations, however, only temporarily afford challengers increased bargaining leverage. In chess-like fashion, movement opponents can be expected…to neutralize the new tactic, thereby reinstituting the power disparty…
As these figures show, peaks in movement activity tend to correspond to the introduction and spread of new protest techniques. The pattern is a consistent one. The pace of insurgency jumps sharply following the introduction of a new tactical form, remains high for a period of time, and then begins to decline until another tactical innovation sets the pattern in motion again.
Meanwhile, as this dynamic of power and resistance plays out, the power elite feel more and more pressure to calm the attack through political means, by listening to and acting on the demands of the protest movement. We saw this in the Progressive Era, during the New Deal and in the civil rights movement.
In this case, identifying an occupation movement with the foreclosure crisis makes perfect sense. Wall Street quite literally sustains itself through illegal foreclosures at this point. This is how they have decided to dispose of the toxic waste in the system, burdening the borrower with all the losses caused by fraud in the origination and securitization markets.
The thinking goes something like this: Our largest banks are too big to fail, and since we lack the will or the motivation to break them up or regulate them we must protect them at all costs. We’ve propped them up with TARP, quantitative easing, and $7.7 trillion in secret Federal Reserve loans, but they’re still shaky as hell. If we prosecute any of their executives, their stock prices will fall and they’ll collapse again. And they’ll take the entire economic system with them [...]
Resisting illegal foreclosures is a good first step. It brings attention to Wall Street’s criminality, venality, and plain old inhumanity toward the people they call their”customers” – but treat like serfs [...]
What about the millions of people who have suffered because of the banks’ predatory mortgage lending but aren’t behind in payments or in the foreclosure process? We need to re-open the debate about the fairness of forcing any underwater homeowners to pay underwater principal on homes that their banks knew, or should have known, were going to decrease in value. After all, the same conglomeration of banks and corporate media that demonize homeowners as “greedy” and “irresponsible” spent most of the last twenty years convincing people that real estate was a sure-fire investment.
Resistance to illegal foreclosures should be a staple of this movement. It is no different than a citizen’s arrest, blowing the whistle on the theft of a home. Banks who cannot prove ownership of a property force people onto the street so they can steal the home and sell it for money to which they should not be entitled. The possibilities for activism around that are endless. And we will see a lot of that today, and hopefully in the future.
Rachel Maddow segment: Occupy defends the homefront