With the "Occupy Our Homes" events, a movement sometimes criticized for lacking a clear message is focusing on issues - the plight of homeowners facing foreclosure and the lending practices of big banks - that showcase its message of economic inequality.
The Oakland protests, at which demonstrators "reclaimed" foreclosed properties, shouted down foreclosure auctions, waved banners outside banks, and held several rallies and marches, drew dozens of participants. The actions, some of them under the watchful eyes of deputy sheriffs or local police, were peaceful, although they included protesters entering and occupying foreclosed properties owned by banks or other institutions.
"We are diversifying, trying to address issues people find most problematic," said Julia Sebastian, an Oakland social justice activist and a member of Occupy Oakland's Home Defense Committee. "We want to put more pressure on banks and show how they caused this problem."
On Tuesday evening, Gayla Newsome, a technology salesperson and single mom of three daughters, stood in front of the West Oakland property that she lost to foreclosure in July after a divorce and job loss, and said "I've moved back in," as about 100 protesters chanted and waved signs in support. She declined to say how she regained access to the three-bedroom townhouse.
"I hope to bring visibility to this issue and get the bank to have a conversation with me," she said.
Millions of homesMore than 6 million homes have been seized by banks since 2007 and 8 million more are likely to undergo foreclosure over the next four years, according to a recent report by Michelle Meyer, Bank of America Merrill Lynch senior U.S. economist