Booted from their makeshift shantytowns across the nation, Occupy Wall Street has set its sights on a new crusade and it could get ugly.
Today, in dozens of cities across the nation, the spin-off movement dubbed Occupy Our Homes will unite Occupy Wall Street supporters and local housing activists to "liberate" vacant government- and bank-owned properties and move in families without homes in a National Day of Action that sounds a bit like a modern-day version of Robin Hood.
"We're going to open them up and move a family in," says Max Rameau, member of Take Back the Land, a national network of organizations dedicated housing and land issues. "Right now banks are occupying those homes, and we're going to liberate [the homes]."
"We call these campaigns live-ins instead of sit-ins," Rameau adds, harkening back to the Civil Rights era of lunch-counter occupations. "We think housing is a human right and the fundamental purpose of housing should be to provide homes for human beings, not to make profits for corporations."
And much like their Occupy Wall Street brethren, protesters won't shy away from breaking the law to get their point across. Rameau is very frank when describing what's involved in "liberating" a home.
"We identify vacant, government-owned and foreclosed homes," he says. "We break into them and we move people without homes into homes without people."
Protesters also plan to physically prevent police from evicting families from their homes and disrupt auctions selling off foreclosed homes. In New York City--the birthplace of the Occupy movement--supporters will trudge through a Brooklyn neighborhood on a "foreclosure tour," taking stock of properties to help families "reclaim foreclosed homes in their neighborhood," a release said. A more sedate gathering in foreclosure-ridden Florida will hold a candlelight vigil to focus attention on predatory lending.
The point? To raise awareness about the dishonest banking practices that led to the housing bubble and, arguably, the continued economic sluggishness and financial misery the United States faces, movement organizers say. But, evicted from their own makeshift homes and failing to move the needle on the corrupt banking practices through Occupy Wall Street, it seems activists are switching gears, bringing the fight back home to the root of the crisis and the core of the suffering.
"The Occupy movement is now evolving," Rameau says. "Occupy is still going after the banks, but they're saying, 'We're taking over these houses as a way of getting back at the financial sector.'"