So much has been accomplished by Occupy and other social justice movements in the past two years that it is incredible that the corporate media and their pundits cannot see the reality of what is happening around them; perhaps they don’t want to or don’t want to admit it. Despite the lack of corporate media coverage, the movement is deepening, building democratic institutions, stopping some of the worst policies pushed by the corporate duopoly and building a broad-based diverse movement whose greatest days are ahead of it.
This is not to say things are getting better for the 99 percent, in fact quite the opposite. The momentum of big business government continues to funnel money to the top while robbing most Americans of the little wealth they had. More Americans are impacted by the unfair economy, and more realize that their struggle is not their fault but the reality of living in a system with deep corruption, dysfunction and built-in unfairness. Unfair economic impacts are the compost creating fertile ground for the movement to grow.
Too many commentators focus on the lack of encampments and think Occupy is dead. Camping out in public parks was a tactic – it was not the movement or the only tactic of the movement. Too many fail to look at what members of the Occupy community are doing along with other social justice, environmental and peace activists. We report on the movement every day at Popular Resistance, so we see lots of activity all over the country, on a wide range of issues, using a variety of tactics – and we see a growing movement having a bigger impact.
There were some two-year anniversary stories that got it right. Demos published an article “Seven Ways Occupy Changed America and Is Still Changing It,” which correctly noted how we changed the debate, revived progressive populism, spurred worker revolts and challenged capitalism. Rebecca Solnit, who has been active in Occupy and other movements, made important points on the two-year anniversary. Here’s one: “Those who doubt that these moments matter should note how terrified the authorities and elites are when they erupt. That fear is a sign of their recognition that real power doesn’t only lie with them.” Occupy taught us we have power, we can have an impact. And by building an ever-bigger movement, the power structure will shake.
Deeper and Broader Resistance Movement
The day before Occupy Wall Street’s second anniversary, we talked with three people involved in the movement since its beginning September 17, 2011. Each is still active, and their involvement shows how the resistance movement is deepening.
Laura Gottesdiener is the author of A Dream Foreclosed, which tells the stories of one of the most vibrant aspects of the Occupy – Occupy Our Homes – and groups like Take Back the Land and City Life Vida Urbana they work with to stop home foreclosures and evictions. Through a range of blockading tactics, these groups have kept hundreds of families in their homes. Gottesdiener puts the mass evictions of Americans in context – 10 million have been evicted since the crash began in 2007; that is more than the number of people living in Michigan. According to the Department of Treasury, the housing crisis has destroyed $19.2 trillion of US household wealth.
Not only do activists blockade homes to prevent evictions, but they take back vacant properties, fix them up and put families back in them – and successfully pressure banks to accept this. Preventing evictions is ongoing work, because the Center for Responsible lending reported in 2011 that we were not even halfway through the foreclosure crisis. Every month, thousands are still evicted and facing foreclosure. Gottesdiener drove across country to see the nationwide reality of the movement to stop foreclosures and evictions and saw it was broad and deep, especially in the African-American community, where people see this as part of a historic pattern of disenfranchisement. The old prejudicial practice of red-lining to keep blacks out of homes transformed into predatory lending to get them in debt and then take away their homes. The resistance movement is fighting back where the government has failed to act to stop this theft of wealth by the looting class.
We are finally seeing local governments beginning to do what cities across the country should be doing – fighting back to stop the decay of their cities caused by foreclosures and evictions. In Richmond, California, where there is a Green-elected mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, the city is moving toward using its power of eminent domain to first attempt to negotiate new mortgages to keep homeowners in their homes but, if that fails, seize the homes and remortgage them for the homeowners so they are affodable. Of course, there has been pushback by the banks and the Obama administration. But so far they are on course with a court dismissing a lawsuit against them. And, now other cities are considering this approach – including neighboring San Francisco. If more cities join this effort, it will be the best thing government has done for homeowners since the collapse began.