Families Join the Occupy Movement as the 99 Percent Takes On the Housing Crisis

Families Join the Occupy Movement as the 99 Percent Takes On the Housing Crisis

A nine-year-old demonstrates with a picture of a home that Fannie Mae foreclosed on in Boston, October 10, 2011. (Photo: Lauren Metter, DIgBoston.com)

Kelly Shaw and her four children are not camped out with the rest of the Occupy Buffalo protesters because her house is only a few blocks away.

“We're camped out in our house. Luckily, we still live there,” Shaw said during a 30-person rally outside the JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America offices in downtown Buffalo, New York, on Tuesday, December 6.

Shaw and her kids are facing foreclosure on their home. She was current on her mortgage for two years, but earlier this year, JP Morgan Chase declared her in default after she requested to refinance and issued a few postdated checks so she could buy her children Christmas presents. But she's not going to give up her home without a fight, and she's counting on the small band of about 40 Occupy Buffalo activists to help her, even if that means bringing the occupation to her front yard.

On Tuesday, the Occupy Our Homes national day of action against foreclosure saw home occupations, civil disobedience actions and community events in more than 20 cities, reflecting a shift in focus from tent cities to local neighborhoods.

During a conference call with reporters last week, Occupy activists said the movement is decentralizing and becoming more tactically diverse after police raids ended tent-city-style occupations in cities across the country in recent weeks.

“Since the eviction of Liberty Square, what we've seen is a lot more autonomous action, and the meme, or model, is spreading,” said Occupy Wall Street activist Han Shan.

In mid-November, Occupy Cleveland prevented a family from being kicked out of their foreclosed home by occupying their yard. Activists in several other cities picked up the tactic, and now it's spreading across the nation.

A week ago, a giant police force raided Occupy LA, arrested 300 people and used bean bag guns and pepper spray to disperse the crowd. The raid did not deter Occupy LA. As part of the national day of action, participants set up encampments at the homes of a veteran with four children and of a disability advocate with cerebral palsy. Both are refusing to leave their foreclosed homes.

Sean Barry, an activist with VOCAL-New York and Occupy Wall Street, said 1,000 people marched through east New York City on Tuesday through neighborhoods that are “ground zero” for foreclosure. Barry said activists “liberated” an abandoned home that has been foreclosed since 2008 so a homeless family could move in. A renovation team is working to make the property livable and activists are providing “around the clock eviction defense.”

Back in Buffalo, where a small tent city still stands, Shaw's son Daniel stood in front of JP Morgan's offices with a mock check for $5 billion made out to the top 1 percent.

“She's the one who bought us Christmas presents,” he said of his mother.