Occupy movement – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop https://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.13 More on movement building https://www.newstips.org/2012/05/more-on-movement-building/ Thu, 24 May 2012 21:31:11 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6289 For those interested in  more on the discussion of movement building featured yesterday, we’ve posted Mel Rothenberg’s paper at the CANG8/Occupy Counter-Summit on Labor and Occupy: Insights from Wisconsin, which fleshes out his analysis.

]]>
From 1968, a long view on movement building https://www.newstips.org/2012/05/from-1968-a-long-view-on-movement-building/ https://www.newstips.org/2012/05/from-1968-a-long-view-on-movement-building/#comments Wed, 23 May 2012 18:16:09 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6265 After demonstrators were arrested and roughed up in an unsuccessful attempt to march to McCormick Place on Sunday, I thought it would be interesting to check in with Mel Rothenberg.  He has the distinction of leading the only demonstration that succeeded in marching to the International Ampitheatre, where the Democratic National Convention was being held, in 1968.

Now a retired professor, Rothenberg has been politically active through the intervening decades, most recently with Chicago Jobs With Justice and the Chicago Political Economy Group.  This gives him a long view on movement building and social change. (He and I worked together on the Chicago bureau of the Guardian, the independent radical newsweekly published in New York, in the 1980s.)

Chicago 1968 “was very different,” he says.  “It was a shock.  Everybody, the demonstrators and cops, were uncertain about what would happen.” At last weekend’s NATO protest, “both the authorities and the demonstration organizers had much more control of the street action, and the media had already orchestrated its coverage ahead of time.”

Big differences

“In 1968 the mayor was completely unprepared and the city was completely on edge,” he says.  In contrast to media pre-coverage this time – featuring scary headlines which almost surely depressed turnout – in 1968 “the media was trying to keep things calm, pretending nothing was going to happen.”

Also different was the police department: “In ’68 there was a lot of overt racism in the department — the Klan was operating openly; there were conflicts within the police department.” There had been major riots in Watts, Detroit, Newark. “The authorities were in a panic.  There were National Guard and state police, and it looked like for a while that the city would be put under martial law.”

Rothenberg helped organizet the Bourbaki Brigade, a contingent of mathematicians, who marched about 100-strong through Bridgeport to the Ampitheatre at 42nd and Halsted.  “It was very tense,” he recalls.  “There were neighborhood thugs threatening us, and the police in between, both protecting us and threatening us.”

The police “were making decisions on the spur of the moment – they didn’t know what was happening either – and they decided to let us through; we were a small group and not very threatening, mathematicians, college professors.”

The next day was supposed to be the big march to the convention site.  “It was supposed to be peaceful.  We brought our kids.”  A huge crowd gathered in the park across from the Conrad Hilton, and someone (later revealed to be a police infiltrator) climbed the flagpole and took down the American flag.  “That was the signal, they attacked us, there was tear gas, there was chaos.”

A big flop

This year, he says, “I don’t think Obama or NATO came out very well.  All the attention was on the demonstrators. The summit was a big flop.”

“There was no popular support in Chicago for NATO, no outpouring of sentiment to support NATO.” And “no one except city officials and p.r. people thought it was going to help the city.  It was a bust from the point of view of helping the local economy or getting favorable international attention to Chicago.”

“About the only thing they accomplished was to avoid a disaster,” Rothenberg said.

As for the protests, they turned out thousands of people – certainly far more than the 2,000 reported by the police – and wove together a range of social concerns with the issues of war and militarization.

But Rothenberg says there needs to be more attention to building a sustainable movement that goes beyond occasional demonstrations to actually challenging and changing policies.

Much of the weekend’s youthful energy came from the Occupy movement, but that’s “very loose and not really coherent” – not so much due to a lack of clear demands as of “a clear strategy for bringing and  keeping people together,” Rothenberg said. “So they latch on to what’s happening.”

That can be been positive, connecting them to community issues.  But “before they can become the core of a sustained social movement they have to confront more clearly the basic issues of class, race, gender and militarism which drive American political conflict.”

Sustainability

He calls the Mental Health Movement, which led a huge march Saturday to Mayor Emanuel’s home in Ravenswood, “inspiring.”

“It has done so much” — mounting a vigorous, year-long fight against Mayor Emanuel’s attempt to close clinics – “with a very dedicated multi-racial group of mental patients and  very little money.  But it’s going to be hard to sustain the energy unless there are some victories fairly soon.”  (His wife, Marcia Rothenberg, a retired nurse, has been active in the campaign.)

He contrasts the Tea Party movement – heavily backed by corporations and millionaires, and in control of the Republican Party and the House of Representatives – with progressive issue-oriented activist groups, which get “only meager support  from labor unions”; meanwhile “labor donates millions of dollars to politicians who do little to advance progressive programs.”

The Tea Party “has organization and money.  The left has probably more of people’s sentiment behind it and more idealistic youth, but it doesn’t have organization,” he said.

The “black bloc” is one group that tries to step into that vacuum.

Black bloc

“I don’t think they’re that strong,” said Rothenberg.  “There may have had a couple hundred in the anti-NATO demonstration who are really committed, and there’s a fringe they hope can be moved on the spot to join them.

“They’re small but they are able to act together because they have an agenda, a strategy,” he says. “It’s an agenda with which I disagree.

“They believe that you can end oppression and injustice simply by denying the legitimacy of the state, refusing to follow the orders of the authorities.  I wish it were that simple, but it’s not.

“Until you have the majority of people behind you, denying the authority of the state simply makes you an outlaw. People might romanticize outlaws but most people don’t trust them, and they’re not about to join them.”

They “probably feel they accomplished their agenda” when news coverage focused on clashes with police.  “They wanted attention and they got it.”  But “they don’t have much of a strategy beyond that.”

“They feel like people are going to be fed up with peaceful mobilizations that don’t accomplish anything,” he said.  “They think that will somehow kick off something bigger.”

Instead “the left gets hurt and loses support.”  The images of violence are something the media “can exploit very effectively to discredit the left and any social movement.”

Still, “there is a problem with having the same old marches over and over that don’t accomplish anything.”

It is clear that  the Democrat Party  doesn’t provide any kind of alternative – and the Democrats of Illinois are a stark example, Rothenberg said.  They control the governorship, both houses of the legislature, and mayor’s offices in major cities, and  “they have no solution to the problems of the economic crisis at all.”

“The deal they cut with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to give them a tax break worth $100 million a year when the state is going through a financial crises is simply outrageous,” Rothenberg said. “They should be driven from office for that alone.  They do what the Republicans do but with another kind of rhetoric.

“My feeling is if you can bring in numbers of Occupy people. progressive activists and community groups like the Mental Health Movement, and bring in substantial support from labor, you would have the basis of a movement that could sustain itself.”  Without that, “it’ll be touch and go.”

 

Further reading: We’ve posted Rothenberg’s talk from the CANG8/Occupy Counter-Summit on Labor and Occupy: Insights from Wisconsin, which fleshes out some of the issues raised here.

 

]]>
https://www.newstips.org/2012/05/from-1968-a-long-view-on-movement-building/feed/ 7
King Day: Occupy the Fed, foreclosures, schools https://www.newstips.org/2012/01/king-day-occupy-the-fed-foreclosures-schools/ Sat, 14 Jan 2012 01:29:58 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5448 The civil rights movement, the Occupy movement, and community organizations will come together for a series of events marking Martin Luther King’s birthday this week, including a demonstration Monday at the Federal Reserve led by African American clergy including Rev. Jesse Jackson.

At the time of his assassination, King was organizing an “occupation” of Washington D.C., and after his death thousands of people occupied Resurrection City there from May 12 to June 24, 1968, demanding jobs, housing and an economic bill of rights.

In other King Day activities, housing rights groups are stepping up the drive to occupy foreclosures, and teachers and community groups are demonstrating against school “turnarounds.”

Over a thousand community activists are expected for an Occupy the Dream event (Sunday, January 15 at 3 p.m. at People’s Church, 941 W. Lawrence), where elected officials will be called on to support jobs and tax reform, including closing corporate tax loopholes and instituting a financial transaction tax.

It’s sponsored by IIRON, a regional organizing network that includes Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, Northside POWER, and the Northwest Indiana Federation. Occupy Chicago has endorsed the event.

“We are organizing in the tradition of the civil rights movement,” said Rev. Dwight Gardner of Gary, president of the Northwest Indiana Federation.

“In Dr. King’s very last sermon, he warned us not to sleep through a time of great change like Rip Van Winkle,” he said. “This is a moment of great change and we must put our souls in motion to occupy his dream.”

At the Fed: National Day of Action

Monday’s action at the Federal Reserve (Jackson and LaSalle, January 16, 3 p.m.) is part of a national day of action to “Occupy the Fed” by the Occupy the Dream campaign, with African American church leaders moblizing multicultural, interfaith rallies in 13 cities.  They’ll be emphasizing racially discriminatory practices by banks which have resulted in high foreclosure rates, as well as the issue of student debt.

“There needs to be economic equality, there needs to be jobs for all, there needs to be opportunities for the next generation,” said Rev. Jamal Bryant of Occupy the Dream.

“It’s consistent with the Poor People’s Campaign of holding people accountable who have benefited from the labor of working people and used their influence to create inequality,” said Rev. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago coordinator of the effort.

On Tuesday, Northside POWER and other groups will visit Bank of America (135 S. LaSalle) at 3:30 p.m. to demand help for a North Side family facing foreclosure; the bank has refused mediation for the family, which has applied for the Hardest Hit foreclosure relief program, said Kristi Sanford.

They’ll also visit Attorney General Lisa Madigan, demanding she withdraw from the proposed settlement of the robosigning fraud case by state attorney generals and the U.S. Department of Justice.  The settlement would fine banks “a pittance” and absolve them of all liability, Sanford said.  Attorney generals in New York and California have withdrawn.

Sanford said an effort to occupy a foreclosed home and launch an eviction resistance campaign is also underway.

Working the grassroots against eviction

Meanwhile, groups organizing against foreclosure and eviction have come together in the national network Occupy Our Homes, and they’ll go door-to-door Sunday and Monday, reaching out to families facing foreclosure and their neighbors.

Training sessions for canvassers will be held on Sunday, January 15 at 10 a.m. in Albany Park (at Centro Autonomo, 3630 W. Lawrence) and Monday at 10 a.m. on the South Side (Sankofa Center, 1401 E. 75th) and the West Side (a foreclosed property at 2655 W. Melvina and the Third Unitarian Church, 311 N. Mayfield), and volunteers will canvass those areas from 11 to 3 on the respective days.

Homeowners will be connected with legal resources and encouraged to consider staying in their homes after foreclosure, said Loren Taylor of Occupy Our Homes.

The foreclosure process is unfairly stacked toward lenders, banks have engaged in “massive, massive fraud,” and the banks which refuse to help homeowners have received government bailouts in the trillions of dollars, Taylor said.

Participating groups include the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, and the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, which has worked with renters in foreclosed buildings.

School marches mark King’s Chicago legacy

Also Monday, demonstrations against educational inequality – and against school “turnarounds” – will take place in areas made famous by Martin Luther King’s 1966 Chicago campaign.

At 10:30 a.m., the Chicago Teachers Union and community allies will march for education justice and “quality schools for all” at Marquette Elementary, 6550 S. Richmond, just south of the park where King was hit by a brick while marching for fair housing in 1966.

Today the school is 99 percent black and Latino – and slated for a “turnaround” by Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL). CTU argues that all schools should have small class sizes, a well-rounded curriculum, and supportive services.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Blocks Together and other supporters of Casals Elementary, 3501 W. Potomac, will go door-to-door to inform neighbors of parent efforts to stop the transfer of that school to AUSL.

And at 1 p.m. on Monday, North Lawndale residents including members of Action Now will hold a press conference and march from Dvorak Elementary, 3615 W. 16th, past the site where King lived in Lawndale in 1966, to Herzl Elementary, 3711 W. Douglas.  They’re opposing Herzl’s “turnaround” by AUSL – and they fear Dvorak is next, said Aileen Kelleher of Action Now.

Parents maintain that CPS neglects neighborhood schools serving low-income minority children, setting them up for failure so they can be turned over to AUSL or charter schools, Kelleher said

]]>
Occupy Homes targets bank’s bad faith https://www.newstips.org/2011/12/occupy-homes-targets-banks-bad-faith/ Thu, 08 Dec 2011 01:27:50 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4998 Just as the Occupy movement gives voice to the widespread perception that our economic system isn’t fair and  doesn’t work for ordinary people, the growing movement to occupy homes responds to a foreclosure crisis caused by banks that are unresponsive and unfair to homeowners.

Case in point:  Sherri Norris.  She’s one of thousands of homeowners who’ve made good faith efforts to deal with mortgage troubles and been stonewalled and misled by banks.

Thursday she’ll announce that, with the support of her neighbors and of Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, she’s staying in her home, despite an eviction order.

The announcement is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, December 8, at her home at 2029 S. 17th Avenue in Broadview, a near-west suburb.

For over ten years, according to CAUFE, Norris made her mortgage payment every month, totalling over $70,000 in payments.  In the summer of 2008 she began struggling and wrote the bank a hardship letter.  US Bank suggested a modification and subsequently offered six trial modifications, charging up to $4,000 in upfront fees each time – but never making a modification permanent.

In 2010 she sought a modification under the government’s Making Homes Affordable program.  She says a bank official requested more documentation from her on November 27 of that year, and when she checked back two weeks later, she was told her home had been sold at auction.

According to CAUFE, US Bank then bought the property back for $33,000 – less than half of what Norris paid over them for it over 13 years.

Bank got bailed out

Simon Swartzman of CAUFE points out that in 2008, at the same time Norris was asking US Bank for help, the bank was going to the federal government for help, getting a $6.6 billion bailout.

“At the same time she was going to them for help – and they said they were helping, but they weren’t doing anything except taking her money – they were going to the government for help, and they were getting money on both ends,” he said.  “So when the bank asks for help, or when one of us asks the bank for help – either way they make money.”

Occupying homes is a way of forcing banks to negotiate, Swartzman said.  “It’s effectively going on strike,” he said, and if enough people do it, “it’s how we’ll get collective bargaining.”

In a letter to the bank, Norris said she wants them to “negotiate in good faith,” saying she wants to buy her home back – at its current value, and with a fixed-rate mortgage.  But, she says, she’s not leaving.

She’s been knocking on doors and finding much support among neighbors, Swartzman said. He estimated that there are 100 to 150 homes in the foreclosure process within her immediate neighborhood.

]]>
Occupying foreclosures https://www.newstips.org/2011/12/occupying-foreclosures/ Wed, 07 Dec 2011 00:12:42 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4995 Abandoned homes being occupied in Belmont Cragin and Auburn Gresham on Tuesday – part of a national day of action called by Occupy Our Homes – underscore the failure of banks to deal with the foreclosure crisis.

In Belmont Cragin, Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction are moving two homeless sisters and their children into a single family home that was abandoned sometime after foreclosure was filed in 2009.  The group couldn’t determine whether a final disposition has been made on the property.

They think it could be one of the thousands of “red flag” properties, where banks and loan servicers “may choose to reduce the costs associated with a long-term vacant home by walking away from the foreclosure process instead of completing it” in order to evade the costs and legal reponsibilities of ownership, according to a Woodstock Institute report (see earlier post).

In Auburn-Gresham, kicking off its “Homes for the Holidays” drive, the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign is moving a family which lost its home to foreclosure into a home that was abandoned by a longtime resident after JP Morgan Chase refused to consider a loan modification.  The owner gave the keys to AEC, which like CAUFE has done signficant repairs on the building.

Foreclosures have continued to climb over the past two years, since the Obama administration promised to help millions of troubled homeowners.  But because their program allowed for voluntary participation by banks – instead of requiring institutions that had been bailed out to give affordable modifications to qualifying homeowners – it has helped only a small portion of those initially targeted.

Meanwhile lenders widely noted for being unresponsive to homeowners have now acknowledged extensive fraud in foreclosure filings.

In Austin, South Austin Coalition is taking over and boarding up an abandoned building that’s hosted extensive criminal activity less than a block from May Elementary School.  The building was foreclosed on by Citibank, said Elce Redmond of SAC.

“We’re going to go after the bank to pay for the boardup,” Redmond said.  “Longterm we want to pressure the banks to turn these homes over to community organizations and churches so we can rehab them and put families in them.”

“We have so many unemployed people and so many vacant properties,” said Willie JR Fleming of AEC.  “It’s obvious we need to put people to work rehabbing them so we can put families back in them.”

Fleming emphasizes that “we are enforcing the human right to housing.  We are not asking for human rights.  We are enforcing them.”

Occupy Our Homes reports similar actions “to stop and reverse foreclosures” in 25 cities on Tuesday, as “the Occupy movement joins with homeowners and people fighting for a place to live.”

]]>