The Occupy movement deserves praise

The Occupy Wall Street movement has made a good move by focusing on foreclosed homes and boarded-up properties.

In Atlanta, activists noisily heckled and disrupted an auction of foreclosed homes. In Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and several communities in Southern California, protesters rallied around homeowners who were being foreclosed upon or on vacated buildings that could provide shelter.

In Brooklyn, in a neighborhood full of unused, foreclosed homes, activists staged a well-publicized rally and moved a homeless mother and children into a usable, relatively comfortable dwelling place.

Such actions, which took place in more than 20 cities, spotlighted the victims of America’s housing crisis. In 2010, banks set a new high in foreclosures, locking the doors to 3.8 million homes. According to a 2010 report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, in the 26 American cities studied, the rate of homelessness leapt by a dismaying 9 percent.

Many of the foreclosures resulted from predatory lending practices. And many homes could have been spared if the government had acted sooner in providing more substantial homeowner assistance or requiring a moratorium on foreclosures from any bank that was taking federal bailout funds.

With their actions on behalf of the foreclosed upon, the Occupy Wall Street movement is proving, once and for all, how different it is from the tea party movement.

The tea party movement began when CNBC’s Rick Santelli delivered a rant on television, ridiculing “the losers” who defaulted on their home loans. The “losers” — many of them victims of a corporate America swindle — are the very people whose homes the Occupy Wall Street protesters have begun to defend.

The analogy between the tea party and Occupy Wall Street was never an apt one, anyway. Occupy Wall Street remains leaderless and grassroots, while the tea party rallies featured charismatic figures, such as Sarah Palin, and were funded by the Koch brothers, who are billionaires.

Occupy Wall Street is of a different character. And it deserves credit for calling attention to how the home mortgage crisis damaged neighborhoods and stole from ordinary people.

• Wellington is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. Readers may write to the author at: Progressive Media Project, 409 East Main Street, Madison, Wis. 53703; email: pmproj@progressive.org; Web site: www.progressive.org.

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