Baltimore to evict Camp 83

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Several homeless people set up an encampment under an interstate overpass not far from Baltimore’s Housing Resource Center (HRC), the city’s biggest shelter. The city announced that it will evict Camp 83, as it’s known, on Friday, March 8 and arrest those who refuse to leave.

by Rob Brune

I visited Camp 83 for the first time yesterday evening. My old friend Beth from Occupy Baltimore greeted me. Supporters of the camp held signs opposing its eviction on March 8. At rush hour on a Wednesday, cars entering the ramp to I-83 honked in support.

Making my way into the camp, sandwiched between the I-83 ramp and the Baltimore City Central Booking building, I met Liam Dunaway. Liam is a student at a local college who has been researching the various homeless camps in Baltimore. He spoke of unhealthy conditions in the Baltimore Resource Housing Center (HRC) and challenges such as couples being split up. In contrast to the shelter, the homeless camp has provided a safer environment, according to Liam. Watch Liam’s explanation on live-stream.

Two students from the University of Maryland School of Social Work, Catherine and Kate, were at the camp talking to a resident, Mellow, and others who were about to be evicted. Both Catherine and Kate are members of a student organization called Housing Our Neighbors. (@HONFORHOUSING)

Camp_83As I was about to leave, a helicopter hovered over the Baltimore Housing Resource Center, and then at least half a dozen Baltimore City Police squad cars pulled up. All the while, it was nice and quiet at Camp 83. It seemed to me like an enormous amount of taxpayer money was directed toward harassing the homeless community instead of serving them.

When I approached the city-run shelter there appeared to be six police officers standing over one cuffed male behind the building. An ambulance approached. The parking lot security officer chased me away before I could ask any questions of the police.

Advocates for the homeless will gather at the encampment, on the west side of the 800 block of the Fallsway (across from Central Booking), at 6:00 am on March 8th to prevent the planned eviction and/or to help move their belongings into housing.

Occupy DC eviction at McPherson: Reflections on one year ago

by John Zangas

I stood by my tent late at night gazing up at the Tent of Dreams, its blue tarp billowing in the cold wind. Another occupier approached me. He said that police planned to raid the camp later that night. Just five days before, U.S. Park Police had warned us that they would start enforcing the statute against sleeping or possession of sleeping bags and blankets. Uneasily I went from tent to tent spreading the news. What would happen to our camp if there was a raid?

The warnings proved true: police arrived in legions before dawn and began cordoning off K Street and surrounding areas in every direction. It was February 4, 2012, the day that an overwhelming police force mobilized to evict Occupy DC from McPherson Square.

We occupied McPherson Square to protest structural socio-economic inequality. We didn’t camp to create conflict with police or local businesses, although the media portrayed us that way. It was easy for them to define us by appearance and not by purpose. We had carefully articulated our concerns, both from socio-economic and ecological standpoints, in our December 1st declaration.

Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Ethics committee, had called a hearing to question the National Park Service’s handling of the McPherson Occupation. But even if Congress had been friendly to our cause, it alone couldn’t resolve our concerns on behalf of the people. The very edifice of banking, Wall Street, commerce and government was the problem, we believed.

Published reports of bank and Wall Street misconduct and legal actions against them justified our actions: up to 90% of foreclosure transactions were fraudulent, according to whistleblower accounts. Rampant mortgage fraud and misconduct during the 2008-2010 foreclosure crisis resulted in a $25 billion settlement by five major banks. They did not have to admit wrongdoing.

Banks across the U.S. and Europe were involved in the LIBOR scandal, which fraudulently valued trillions in assets by fixing bank to bank loans while cheating borrowers in 2007. With knowledge of LIBOR irregularities, the U.S. Federal Reserve still loaned banks billions in interest-free TARP money in 2008.

Another major issue we stood for was action on global warming. There is ever-increasing scientific evidence of world climate change–catastrophic storms and new temperature records across the U.S. Meanwhile, measurements in ice-flow melting rates in Iceland and the Antarctic are accelerating at rates never before seen.

We were protesting all this and more and believed the people supported us, yet mainstream media was neglecting the vital issues.

We didn’t want to confront police, but when they came to McPherson Park to take down Occupy DC–as police had earlier that year evicted every Occupation in a major city–we couldn’t stop the freight train approaching at full speed.

That morning they stationed a tactical command center truck, positioned sharp shooters with scopes on rifles on building rooftops, deployed a fully armed paramilitary squad with tasers and automatic weaponry, and sent a horse cavalry onto the green. They erected truckloads of metal barricades around the perimeter and strung yellow tape. It was as if they came to fight a battle against a domestic terror group. But we had no weapons; we were a non-violent movement and they knew it.

They immediately removed the Tent of Dreams tarp from the statue of General McPherson and arrested four protestors at its base for “failure to obey” police orders. Several scuffles broke out and there were injuries, as police in full riot gear strategically moved throughout the camp dissembling tents, overwhelming the camp and its occupiers. Workers in white hazmat suits threw away most of the tents, and vehicles tore up rain-soaked ground. The park ground was ripped to tatters, mostly by the operation itself.

I stood in front between police and protestors, perhaps foolishly, in the role of a reporter taking pictures and videos until the last of my phone memory ebbed. The police ignored me. Teams of strong men slid metal barricades into place like fake movie props. As dusk approached and a drizzle fell, occupiers stood together as one at the People’s Library, singing songs of camaraderie, such as “I shall not be moved” and “We shall overcome.” Then there was a sudden push as police forced us out of the park and onto K Street. The Occupation had ended, or so we thought.

We held a spontaneous General Assembly and testified to the day’s experiences late into the rainy night. Washington D.C. now had dozens of new homeless on its streets. Word came from Luther Place Memorial Church that they would give us a place to stay.

I returned to the park early the next morning to an unrecognizable landscape. A few police were still there standing watch. I looked to where my tent one stood and found nothing but a deep furrow of mud dug by truck wheels. Nearly every tent and sign was gone. But the beloved People’s Library still stood! The books were untouched, still organized on their shelves.

I felt resignation and wondered how the movement had come to this. We believed the people supported us, especially those hurt by the repressive system of banks, Wall Street brokers, selfish CEO’s and a government corrupted by cozy relationships with them. But yesterday, where was our cavalry, where were the people? Had we failed?

I thought about our efforts to make the change our society so desperately needed: the meetings we held, the discussions, the classes, the hundreds of free meals prepared in our kitchen, the extraordinary time we put into the declaration of societal wrongs, and wondered if anything we had done had made a difference.

We challenged institutions and authority in a pitched battle of wills for four long months. Their final response was to send in a paramilitary force to shut us down. We had no weapons with us that day or any other day other than our will and perseverance.

In the coming months we continue to occupy the park in a limited way. We weren’t allowed to camp, but our library remained open and even a few tents stayed until June.

Noam Chomsky said that the Occupy movement “lit a spark” of awareness. Although we were evicted from the park, I believe that ultimately we had made a difference. We prevailed by standing up to the authors of a broken system. We showed others that it could be done.

U.S. Marshals breach Occupy Our Homes blockade, evict DC tenant

by The Lucie and John Zangas

Activists with Occupy Our Homes DC blockaded the entrance to Dawn Butler’s home in Washington, DC today in an effort to prevent U.S. Marshals from evicting her. The “eviction defense” resulted in a dramatic and sometimes violent confrontation between activists and law enforcement in which the front door was ripped from its hinges and several people were injured.

Occupy Our Homes DC took up the case of Dawn Butler, a tenant in northeast DC whose landlord has been foreclosed on by Chase Bank. By blocking the path of marshals, Occupy Our Homes intended to delay them long enough for Butler’s lawyer to obtain a stay of eviction in court. This is the second time that Occupy Our Homes, part of Occupy DC, has “defended” Butler’s home.  On April 2, Occupy Our Homes successfully intervened and prevented the Butler family from being evicted.

Although preparations were last-minute–the eviction order was only issued late the previous afternoon–Occupy Our Homes managed early Tuesday morning to hang a banner saying, “Eviction Free Zone” and erect a large barricade made of milk crates, to which three activists secured themselves with PVC piping.

Marshals didn’t seem to expect the blockade. They conferred for almost an hour and a half as more than 20 more officers, additional vehicles and a K-9 unit arrived. Movers hired by mortgage-holder JP Morgan Chase milled about on the sidewalk. When armed marshals forcefully moved in at 10:15am, they ordered protestors to step aside. After a locksmith removed the gate lock, officers struggled with Eli Greer, who had tied himself to the gate, then wrestled him onto the lawn along with several others.

A violent confrontation ensued as officers rushed the barricade, tugging at it until the door was ripped from its hinges. Protestor Ryan Lash was thrown down the steps, suffering scrapes and bruises to his side. Marc Smith was knocked unconscious and lay on the sidewalk for several minutes before being transported to the hospital by ambulance. One U.S. Marshal sustained a head wound when the flying front door hit him in the head.

“There was a lot of yelling,” organizer Sophie Vick said. “A lot of the protestors were roughed up.” No one was arrested; U.S. Marshals have no jurisdiction to make arrests. Chanting “Homes Not Banks!” and other slogans, protestors taunted officers throughout the eviction. An antsy marshal brandished a taser during the height of the confusion, and later another stood guard on the lawn with an M-4 rifle.

Hired workers removed Butler’s personal belongings in totes and plastics bags. Her mother, Anne, remained remarkably calm all morning, saying she believed they would ultimately prevail. Her composure was only disrupted momentarily when the sound of broken glass was heard from shifting piles of belongings lining the sidewalk. She lamented the breakage of antique sake glasses.

Occupy Our Homes DC has been working with several area residents to prevent wrongful foreclosures and evictions. Occupy DC legal counsels have represented Butler at the DC Superior Housing Court proceedings, which began in 2008 when she attempted to buy the home from her landlord, who had gone into foreclosure. Under the right of first refusal, District residents have the right to buy a property in which they already live.

More photos of the eviction here.

Occupy Our Homes DC: The right to housing

Retired paramedic Deborah Harris, after meeting with representatives at Chase Bank, with Ben Johnson (Photo by coolrevolution.net)

Occupy Our Homes–the offshoot of Occupy Wall Street working to prevent wrongful evictions and foreclosures–says on its website, “Everyone deserves to have a roof over their head and a place to call home. …We believe everyone has a right to decent, affordable housing.”

Child homelessness is now epidemic in the US. 2.3 million children are part of families who have lost their homes to foreclosure. Another 6 million children are in at-risk situations. According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, 1.6 million children had no home at all, living on the streets, or in shelters or motels. The correlation with the financial crisis is unmistakable; child homelessness is up 33% in the last years.

“Home ownership tends to be the price of admission to top-quality public education,” writes Peter S. Goodman on HuffPost. But what chance does a kid have at an education if she doesn’t have a home at all?

From many of the activists behind Occupy Our Homes DC, I hear an underlying theme. The conversation always starts with stopping wrongful evictions and foreclosures, but it soon gets around to the right to housing.

“Before anything else, people need homes,” says Mike Isaacson, who risked arrest today when he refused to leave the lobby of the Chase Home Loan Modification offices. He sat on the floor and quietly texted to other Occupy Our Homes activists on the upper floors. They were trying to gain a negotiation meeting on behalf of Deborah Harris, a retired paramedic who faces foreclosure on her home.

“We’re stopping the eviction of tenants and homeowners fallen on hard times,” Isaacson continued. “But it’s really about housing in general. Everybody has a right to housing.”

In our society, the right to housing is a revolutionary idea. If you can’t pay, you don’t get shelter. That’s the way it works.

Laura Lising, also of Occupy Our Homes, put it this way in front of the Freddie Mac headquarters on 7th Street: “Banks don’t need houses.” Freddie Mac bought Deborah Harris’ mortgage from Chase and is still aggressively pursuing foreclosure. “There are more empty houses than homeless people by far. We believe that housing is a human right,” Lising said.

Gary Nelson, a Baltimore firefighter attending the protest in solidarity with his fellow emergency responder, said, “I think everybody has had somebody foreclosed on or in danger of it. These things must change.”

The human cost of mass evictions and foreclosures can’t be calculated. If 8 million children grow up homeless–without stability, community and safety–we’ll pay the price for generations.

For more information, about Deborah Harris and Occupy Our Homes’ effort to stop foreclosure on her home, go here.

Occupy Our Homes in the lobby of JP Morgan Chase offices in Washington, DC (Photo by coolrevolution.net)
  • Occupy Our Homes gains foreclosure negotiation with Freddie Mac (coolrevolution.net)
  • Occupy Our Homes, low-income tenants object to development plan in Alexandria (coolrevolution.net)

This is not an eviction

Captain Phil Beck backpedals on “negotiation” at McPherson Square, February 4, 2012.

(Image by Mike Isaacson)

Occupy Asheville camp evicted

Image by Megan Dombroski

Police in Asheville, NC cleared Occupy Asheville last night after the city passed new ordinances specifically to address the camp.

Occupy DC: The day after the raid


McPherson Park was muddy on Sunday and reeked of manure left by horses of the mounted Park Police from the previous day’s raid. Two mounted police remained and kept a relaxed vigil near the stacks of steel barricades, while Park Service workers scraped mud off of the sidewalks.

The park was significantly cleared out but several individual tents still stood, mainly on the west side of the park. People clustered around the library, untouched after being vigorously defended the day before.

A well-attended General Assembly gathered on the south lawn at 4pm.

(Images by coolrevolution.net)