Earlier today, the joint foreclosure committee featuring members of Occupy Denver and the Colorado Progressive Coalition successfully stopped a local foreclosure auction at the Wellington Webb Building -- for fifteen minutes. And while the group's success cannot be judged an overwhelming success, it is the first step in its plan to impact the city's foreclosure practices. Their hopeful final step: To stop them from happening altogether.
Today marks the second event involving the committee formed in mid-December, but its first direct action. In preparation for visiting the auction, the fifty people involved came to a group consensus that none of the fifteen who protested today would risk being arrested. Because they intended for their first mission to be based in research for the future, they hoped to set a first impression of nonviolence.
"So we didn't shut it down. But now that we know what it looks like and feels like inside, we're going to plan to stop them entirely in the future," says Jenny Weyel, a community organizer for the Colorado Progressive Coalition. "It was really invigorating, and we managed to ruffle some feathers inside."
Beginning at 10 a.m., the small task force stopped by the Webb Municipal Building with the full knowledge that its members would shortly be asked to leave it. Because the public trustee's office operates under a strict code of conduct -- attendees must remain seated and refrain from communication with neighbors -- the foreclosure group was rapidly and systematically asked to evacuate the premises.
Individually, volunteers stood up to interrupt the auction by sharing their personal stories with the issue or singing a song. From there, the auction's monitor tapped each interrupter on the shoulder until the entire group had left after roughly fifteen minutes. It's a small first step, says Weyel, but a step nonetheless.
Victoria Garcia, a nonprofit worker who has been fighting foreclosure for three years, spoke out about her own economic battle before reinforcing the group's belief in large-scale changes to the financial system.
"A lot of people think you can't be in a home if you can't make the payments. But the argument we're really making is that the economy in its current state is not really representative of actual home values," Garcia says. "Especially with changing interest rates, it's not nearly as simple as all that. There are a lot of other economic issues that need to be taken into account."
Garcia's active struggle with the foreclosure status of her home near Colfax and Sheridan began when she lost her job three years ago. Since then, she says she has been underemployed, and joining the CPC and Occupy Denver volunteers in the joint foreclosure working group has encouraged her legal battle. Garcia estimates that at least half of the task force's fifty members are currently facing foreclosure.
In the coming weeks, the group has set its sights on following the example of those U.S. occupations that have physically e-occupied foreclosed properties. At the moment, the group is organized into four subcommittees devoted to different aspects of the spectrum: outreach, direct action, education and legal work.
"There is already a common awareness in the sense that we know about it on the national issue and read about it in the paper all the time. But we want to translate the numbers into real-life people and anecdote and actions," Garcia says. "I want to take some homes back."
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Here's a video of the group's protest this morning.