Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘occupation of Alcatraz by Native American

Chased out? Changing strategy: Occupy Wall Street occupy Foreclosed residences

US City governments, backed by Israeli trained police forces, have continued to remove Occupy Wall Street protesters from their encampments. Occupy has responded to these ejections by changing its focus from public spaces toward private property: Foreclosed homes. You may get a taste of what’s going on

Never feel sorry: setbacks generate inventive tactics and greater resolutions. Occupying foreclosed residences is the answer to critics who have accused Occupy of lacking a political program.  Occupying foreclosed homes is guiding the Occupy movement to structuring stronger ties with working-class Americans.   Earlier social movements that employed similar tactics fall within this context.

To clarify the problem, these same banks, which received billions in bailouts showered on them by a federal government, have brazenly abused foreclosure procedures through practices like robo-signing. As numerous State courts have observed, abuse of the foreclosure process has been the rule rather than the exception. The bankers’ claims to foreclosed properties are morally suspect, and occupation of those properties directly confronts this illegitimacy.

Sonia K. Katyal and Eduardo M. Peñalver wrote (I edited slightly and re-arranged paragraphs):

“The sit-down strike movement began January 27, 1936, when workers at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. in Akron, Ohio, sat down on the job to protest the company’s suspension of an official in the workers’ union. Fifty-five hours later, the company capitulated, reinstating the union official with back pay and even compensating the strikers (at half-pay) for the time during which they occupied the plant. Successful imitation strikes were soon launched at other tire factories.

Workers were willing to use nonlethal force to defend their occupations, and they managed to repel attempts to forcibly remove them. The number of strikes mushroomed. In 1937 alone, roughly 400,000 workers participated in nearly 500 sit-down strikes. The GM sit-down strike in Flint involved tens of thousands of workers and was resolved just as the Supreme Court was hearing arguments in a pivotal case concerning the constitutionality of federal labor laws. Indeed, several legal historians attribute the court’s famous “switch in time” — upholding the National Labor Relations Act in the case of NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. — to the sit-down strikes.

A straight line runs from the 1930’s sit-down strikes in Flint, Michigan, to the 196o lunch-counter sit-ins, to the occupation of Alcatraz by Native American activists,  to Occupy Wall Street. Occupations employ physical possession to communicate intense dissent, exhibited by a willingness to break the power-to-be law and order of the oligarchic class and to suffer the violent of its “armed forces”.

Effective occupations, however, have managed to do more than convey intensity. They have crafted visible signs of the reality protesters hope to create, in order to spurring legal change. The sit-down strikes in Flint laid the groundwork for the enforcement of federal labor laws; the lunch counter sit-ins led to the enactment of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and the Alcatraz occupation paved the way for a milestone reversal in Federal Indian policy: President Nixon was to support tribal self-determination.

Sonia K. Katyal

Sonia K. Katyal
Eduardo Peñalver

Eduardo Peñalver

A generation later, the 1960 sit-ins began as seemingly spontaneous lunch-counter occupations by college students in Greensboro, North Carolina. They quickly spread to dozens of cities throughout the South.  The extremely controversial lunch-counter occupations are currently “canonized”, even among African-American civil-rights veterans. For example, Supreme judge Thurgood Marshall was furious with the students for violating private property rights in a way that he opposed in principle and he feared that this civil disobedience might generate a backlash.

Despite Marshall’s worries, the students were more successful than anyone could have hoped. They were well-organized and committed to nonviolence, and their quiet discipline was only made more visible by the hoodlums who frequently assaulted them. Their actions smoothed the road for the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which also prohibits racial discrimination at lunch counters.

Although political theorists typically make room in their accounts of democratic politics for principled disobedience, most distinguish conscientious lawbreaking from disobedience motivated by self-interest. But the categories of self-interested and conscientious lawbreaking are not easily separated. Moreover, far from discrediting acts of disobedience, an intermingling of the strategy of principled lawbreaking with a degree of self-interest can actually render a protest more intelligible to non participants.

Many observers lamented that the Occupy Wall Street protests is lacking of an obvious connection between their disobedience (the occupation of parks and streets) and their political and economic complaints. This is why Occupy’s turn toward foreclosed housing is so important.

While it takes heroic acts of imagination to connect the dots between the occupation of Zuccotti Park and worries about economic inequality, political corruption and the excessive power of banks, the connection between these issues and the occupation of foreclosed housing is obvious:  A great deal of America’s vacant housing sits in the hands of the very financial institutions whose profiteering brought us the current Great Recession.

Not content with the billions in bailouts showered on them by a federal government that seems beholden to their interests, those institutions have resisted efforts to get them to restructure underwater mortgages.

The ejection of the Occupy Wall Street protesters from public spaces may, in the long run, work to the movement’s benefit. In shifting their efforts away from public parks and toward foreclosed homes, Occupy is forging a tighter link between its acts of occupation and its political objections.

This unforeseen good alternative will ultimately enhance the effectiveness of its message. It also brings Occupy Wall Street more closely into line with the most effective occupation movements of the past century”. End of quote

What do you think? How about occupying fancy residences not inhabited by the filthy rich and let the supreme court decide on the justice and fairness of vacant homes prohibited to be dwelt in by homeless citizens…

In around 1880, Chicago witnessed a monster demonstration by workers demanding an 8-hour work day.  A home-made bomb exploded and injured a few police men.  The authority condemned 5 innocent workers and hung them.  Many years later, the innocent martyred workers Albert Parsons, Adolf Fisher, George Engel, August Spies, and Louis Lingz (23 years) were deemed innocent and a monument was erected for them called “The Martyrs Grave” or Martyrs Tomb?  Most probably, the State government wanted urgently to set an example to the growing workers’ activism.

Note 1: Sonia K. Katyal is the Joseph M. McLaughlin Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. Eduardo M. Peñalver is a professor of law at Cornell Law School. Their book, “Property Outlaws: How Squatters, Pirates and Protesters Improve the Law of Ownership,” was published last year by Yale University Press.

Note 2: You may read

Note 3




May 2023

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