(This is the conclusion of a two-part post.)
Transgressing property rights
When things get desperate, people often find they have to ignore established property relations.
In the early 1930s, unemployed organizations used direct action to halt evictions. Journalist Charles Walker described how a local branch of the Unemployed Council in Chicago responded when it received word that a neighbor was to be evicted.
The sheriff arrives and in the face of protest does his work. The MacNamara’s bed, bureau stove, and children are transported to the street. Then the Council acts. With great gusto the bed, bureau, stove and children are put back in the house. Then the neighbors proceed tro the local relief bureau, where a Council spokesman displays the children, presents the facts, and demands that the Relief Commission pay the rent or find another flat for the MacNamaras. . . . If the Commission is adamant, he leaves and reappears at general headquarters with a hundred Council members instead of fifty. Usually the Commission digs up the $6 a month rent or the landlord throws up his hands, and Mrs. MacNamara’s children have a roof over their heads.
Such direct action halted many evictions and forced the authorities in Chicago and other cities to halt them entirely.
During the 1980s, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now – ACORN) developed a movement in which squatters occupied and set out to renovate thousands of abandoned city-owned buildings in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and other cities.
In 2009, Acorn has started a new campaign called Home Defenders to use civil disobedience to support families who refuse orders to vacate their homes. According to the New York Times, in cities like Orlando, Boston, Houston, Baltimore, Oakland, and Tucson,
Acorn organizers have been creating networks to alert a homeowner’s neighbors when an eviction has been scheduled or deputies are on the way. Some volunteers will summon friends and relatives to converge at the home, while others will be in charge of notifying news media. Organizers are also recruiting lawyers willing to defend for no fee those who are arrested.
12, as real estate investors waited to bid foreclosed properties at the Alameda
County Courthouse, dozens of “home defenders” carried signs saying Stop
Evictions Now! and Save Our Home. Among
them were Fernanda Cardenas and her husband Armando Ramos, whose home in East Oakland
In addition, in a growing number of cities across the country, activists are moving homeless families into empty foreclosed homes.