Occupy Milwaukee fights foreclosures

Occupy Milwaukee protests have continued as participants got advice on foreclosures. Photo courtesy Joe Brusky

The ongoing Occupy Milwaukee movement held a “teach-in” Tuesday night on foreclosure as part of the National Day of Action to Stop Foreclosure.

The teach-in was held to educate the community on the process of foreclosure, its causes and how Milwaukee citizens can stop it.

The organization also read laws stating a household must not pay more than 30 percent of its income on housing. According to the 2006 census, 56 percent of renters and 41 percent of homeowners were paying more than 30 percent on their housing in Milwaukee.

The movement has looked to what other cities and movements are doing, including instances in which organizers have “occupied” the lawn of a home to be foreclosed upon or otherwise physically blocked police entry into the home to stop the foreclosure process.

Many came with pens and notebooks, and some attendees had homes in the foreclosure process.

Danielle Meyer, a 2010 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and member of Occupy Milwaukee, said there is a shame that accompanies foreclosure.

“I think in general there is a paradigm in society that tells people they should be ashamed if they can’t pay their mortgage or live in poverty based on money values,” Meyer said. “Someone being foreclosed upon shouldn’t feel ashamed. They should be mad because … housing is a human right. People should have shelter, but the forces that be work adversely … It’s the fault of the system and the 1 percent.”

Laura Blood, a Milwaukee resident in attendance, was not ashamed and admitted her home has recently gone into foreclosure.

“This is a nationwide issue, but also a personal issue for me,” Blood said. “It was good to hear from other people too.”

Blood said there is a Marquette connection — the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic is listed on the police foreclosure notice, referring those being foreclosed upon to seek help there.

Blood said she appreciates the listing.

“At least if your house is going to get foreclosed on you get offered a bit of help,” Blood said.

Occupy Milwaukee, in addition to the teach-in and other events, is still camping out in Garden Park on East Locust Street and North Bremen Street.

Michael Pettis, a member of the organization who has camped out at the park for 52 days, said while the Milwaukee Police Department recognizes the movement’s right to assemble, that right comes with conditions.

“They have specific terms under which they’re letting us stay there,” Pettis said. “They recognize the validity of the cause, which is what we’re standing up for — our First Amendment rights.”

Pettis said the MPD required that someone from Occupy be at the park 24 hours a day. If at any time it looks as if there is no one at the park, the police can shut it down.

Pettis does not understand the reasoning behind the rule.

“All people, all workers during your free time when you’re not working, have (the) right to engage in these activities,” Pettis said. “(It) doesn’t end at 10 o’clock at night or 12 o’clock at night — you have the right to assemble coast to coast  24 hours a day.”

Pettis said there was an incident in which officers pulled signs out of the ground because no one was at the park. He cited it as one reason why the movement needs more people.

Although the movement and MPD acknowledge each other’s goals, he said, some officers’ individual actions have strained the relationship.

“There’s nothing stopping individual officers from showing their disapproval,” Pettis said.

Pettis said MPD told the group it cannot have any structures up at night, so members of the movement are looking for a permanent location that they can establish legally.