October 17, 2011; Source: msnbc.com | After spending two unsuccessful years seeking a mortgage loan modification from One West Bank and Fannie Mae, a Southern California woman and her family lost their battle against foreclosure, but refused to move out on the September 28 eviction date. In the days that followed, Rosa Gudiel stayed put, surrounded by friends and homeowner advocates who were convinced that she’d been treated unfairly by an impenetrable banking bureaucracy. Gudiel also connected with some well-organized allies who took up her cause and changed its trajectory. These allies were none other than “Occupy L.A.” protesters who’d launched their local effort on October 1.
“Well-organized” and “Occupy” demonstrations in the same breath? Yes: to be “organized” not only means to be systematic and structured, but also to be “developing into, or assuming, an organic structure”, and “to have put oneself in an alert and responsible frame of mind.” Rapid internal communication and willingness to take action are two potential indicators of these characteristics among Occupy participants.
Rosa Gudiel first connected with “Occupy L.A.” when she told her foreclosure story at one of the gathering’s first “general assembly” meetings in early October. Her story resonated with the California crowd: one in five foreclosures nationally since 2008 have been in that state. According to Sergio Ballesteros, one of the “Occupy L.A.” organizers, “At Occupy LA, foreclosure is not the main thing, but. . . it really is the one thing that has truly pushed people to the limit.” After Gudiel’s talk, some protesters joined the vigil of friends at her house.
Her story also resonated with the media. Emboldened by support and attention, Gudiel and two hundred Occupy L.A. protesters demonstrated on October 4 outside the home of One West’s CEO. On October 5, Gudiel, her mother and another group of protesters held a sit-in at Fannie Mae’s Pasadena branch office. She and seven others were arrested and removed by paddy wagon, though quickly released. Then, on October 6, after having being told repeatedly that her case was closed and decision final, Gudiel received an invitation from her bank to discuss a new loan modification proposal.
This is not the first case of a homeowner beating back foreclosure, or of community organizing forcing policy change. However, it is an early signal that the seemingly diffuse Occupy movement can in fact make joint decisions and mobilize people to act quite quickly. Interesting times ahead.–Kathi Jaworski