I was speaking with Brendan Loy the other day and he made the comment (I paraphrase):
Usually when you perform civil disobedience, the act you’re performing is in direct relation to the injustice you’re protesting. For example, Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus was in direct defiance of an unjust law requiring her to do exactly that. With the Occupy protesters, they’re against corporate greed, so they’re camping in a park. I don’t get that.
And I think he’s right. There seems to be a very loose relationship between what the protesters say they want and their method of protesting.
Giving this some thought, I think there is an civil disobedience action the Occupiers can take that would make a great deal more sense. And that is occupying foreclosures.
Hear me out here… I’m not the most sympathetic toward the Occupy movement, but occupying foreclosures has the following benefits:
- Real shelter means fewer deaths (as long as they don’t do drugs).
- The action is directly related to the financial sector (although they would quickly discover that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are bigger culprits than Goldman Sachs).
- It would be genuinely disruptive to the financial sector. Don’t fool yourselves, sleeping in a park is more disruptive to a bagel shop than to a hedge fund manager.
- Far less impact on small businesses whose owners just want to make ends meet.
- They could actually get arrested for peaceful civil disobedience (trespassing) rather than for jaywalking or public indecency.
- Good optics if they keep the houses clean & leave when they are sold. Local news pieces would relate directly to real neighborhoods, get great pictures of people and the houses they occupy. People could go check out the movement without heading downtown… the movement is right down the street.
- Build excellent community standing (if they are actually good community members in these neighborhoods).
- A good platform for spreading their position. If people come to see the houses for purchase, they can pass out literature about the pitfalls of tricksy banks and dangerous mortgages.
- They can attach themselves closely to the individual stories of woe within the local community. Every foreclosure comes with a story. They could take advantage of that.
- If banks decided it would be better to sell foreclosures for a loss rather than risk an occupation, it might move inventory, actually help solve one of the problems.
- Filter out the antagonistic element from Occupy. I suspect anarchists are less interested in playing house with a half dozen people than with running down the streets smashing windows.
Of course any movement is only as good as the people who are involved with it. But this path seems more targeted, sustainable and sanitary. And it might just be the best place to go next for Occupy.
Would I support this? Meh. Probably not wholeheartedly. It is still against the law (but civil disobedience is, by definition, against the law). And I’m sure there are some unintended consequence that I’ve failed to consider (there always are).
But at least it would make some kind of sense.