(MintPress) – Colleen McKeen Espinosa was one day away from seeing her home of 16 years be sold off at a sheriff’s auction as a result of foreclosure. She spent months trying to renegotiate the terms of her mortgage with Citibank after falling behind on payments that had become too expensive. But the foreclosure and auction sale never happened: She received help – lots of help – from her son and a legion of his accomplices, who happened to be part of the Occupy Homes movement. The turnout was a symbol that the Occupy movement, which has faced recent criticism for its speculated demise, was very much alive and influential.
A single mother of three, Colleen’s son, Nick Espinosa, a 26-year-old organizer within the Occupy Minneapolis group, has led by both actions and words. At Occupy events, he’s a catalyst for protesters. He’s also taken to high-profile events, such as the time he “glitter-bombed” Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at a campaign stop for the presumptive nominee to bring awareness to gay rights.
But in the case of his mother’s home, initially his help was not wanted. Colleen said she was humiliated that she was not able to make the payments on her home and did not want to draw attention to her situation by having her son and the Occupy Homes MN group fight on her behalf. Then Colleen attended a rally at another home facing foreclosure and saw that she had nothing to be ashamed of after she learned that banks have potentially pushed more than 10 million Americans to the brink of foreclosure since the housing crisis in 2008.
Colleen, who works as a registered nurse, fell behind on her mortgage payments after she stopped receiving her $1,500 monthly child support now that her children are considered adults, according to City Pages.
“Seeing these homeowners going through the same thing, that’s when my mentality shifted where it was more, maybe the banks should be ashamed rather than the people that they’re taking advantage of,” Colleen said in an interview.
As a result of the action, Colleen was able to keep her home and renegotiated the terms of her mortgage so as to allow her to make payments that are one-third less than what she was paying before.
“This negotiation represents a victory not just for our family, but for millions of families facing foreclosures across the country,” Nick said in an Occupy Homes MN press release. “Countless families could stay in their homes if banks simply modified their loans based on the actual market value and reduced their principal, instead of the price to which banks inflated them before they crashed our economy.”
But a victory in one set of eyes has been dismissed as of late from other viewpoints. Recent reports have questioned whether Occupy has worn out its welcome in the American political landscape and whether it can remain relevant enough to influence the presidential election in November.
In a recent taping of his show, political pundit Bill Maher said no one takes the Occupy movement seriously anymore, criticizing their tactics of dancing, playing guitars and camping in tents instead of focusing their sights on the political system that has caused much of what they protest against.
“Instead of organizing interstate hootenannies, maybe it’s time for Occupy Wall Street to actually participate in the American political process,” Maher said. “That means, boring stuff like canvassing neighborhoods, raising money, running candidates for office, manning phone banks …”
On the opposite end of the political spectrum, the tea party has been able to thrive by making a presence in Washington D.C. The Tea Party Congressional Caucus now contains 66 members.
“Eight months in, the Tea Party were beginning to impact primary elections, and by the second year were having a tremendous impact,” said Harvard University sociologist Theda Skocpol in an interview with Reuters. “They were, if not electing, then at least changing the kind of candidates that were being elected. But Occupy got bogged down in tent cities. In social movement literature we’d argue that there was a failure to engage in tactical innovation at a crucial time.”
But Nick feels that the course of the movement doesn’t need to mimic what the tea party did, and that their battle is with the election process as a whole. He said he did not want to see the movement participate in the very system it criticizes.
“Occupy isn’t in any position to endorse any candidates, but at the same time it would be a mistake to ignore the realities of the electoral process,” he said in an interview with MintPress. “The way I see the movement playing out is holding people accountable – Republicans and Democrats alike – on issues like foreclosure, the economy and jobs.”
As Occupy became a centralized force in America, media attention came in droves. According to Reuters, more than 12,000 newspaper stories a month referenced the Occupy movement late last year. As of May, however, citations of Occupy have dropped below 1,000 per month.
And at the height of Occupy Wall Street’s (OWS) coverage, donations poured in. By the end of 2011, the group had nearly three-quarters of a million dollars on hand. But now, the group’s general fund is down to $31,000.
But Bill Dobbs, Occupy New York’s media contact, said the speculation of the groups decline is a larger indication of political fatigue in the United States. Dobbs feels the impact of the movement and attention paid to it will grow as the Republican National Convention nears in Tampa, Florida and as the buildup of the presidential election finally comes to a vote.
“We in America have allowed ourselves to be put into a political coma,” Dobbs said. “Occupy Wall Street has shaken the country out of that coma.”
Nick said that actions and victories are a sign in themselves that the movement is not waning and that the continued influence over the last eight months shows that the efforts have build a stronger Occupy group.
“As someone who was in the thick of it and whose home was saved by Occupy, I’d say it’s far from over and, in fact, we’re just getting started,” Nick said. “I believe we’re going to continue to expand.”
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