Bernal Heights residents are proving you don't really need to pitch a
tent to fight big banks. As Bernalwood reports, a bunch of neighbors in the quirky neighborhood have decided to create an official "Occupy Bernal Heights" movement without protests and tents.
it to look anything like what San Francisco saw on Justin Herman
Plaza -- a motley crew of hundreds of tents, cops, and the 99 percent.
This micro movement will focus a little more on the cause,
which is to help save the many Bernal Heights residents who are losing
their homes to foreclosures.
"There are 54 houses in foreclosure
or in financial dispute [in the neighborhood] -- it's just horrible,"
says Elizabeth Stephens, a Bernal Heights resident who helped start the neighborhood
Their first target is an elderly man
named Thomas who has lived in his Bernal Heights home since 1975. The 72-year-old veteran has had trouble meeting his house payments, and now the banks are warning he will be evicted very, very soon.
"We will approach the bank and ask if they will renegotiate his loan," Stephens told us. "They will probably say forget it, but we are going to try. If that doesn't work, there are people willing to sit inside his house when police come to evict him."
Stephens said they are tapping into low-cost lawyers to seek advice, and sifting through Thomas' paperwork to help figure out the best solution to save his home.
It's not to say that tents won't appear someday in Bernal Heights; the group has nothing against the method the Occupy Movement has used up until now. However, the ultimate goal is to keep people inside their homes, not outside in tents, Stephens said. "I'm a big tent-lover, but we are trying to avoid that," she noted. "I feel like it's important to occupy public
space, but I do think the issues here right now in Bernal Heights are to
try to prevent the banks from putting people out of the homes."
While its agenda doesn't include camping out or marching the streets (Stephens is too busy juggling a job and school), Occupy Bernal is essentially subscribing to the basic tenets of the national Occupy movement. Organizers have plans to create a working group, hold general assemblies, and participate in future events with the Occupy Wall Street movement, including the Jan. 20 Day of Action.
Stephens said the Occupy Bernal agenda will be a little more organic, adding that most of the neighbors participating this were not involved in the larger Occupy Movement. But seeing how hard the neighborhood has been hit by the housing crisis gave Bernal residents enough reason to act -- even if it's on a smaller scale.
"I love that Occupy is happening right now -- it's fabulous," Stephens told us. "This problem is so big it needs to be addressed and attacked