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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Occupy Bernal Proves Occupy Movement Isn't Totally Ineffective

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2012 at 3:20 PM

Occupy Bernal Heights changing the world, one foreclosure at a time - LILY ROTHROCK VIA FLICKR

Back in December we told readers about the newer, much more civilized arm of the local Occupy movement, dubbed Occupy Bernal Heights. The goal of this new Occupy group was not to pitch tents on public property, but to stop foreclosures and help troubled homeowners get affordable refinancing.

So how successful has Occupy Bernal been over the last five months? We checked back with the group's leaders, who tell us they've been able to stop one foreclosure and helped postpone plenty of others.

That may not sound like much, but it's more than what some other Occupy groups have accomplished.

In fact, this is rather rewarding for a neighborhood that sees four auctions a week, says Occupy Bernal organizer Buck Bagot. "The banks

tricked them," he says of his fellow neighbors. "People are so ashamed, they just sit in their

house depressed until they lose their home."

Occupy Bernal was inspired by activists who were doing similar work to stop home

foreclosures in the Bayview neighborhood. Bernal folks are especially concerned about preserving the diversity of the neighborhood in the face of gentrification.

Bagot says he's determined

to continue turning his neighbors into fighters -- not victims -- of this financial crisis. That means keeping a list of pending foreclosures in the area, and going door-to-door offering

assistance to troubled homeowners.

So far, Occupy Bernal was able to keep 66-year-old Ernesto Viscara from losing his home, which he bought in 1979. His

loan from World Savings was purchased by Wachovia, and when Viscara tried to

refinance, he was denied repeatedly. He then received a foreclosure notice in February announcing that his home would be auctioned off on March

20.

Then Occupy Bernal knocked on his door. "I thought I was fighting

the bank all by myself," he said. "They gave me the opportunity to

fight."

On May 19, the group is making some time to let loose and celebrate this feat. Occupy Bernal is hosting a "Foreclosure Fighter Fiesta" between 1 and 4 p.m. on Andover Street. The event includes a potluck, speakers, and awards to those who helped the most in fending off those predatory bankers.

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Laura Rena Murray

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