Occupy Cleveland (OC) proposes to Occupy Wall Street (OWS) a 6 month direct action budget of $26,938 to begin January, 2012, to strengthen the Occupy movement in Cleveland, the state of Ohio, and the Midwest.
OC’s purpose is to give voice, courage, and hope to the 99% through a sustained effort to expose and attack theillegitimacy and injustice of imposing on our democracy the purchase of political power in favor of the 1%. OC will deploy creative, bold, and dramatic actions to educate & persuade citizens to reject deference to authority and instead challenge and defy authority, encourage citizens to take responsibility for their communities, take to thestreets, refuse to submit or cooperate with illegitimate action by the 1%, and thereby inspire in the greater populace a new courage to resist not only the foreclosure process, but all manifestations of the power of the 1%, to demand their rights, to defend each other and their neighbors when they face foreclosure, to convince victims to stay in their homes when facing foreclosure, and thereby empower the 99% to force an end to all foreclosures in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and the United States of America.
OC also intends to use this grant to build capacity within the Occupy movement locally and regionally, through the first ever Midwest General Assembly, to be convened in Cleveland prior to the March 6, 2012 Ohio Republican presidential primary, featuring teach-ins & trainings to address major opportunities and challenges to the Occupy movement, including organizing, facilitation, the consensus process, civil disobedience, direct action, legal observation and research, the foreclosure process, outreach, media, online advocacy, fundraising, and other topics, ending in a major direct action in Cleveland.
PROCESS & IMPLEMENTATION
Embracing the horizontal and transparent decision making process of the Occupy Movement, OC will submit this proposal & budget to the Occupy Cleveland General Assembly (OCGA) for consensus approval. Upon OCGA consensus, OC will submit the proposal to OWS for GA approval, upon which implementation will begin immediately, with work being coordinated out of OC’s downtown Cleveland office at 850 Euclid Ave.
All actions will be deployed based on targeted research for maximum impact, with a focus on inclusion of local neighbors and communities, outreach to all community leaders and residents, coordination between all OC working groups, training and capacity building within OC and the broader community, financial and operational accountability, rapid response and mobilization, an aggressive media strategy, internal communication, assessment, and evaluation.
Cleveland, Ohio, and the Midwest generally, has been at the sharp end of the 1% for decades. The city of Cleveland has shrunk from a population of nearly 1 million in 1950 to less than 350,000 in the 2010 census. Most recently, Cleveland is the epicenter of the foreclosure catastrophe in the United States, literally having been emptied by the fraud and theft of mortgage securitization, with no end in sight.
Since 2006, tens of thousands of homes in the Cleveland area have been seized by the 1%, many left to rot. For 2011, through November there have been over 9,000 foreclosure filings in Cuyahoga County, meaning there will likely be over 10,000 for 2011 – at the peak of the first wave of the foreclosure crisis in Cuyahoga County in 2007, there were 14,000 foreclosures filed countywide. This has left thousands of dead and empty properties across the county, has left hundreds if not thousands of homeless families, collapsed property values, resulting in underfunded schools and public services, destroying the city, county and state from the inside out.
The complexity, unfairness, impenetrable non-transparent injustice of the foreclosure process is completely rigged in favor of the 1% against the 99%, forcing homeowners into further debt to find lawyers, or to defend themselves in court without legal help, against an army of foreclosure law firms whose sole business model is to be paid by banks to throw families out of homes which the bank does not own. The fraudulent securitization of mortgage debt in the US has made it impossible to know how many of these foreclosures are a result of fraud, or how many homes were seized without the foreclosing bank producing proof that they own the property. Against these odds, homeowners feel they have no chance, often giving up on their own rights, perpetuating a catastrophic cycle that favors only the 1%, destroying the 99%.
In short, foreclosure is perhaps the most perfect manifestation of the power of the 1% over the 99%. It may also be its most vulnerable point for attack.
OCCUPY CLEVELAND ACTIONS TO DATE
Occupy Cleveland began on October 6, 2011, establishing a tent city that evening on a sidewalk along West Roadway across from the Tom Johnson Free Speech Quadrant of Public Square. The tent city grew to 70 nightly occupiers over the next two weeks and constantly engaged in trainings, direct actions, marches and providing services to occupiers and Cleveland’s downtown residents.
On October 21, the City of Cleveland withdrew permits for overnight occupation, and 11 occupiers were arrested on the Tom Johnson Free Speech quadrant shortly after the 10pm curfew by an overwhelming police operation in full riot gear.
OC challenged the curfew in federal court, resulting in a negotiated settlement with the city, which now permits OC 24/7 access to the Tom Johnson Free Speech Quadrant and a stretch of the adjacent West Roadway sidewalk, including a 10×20 canopied space, but without permission for sleep, permanent structures, or other shelter or services. Despite the weather, and the unconstitutional limits of these permits, OC has renewed the permits without interruption since the arrests, and as of this proposal continues occupation on Public Square, one of only about 60 remaining occupations on public property in the United States. This has allowed us to remain in the spotlight and be a rallying point for our expanding coalition.
OC’s “info tent”, the remaining tent permitted by the city of Cleveland at the original OC encampment on West Roadway, has been continuously occupied 24/7 since the October 21 arrests, and is planned to remain occupied indefinitely. OC has held daily General Assemblies since October 6, both on Public Square, and in a recently leased office space at 850 Euclid Ave downtown. All General Assemblies have been livestreamed and archived. The “info tent” has become the rallying point for OC, the most visible presence of OC in Cleveland, receives mail at the address “99% Public Square”, and continues to evolve in preparation for the cold of a Cleveland winter.
In addition to constant marches and direct actions against the 1% broadly, OC has built a coalition among like-minded organizations in Cleveland, including organized labor, homeless advocacy groups, local faith-based organizations, the LGBT community, environmental advocacy groups, legal reform advocates, and other Occupations across Northeast Ohio. In November, OC played a key role in mobilizing against and defeating Ohio Issue 2’s attack on organized labor and collective bargaining, directly contacting voters and rallying support. On December 5, Cleveland City Council passed an emergency resolution supporting the principles of the Occupy movement by a vote of 18-1.
OC has specifically targeted the foreclosure process, and has deployed 2 direct actions against foreclosures with consensus support from the OC General Assembly (GA) – a successful eviction defense in Cleveland on November 14, 2011, and a cross-Occupy anti-eviction demonstration in Orwell, Ohio on December 15, 2011, deployed in conjunction with Occupy Youngstown, Occupy Ashtabula, and Occupy Kent State. OC has targeted five (5) foreclosure law firms for online direct action, resulting in one firm completely scrubbing its website.
On November 26, 2011, OC mic-checked over 10,000 attendees at the annual Winterfest holiday lighting ceremony directly attacking Huntington Bank, the sponsor of the festival, including deploying a projection (bat signal) onto a 20-story building calling on Clevelanders to “Demand The Note” and stay in their homes for the holidays if they are facing foreclosure.
Due to extensive media coverage of these actions, including national television and radio, local television, radio and print media, and OC generated media, OC is receiving regular requests for help from homeowners facing foreclosure. OC’s goal of creating hope, instilling courage, and creating capacity within the wider community to challenge the illegitimate, unfair, and fraudulent process of foreclosure is beginning to take root.
DIRECT ACTIONS PROPOSED
MIDWEST GENERAL ASSEMBLY – $6,050
In order to cultivate cooperation and the free-flow of ideas amongst the Midwest Occupations, OC proposes to host the first ever regional General Assembly for the Midwest in February, in advance of Ohio’s Republican presidential primary on March 6, 2012. All occupations in the Midwest will be invited and encouraged to send occupiers, organizers, facilitators, trainers, and other key members of the movement to share best practices and expertise. The workshops seek to develop shared knowledge about the topics pertinent to the Occupy movement as well as develop the skills necessary to effectively execute direct actions pertaining to the OWS movement and build the movement through outreach.
The goal of the Midwest General Assembly is to build capacity within the movement to conduct direct action in local occupations against the 1% in favor of the 99%. This goal will be accomplished through increasing our efficacy through grass roots organizer skills training, legal observer and rights training, and education regarding financial and governmental topics.
Instructors: Ideally, we would recruit some OWS folks to come in for some of the sessions, especially the consensus process session. Additionally, we will recruit professors from area universities to lecture on some of the “topical” trainings.
Possible workshop ideas include:
- Legal Observer Training
- Fundraising & Financial Reporting
- The Consensus Process
- Media Liaison Training
- Tech Best Practices
- Social Media Activism
- Foreclosure Process 101
- International Trade and the Occupy Movement
- The Student Loan Crisis 101
- The Labor Movement and the Occupy Movement
- Student Activism
- Senior Activism
- Direct Action Planning
- Action Brainstorming
- Women and the Occupy Movement
- Fostering Diversity in the Movement
- Working Group Best Practices
- Occupy regional coordination
- Community Outreach Strategies
- Civil Disobedience Primer
- Online Advocacy
- Sustainable Systems in the New Economy
FORECLOSURE DEFENSE – $5,700
OC will conduct extensive research to identify targeted properties already in the foreclosure process whose defense is most likely to further the goals of ending foreclosures, focusing on the most active banks and foreclosure law firms. OC will identify like-minded foreclosure defense organizations as allies in direct action, including but not limited to organized labor, foreclosure advocacy NGOs, local clergy and faith-based organizations, local elected officials, and other affinity groups.
Based on this research, OC will deploy at least two (2) direct actions per month through June, 2012, beginning in February, 2012, and at least one in January, 2012. Direct actions will include civil disobedience by trained Occupiers and homeowners, targeted action against local branches of the most active foreclosing banks, targeted action against foreclosure law firms, and other actions designed to halt the targeted foreclosure. OC will work with neighboring Occupations in Northeast Ohio to build capacity for foreclosure direct action across the Occupy movement.
CREATIVE DIRECT ACTION – $9,025
Termed originally within the OC proposal workgroup as “epic shit”, OC plans to leverage the media success of previous actions to deploy dramatic direct action, including a major action after the Midwest General Assembly. Among the proposed actions are included, but not limited to – painting an entire block of foreclosed homes (of which there are many in Cleveland) with the colors and logos of the banks which have foreclosed on the properties, deploy a targeted tree sit, descend nine Biblical plagues upon targeted banks (including crickets, frogs, and other pestilence), a giant inflatable tube waving arm guy, and an Occu-Copter to hover over all these actions and shoot video.
MEDIA ATTACK – $3,500
Within the context of the 2012 Ohio Republican presidential primary on March 6, 2012, OC will purchase targeted media (TV, radio, online) intended to build visibility and recruitment into the Occupy movement. A draft ad is linked here - http://youtu.be/fcaGU6O5dAU.
TECH – $2,013
OC will build internal communications infrastructure, designed to be both mobile for use in direct actions (i.e. at foreclosure eviction defenses), and to build capacity for the OC office at 850 Euclid Ave.
INFO TENT (BASE OPERATIONS) – $650
As one of only 60 remaining occupations on public property in the United States, OC plans to reinforce the “info tent” to keep it occupied 24/7, despite numerous restrictions in the city of Cleveland permit. OC proposes to shore up the info tent with a hoop house, flooring and warming supplies.
TOTAL PROPOSED – $26,938