Atlanta police officers have formed an unlikely alliance with Occupy activists to save a former police detective and her four grandchildren from eviction.
Last November, riot police arrested 20 Occupy Atlanta activists during a clash at a park. Now, former and current Atlanta police officers are teaming up with Occupy Our Homes activists camped out at the home of retired police detective Jacqueline Barber, a former officer and cancer patient who is facing eviction after falling behind on medical and mortgage payments.
On Monday night, several police officers attended a meeting with activists at Barber's home south of Atlanta, and 20 or 30 former and current officers have spent time at the 24-hour Occupy camp there, according to activist Shabnam Bashiri. Occupy Our Homes activists hope support from local police could prevent an eviction.
Barber and several activists are committed to civil disobedience to defend the home, Bashiri said. An eviction could lead to an awkward clash between Barber, her former co-workers and law enforcement officers who carry out evictions.
Barber worked as a detective and undercover narcotics agent for the Atlanta Police Department until she was hit by a car and forced to retire in 2001. She was later diagnosed with myeloma, a type of blood cell cancer. Paying for the aggressive treatment needed to fight the cancer alongside skyrocketing mortgage payments became impossible.
"I'm just numb, very numb," Barber said at a press conference outside her home last week. "I don't know what's going to happen one day to the next. We have no place else to go."
Bashiri said the eviction process started in August, but Barber filed for bankruptcy and a judge issued a stay on her eviction. Despite a courtroom packed with Barber's supporters, US Bank and GMAC Mortgage recently convinced a judge to lift the stay, and now the court could order an eviction at any time.
Dual Tracking and Robo-Signing
Occupy Our Homes claims Barber was "dual tracked" by Wells Fargo, which claimed to be working on a loan modification while simultaneously foreclosing on Barber. The activists have pledged to dual track US Bank and the mortgage servicers by helping Barber pursue legal action in state court while using direct action, in the form of their 24-hour camp, to defend her home.
Bashiri said her organization suspects Barber may be a victim of robo-signing, an illegal process of forging mortgage documents that became a widespread practice at several big banks, including US Bank, until lawsuits and a recent government crackdown led to massive settlements.
Robo-signing whistleblower Lynn Szymoniak, who recently won an $18 million settlement against some of the nation's major mortgage companies, visited Barber's home on Tuesday to review her case and hold a workshop on fighting foreclosure.
Forging an Alliance Between Police and Occupy
Occupy activists have clashed with police in cities such as Atlanta over the past year as authorities cracked down on protests and attempted to clear campsites. Not all Occupiers see all police officers as the "fascist pigs" sent to spoil the fun, however.
"There are good cops and there are bad cops, and there are good activists and bad activists," Bashiri said.
Bashiri said there was little hesitation among Atlanta's Occupy Our Homes activists when Barber showed up at their weekly meeting looking for help. The police, Bashiri said, are part of the 99 percent, and like other working Americans, many are facing home foreclosures.
"We may not agree with the institutions ... and actions that police take ... but for a lot of people, it's a job," Bashiri said. "It pays the bills, and that's the reason [Barber] got a home in the first place."
Some of the current officers showing up in support of Barber are hesitant about speaking publicly, Bashiri said.
"It's really pretty amazing to see the predicament that many officers must be going through," Bashiri said. "They get it; they know they're being screwed, and they want to support, but they are afraid of losing their jobs."