Wall Street OCCUPY-ists Buying Personal Debt

Occupy Wall Street activists buy $15m of Americans’ personal debt

Rolling Jubilee spent $400,000 to purchase debt cheaply from banks before ‘abolishing’ it, freeing individuals from their bills
Occupy Wall Street
‘Our primary purpose was to spread information about the workings of this secondary debt market,’ said Andrew Ross. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A group of Occupy Wall Street activists has bought almost $15m of Americans’ personal debt over the last year as part of the Rolling Jubilee project to help people pay off their outstanding credit.

Rolling Jubilee, set up by Occupy’s Strike Debt group following the street protests that swept the world in 2011, launched on 15 November 2012. The group purchases personal debt cheaply from banks before “abolishing” it, freeing individuals from their bills.

By purchasing the debt at knockdown prices the group has managed to free $14,734,569.87 of personal debt, mainly medical debt, spending only $400,000.

“We thought that the ratio would be about 20 to 1,” said Andrew Ross, a member of Strike Debt and professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University. He said the team initially envisaged raising $50,000, which would have enabled it to buy $1m in debt.

“In fact we’ve been able to buy debt a lot more cheaply than that.”

The group is able to buy debt so cheaply due to the nature of the “secondary debt market”. If individuals consistently fail to pay bills from credit cards, loans, or medical insurance the bank or lender that issued the funds will eventually cut its losses by selling that debt to a third party. These sales occur for a fraction of the debt’s true values – typically for five cents on the dollar – and debt-buying companies then attempt to recoup the debt from the individual debtor and thus make a profit.

The Rolling Jubilee project was mostly conceived as a “public education project”, Ross said.

“We’re under no illusions that $15m is just a tiny drop in the secondary debt market. It doesn’t make a dent in the amount of debt.

“Our purpose in doing this, aside from helping some people along the way – there’s certainly many, many people who are very thankful that their debts are abolished – our primary purpose was to spread information about the workings of this secondary debt market.”

The group has focussed on buying medical debt, and has acquired the $14.7m in three separate purchases, most recently purchasing the value of $13.5m on medical debt owed by 2,693 people across 45 states and Puerto Rico, Rolling Jubilee said in a press release.

“No one should have to go into debt or bankruptcy because they get sick,” said Laura Hanna, an organiser with the group. Hanna said 62% of all personal bankruptcies have medical debt as a contributing factor.

Due to the nature of the debt market, the group is unable to specify whose debt it purchases, taking on the amounts before it discovers individuals’ identities. When Rolling Jubilee has bought the debt they send notes to their debtors “telling them they’re off the hook”, Ross said.

Ross, whose book, Creditocracy and the case for debt refusal, outlines the problems of the debt industry and calls for a “debtors’ movement” to resist credit, said the group had received letters from people whose debt they had lifted thanking them for the service. But the real victory was in spreading knowledge of the nature of the debt industry, he said.

“Very few people know how cheaply their debts have been bought by collectors. It changes the psychology of the debtor, knowing this.

“So when you get called up by the debt collector, and you’re being asked to pay the full amount of your debt, you now know that the debt collector has bought your debt very, very cheaply. As cheaply as we bought it. And that gives you moral ammunition to have a different conversation with the debt collector.”

from:    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/12/occupy-wall-street-activists-15m-personal-debt

A Next Step for The Occupy Movement

Occupy’s National Gathering: A Vision for the Next Step Forward?

The movement has been accused before of lacking direction. But this week in Philadelphia, delegates to the first-ever national Occupy gathering created a streamlined vision for the change they want to see.
posted Jul 06, 2012


Natgat photo by James Trimarco

Photo by James Trimarco.

Occupy participants from every region of the United States poured into Philadelphia from June 30–July 4 for the movement’s National Gathering. Many arrived in caravans from far-flung states like California, Texas, and Alabama, and about 500 people attended the event in its final days, according to Occupy Wall Street’s Linnea M. Palmer Paton.

“It feels exactly like an Occupy,” said Michael Wilson, who came from his hometown of Salt Lake City with three fellow occupiers, each of them driving a three-hour shift. “It’s like all the months of an occupation compressed into just five days.”

The activities of the National Gathering—or “Natgat,” as occupiers invariably called it—covered a wide range of styles, tactics, and approaches to social change. At the gathering’s center was a visioning process in which small groups of occupiers spent days carefully hammering out their ideas about the kind of changes they’d like to see. Then, these groups were combined and began compiling their ideas into a single document, which is rumored to now be 75 pages long.

Attendees held nightly General Assemblies, or GA’s, open meetings that form the heart of most local Occupy groups. Their marches and demonstrations saw relatively little of the police violence that has marred other Occupy events. And there were daily workshops on topics like direct action, maintaining encampments, and interactions between activists. Many attendees said the workshops and skillshares were their favorite part of the week.

“I’m just here to learn,” said Jacqueline Lundy of Occupy Chicago, pointing out that activists from around the country often faced similar dilemmas. For example, she said, everyone seemed to be talking about ways to improve on the structure of the General Assemblies. And indeed, a large GA on Wednesday focused on the need for more voices to be heard and for people who felt marginalized to have those feelings addressed.

Other events included a baseball game that pit the 99% against the 1% Tax Dodgers, and a “Wells Fargo Circus” in which ersatz bankers forced acrobats playing the role of loan applicants into all kinds of contortions—literally. These moments showed off the movement’s talent for comedy, costumes, and playfulness.

Reverend Billy photo courtesy of Reverend Billy
The Importance of Being Sassy

How Occupiers, pranksters, and artists speak louder than money.

While some aspects of the gathering could have been stronger, there was no doubt that the movement is alive—and kicking. The Natgat was “smaller than what was hoped for,” said Pete Tridish, a local Philadelphian and a founder of a community radio advocacy group called Prometheus Radio. But he remained hopeful about the future of Occupy: “The main goals of the gathering have been to think through the next steps of the movement, and they’re meeting those goals.”

Linnea M. Paton Palmer of Occupy Wall Street shared that feeling, pointing to an inspiring march through Downtown Philadelphia on the night of the Fourth of July. She’s already rolling up her sleeves for the next big event, Occupy’s first-year anniversary on September 17.

from:      http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/occupys-national-gathering-a-vision-for-the-next-steps-forward

New York City Protests

Thousands of protesters fill NYC’s Times Square

By CHRIS HAWLEY – Associated Press 

NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators protesting corporate greed filled Times Square on Saturday night, mixing with gawkers, Broadway showgoers, tourists and police to create a chaotic scene in the midst of Manhattan.

“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” protesters chanted from within police barricades. Police, some in riot gear and mounted on horses, tried to push them out of the square and onto the sidewalks in an attempt to funnel the crowds away.

Sandy Peterson of Salt Lake City, who was in Times Square after seeing “The Book of Mormon” musical on Broadway, got caught up in the disorder.

“We’re getting out of here before this gets ugly,” she said.

Sandra Fox, 69, of Baton Rouge, La., stood, confused, on 46th Street with a ticket for “Anything Goes” in her hand as riot police pushed a knot of about 200 shouting protesters toward her.

“I think it’s horrible what they’re doing,” she said of the protesters. “These people need to go get jobs.”

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators had marched north through Manhattan from Washington Square Park earlier in the afternoon. Once in Times Square, they held a rally for several hours before dispersing. Over the course of the day, more than 70 people were arrested.

Police spokesman Paul Browne said 42 people were arrested in Times Square on Saturday night after being warned repeatedly to disperse, and three others were arrested while trying to take down police barriers.

Two police officers were injured during the protest and had to be hospitalized. One suffered a head injury, the other a foot injury, Browne said.

Five people wearing masks were arrested earlier in the day. It wasn’t immediately clear what charges, if any, they may face.

Two dozen people were arrested on charges of criminal trespass Saturday morning when demonstrators entered a Citibank bank branch near Washington Square Park and refused to leave, police said. One protester also was arrested on a charge of resisting arrest.

Citibank said in a statement that police asked the branch to close until the protesters could be taken away. “One person asked to close an account and was accommodated,” Citibank said.

Earlier in the day, demonstrators paraded to a Chase bank branch, banging drums, blowing horns and carrying signs decrying corporate greed. Marchers throughout the country emulated them in protests that ranged from about 50 people in Jackson, Miss., to about 2,000 in the larger city of Pittsburgh.

“Banks got bailed out. We got sold out,” the crowd of as many as 1,000 in Manhattan chanted. A few protesters went inside the bank to close their accounts, but the group didn’t stop other customers from getting inside or seek to blockade the business.

Police told the marchers to stay on the sidewalk, and the demonstration appeared to be fairly orderly as it wound through downtown streets.

Overseas, violence broke out in Rome, where police fired tear gas and water cannons at some protesters who broke away from the main demonstration, smashing shop and bank windows, torching cars and hurling bottles. Dozens were injured.

Tens of thousands nicknamed “the indignant” marched in cities across Europe, as the protests that began in New York linked up with long-running demonstrations against government cost-cutting and failed financial policies in Europe. Protesters also turned out in Australia and Asia.

Across the Atlantic, hundreds protested in the heart of Toronto’s financial district. Some of the protesters announced plans to camp out indefinitely in St. James Park. Protests were also held in other cities across Canada from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Vancouver, British Columbia.

In the U.S., among the demonstrators in New York withdrawing their money from Chase was Lily Paulina, 29, an organizer with the United Auto Workers union who lives in Brooklyn. She said she was taking her money out because she was upset that JPMorgan Chase was making billions, while its customers struggled with bank fees and home foreclosures.

“Chase bank is making tons of money off of everyone … while people in the working class are fighting just to keep a living wage in their neighborhood,” she said.

Other demonstrations in the city Saturday included an anti-war march to mark the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan War.

Among the people participating in that march was Sergio Jimenez, 25, who said he quit his job in Texas to come to New York to protest.

“These wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were all based on lies,” Jimenez said. “And if we’re such an intelligent country, we should figure out other ways to respond to terror, instead of with terror.”

Elsewhere in the country, nearly 1,500 gathered Saturday for a march past banks in downtown Orlando. About 50 people met in a park in downtown Jackson, Miss., carrying signs calling for “Health Care Not Warfare.”

Some made more considerable commitments to try to get their voices heard. Nearly 200 spent a cold night in tents in Grand Circus Park in Detroit, donning gloves, scarves and heavy coats to keep warm, said Helen Stockton, a 34-year-old certified midwife from Ypsilanti, and plan to remain there “as long as it takes to effect change.”

“It’s easy to ignore us,” Stockton said. Then she referred to the financial institutions, saying, “But we are not going to ignore them. Every shiver in our bones reminds us of why we are here.”

just remember, oftentimes the truth exists between the lines……………………

Deepak Chopra on The ‘Occupy’ Movement

Deepak Chopra

Author, ‘War of the Worldviews’; Founder, The Chopra Foundation

 The ‘Occupy’ Movement: Turning Anger Into Awareness
Posted: 10/6/11 09:16 AM ET
If you haven’t found yourself caught up in the Occupy movement yet, the best place is in the thick of the action. I went down to Wall Street one night to see for myself. Like many people, if not all, the outcome of the financial crash still rankled. No one can watch the TV coverage of the Occupy America sit-ins and marches without sharing in some kind of frustration and anger.

When you get down there, though, you feel something else. Unlike the Tea Party, the Occupiers are young and idealistic, repeating a time-honored coming of age phase that is being acted out in public. Anyone who has lived through the sixties can stand aside and predict what will happen, because it has happened so often before. Ideals become lost in confusion, cynicism, and hard clashes with authority and other reactionary forces.

But let’s not make such predictions. If Occupy America turns anger into awareness, we might get something like a Tea Party for the left. Or even better, a reform movement that marches for an ideal that succeeds. If the Tea Party represents the ornery, “I’m mad as hell, and I won’t put up with it anymore” side of America, the Occupiers represent the side that says, “This country stands for justice and equality.”

Despite the media coverage of mass arrests, despite the Times‘s finger-wagging that the movement is often muddled and misinformed, none of that is the point. The point is justice. Unlike the anti-war movement of fifty years ago, now we have a President who believes in justice and equality. It’s fashionable to bash President Obama right now, but he has had to make choices between bad and worse, facing an intractable downturn and an opposition that leaves him no breathing room.

If Occupy America can channel its anger into awareness, the next step is to ask, “What is our goal?” When I was down among the demonstrators, I led a meditation on that question, and it seemed to calm down the people around me, which demonstrates, I think, that the whole Occupy movement is about angry idealists, not just people who feel screwed by Wall St., although that is the spark and the point of injustice that somehow must be faced.

Pragmatists claim that one outcome — a heavily regulated financial sector — will never happen. The banks were bailed out three years ago, and once they felt strong, they lobbied with all their might to insure that no meaningful regulation would be passed. that is outrageous, of course, and so is the immorality of how Wall St., having caused the crash, continues to take ungodly risks, but now with a government guarantee that they won’t fail, no matter how reckless their behavior. Right now Wall St. is the pure culture of money at its most selfish, greedy, and anti-social. If you aren’t angry about that, you aren’t breathing.

We stand at a pivotal moment when anger can continue to fester and feed upon itself — if that’s what you want, the Tea Party is ready to welcome you with open arms. Or anger can rebuild the system that caused all the problems. Occupy America is pure democracy against pure power, because nobody should have any illusion about who holds all the aces. I can’t predict where the movement will go; perhaps it will fizzle out tomorrow with a resigned sigh.

But I do know that truth must be spoken to power. Eventually, all change starts there, by ignoring the odds and the threat of punishment, by standing up and saying “I accuse you of injustice.” This action must be taken over and over again, and if the people speaking truth to power have right on their side and not just a boiling stew pot of rage, things will change. There’s no reason why an Arab spring can’t turn into an American autumn.