Singing Foreclosure Protesters Occupy Queens Courtroom


The third “People’s Bailout”, a series of singing protests organized by activist group Organizing for Occupation that aims to disrupt the court foreclosure proceedings, took place this morning at 11am at the Queens Supreme Court. Forty-two people showed up for the movement and, in three separate batches, interrupted the auction process by standing and singing “Mr. Auctioneer”.

With the movement advertised heavily on social media the last several days, the courts were prepared. Over 20 court guards patrolled the courtroom, and arrests were made within seconds of song outbursts. Twenty three people, including some who did not sing but were merely standing up, were arrested and escorted out of the court room in rapid
succession. Deborah Seabrook, a 63-year-old activist of sorts who has been monitoring foreclosure proceedings for the past nine years under various groups, called the reactions by court guards “overkill”.

“I’ve never seen this many guards in one room before,” said Seabrook, who attended on her own and was not part of the People’s Bailout movement.

Madeline Nelson, an unemployed activist who attended today’s event as well as last month’s blockade action in Brooklyn, said the guards were “rougher and quicker to act than last time”.

Not that they were caught by surprise or anything. At a 9am pre-meeting held at the Afrikan Poetry Theatre on Jamaica Avenue, the singing activists – a diverse group that included two women in their 70s and a couple of teenagers – explained the day’s process, with Common Law attorneys Jay Kim and Karen Gargamelli breifing newcomers on what to expect. They then practiced the song, you know, just to ensure they hit the notes properly.

“We’re trying to confuse them with our loveliness,” Gargamelli told the group. “Let’s preach peacefully.”
While half the crowd were veteran activists, some were there for the first time, including Loren Hart, a Catholic worker who said he first heard of these protests via YouTube videos, and Joan Jensen, who showed up with her teenage daughter.

The three bursts of singing took place within the first 15 minutes and despite causing quite a stir, the auction was able to continue, wrapping up by 11:40, with all three foreclosed properties sold. It was a quick process, with bidders raising their hands to bid. None of the foreclosed homeowners were present.

“I’d say last time was more of a success, but we still put them on alert,” said Nelson. “The banks know people are watching this.”

Those who’ve been arrested – including Occupy Wall Street regular Michael Strom, Gargamelli, Kim – have not been released yet, but Runnin’ Scared will be keeping track.