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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Occupy Atlanta sets up camp outside Vine City church facing foreclosure

Early last month, drums and chants reverberated off the Fulton County Courthouse steps as nearly 200 Occupy Atlanta protesters gathered to disrupt a monthly foreclosure auction.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Early last month, drums and chants reverberated off the Fulton County Courthouse steps as nearly 200 Occupy Atlanta protesters gathered to disrupt a monthly foreclosure auction.

After helping prevent the foreclosure of an Iraq War veteran's Clayton County home, Occupy Atlanta has focused its efforts by occupying the Higher Ground Empowerment Center, an historic church in Vine City that could soon be foreclosed on by BB&T. The group sends word about its latest initiative:

Higher Ground Empowerment Center(HGEC) is a neighborhood church in the heart of Atlanta's Vine City. For the past 108 years, Higher Ground Empowerment Center has been a pillar in the historic Vine City community, one of Atlanta’s most under-resourced communities. HGEC has offered an array of much-needed programs and services including free healthcare screenings, a food pantry, job fairs, an annual Vine City Thanksgiving dinner, Karate classes for youth, Saturday tutorials, and summer camps for students.

In 2008, the church suffered a major blow in the form of a disastrous tornado that ripped apart the property. In order to rebuild, the church was forced to take out a loan, one that became increasingly difficult to pay back and unrepresentative of the resale opportunities as donations and property values fell during the recession. The church repeatedly attempted to refinance the loan to be more representative of the property’s value, but BB&T, a company whose CEO, Kelly King, claims that their “foreclosure process is a values based on an approach where [they] work with our clients,” has not responded. The cruel irony is that BB&T bank spends about 5 million dollars a year on teaching positions and research on what they refer to as “the moral foundations of capitalism.” We find these morals and values suspiciously absent when the opportunity to profit off of the very people who bailed out BB&T to the tune of $3.1 billion comes about.

HGEC’s Pastor Dexter Johnson stated, “108 years of history, we don’t want to see it disappear, be lost in foreclosure. 2012 is the year of triumph. Though we may be down, we are not broken, we will not be moved.”

Occupy Atlanta members, who will hold a press conference at 11 a.m., say they won't leave the grounds of the church until BB&T strikes a deal.

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