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NYC protesters target housing crisis

By Deepti Hajela

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 6 2011 5:40 p.m. MST

Occupy Wall Street activist carry house warming gifts to a house warming party during a tour of foreclosed homes in the East New York neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011. Finding it increasingly difficult to camp in public spaces, Occupy protesters across the country are reclaiming foreclosed homes and boarded-up properties, signaling a tactical shift for the movement against wealth inequality. Groups in more than 25 cities held protests Tuesday on behalf of homeowners facing evictions.

Mary Altaffer, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Occupy Wall Street demonstrators joined community groups and Brooklyn residents on Tuesday for a tour of a residential neighborhood hard-hit by foreclosures to call attention to the nation's housing crisis — and ended up throwing a block party to welcome a family planning to live in an abandoned home that had been foreclosed on.

More than 300 protesters marched through the neighborhood of East New York touring abandoned and foreclosed homes. They carried signs saying "Foreclose on banks, not people" and "Affordable housing for the 99 percent." Similar actions took place around the country.

The protesters ended their march at a home they said had been foreclosed on by a bank three years ago, and since left unoccupied and unkept.

On Tuesday, the home on Vermont Street was a hive of activity. The crowd was introduced to Alfredo Carrasquillo, his two children and their mother, all of whom have been homeless in recent years. The family planned to live in the Brooklyn home once it had been cleaned and repaired, which was being done with the help of OWS volunteers. People in the crowd had gifts for the family, including a plant and a chair.

"This moment is really special," said Carrasquillo, who works as an organizer for VOCAL-NY, one of the community groups involved in the march. "I just want to say I appreciate every single one of you."

The plan to fix up the home and move someone in had been in the works for a few weeks, said Karanja Gacuca, a press representative for OWS.

When asked whether the family would actually be able to stay in a house owned by a bank, Gacuca pointed out that it had been abandoned for some time.

"It was abandoned for three years, I cannot imagine why the bank would all of a sudden lay claim," he said.

He couldn't say how long any repairs and renovations would take.

Carrasquillo also thanked New York City police for keeping an eye on the march as it made its way through the neighborhood.

"Hopefully they won't bother me in my bed at 2 a.m.," Carrasquillo said.

Police treatment of the OWS demonstrations was the subject of a letter from a congressman to the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said there were "troubling reports" of possible misconduct by police.

He said there were reports of "possible unlawful surveillance" of protesters' constitutionally protected activities and excessive use of force by NYPD officers.

A spokeswoman for Justice Department said it would review the letter. A spokesman for the NYPD said officers "accommodated lawful protest and made arrests when unlawful conduct was observed."

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