A 108-year-old church threatened with foreclosure got a last-minute reprieve thanks to the efforts of Occupy Atlanta, whose members staged a protest at the church and convinced the bank to delay foreclosure until another payment plan could be reached, CBS Atlanta reports.
The church, Higher Ground Empowerment Center, has been struggling to retain members and raise funds for renovations after being significantly damaged by a tornado that ravaged downtown Atlanta in 2008.
Church leaders took out a huge loan with BB&T in Atlanta to cover repairs, but keeping up with the payments became increasingly difficult as membership numbers continued to fall. They eventually decided to try refinancing the loan, but were disappointed to learn they would be evicted if they couldn't raise enough money to avoid foreclosure, according to CBS Atlanta.
That's when pastor Dexter Johnson called up Occupy Atlanta, asking for help in convincing the bank to reconsider its decision. Protestors staged an occupy-style protest on Wednesday, moving onto church property with signs and tents. Later that day, the bank decided to delay foreclosure hearings and work out a payment plan.
Occupy Atlanta's protest follows a recent wave of anti-foreclosure campaigns that use occupy movements to delay home foreclosures. Dec. 6 marked the official launch of Occupy Our Homes, an anti-foreclosure campaign activists say could become one of the most important efforts of the Occupy movement.
"The defense of homes from foreclosure and forcible eviction could cement OWS’s relevance in a new post-encampment period," Peter Rothberg wrote in The Nation. "Hopes are riding high that the day can galvanize a new frontier for the occupy movement: the liberation of vacant bank-owned homes for those in need."
Occupy Our Homes has caught on in cities around the country as protestors stage sit-ins at foreclosed properties.
AOL Real Estate reported on Minneapolis man Bobby Hull, a Vietnam vet forced out of work by war injuries who faced foreclosure last year after falling behind on mortgage payments.
Hull reached out to Occupy Minneapolis, and activists continue to protest the bank ahead of the scheduled February eviction.
"It's been a big relief," Hull told AOL Real Estate regarding the help he's received from Occupy activists. "I'm not trying to have false hope. But I'm hopeful."
UPDATE: David R. White, BB&T's vice president of communication, has issued a statement disputing some of the church's claims as reported by CBS Atlanta.
According to White:
BB&T has been working with Mt. Gilead Missionary Baptist Church/Higher Ground Empowerment Center since March of 2008 for a workable solution between the Bank and the Church. BB&T is committed to continue to work with the Church until there is a mutually agreeable solution. BB&T has no intent to evict the Church from the property. We fully expect to reach a final resolution with the Church early next week. The church did not have a mortgage with BB&T therefore we could not foreclose on them. They were leasing the property.