After being threatened with arrest after they tried to disrupt the sales by blowing miniature train whistles, protesters moved from the steps of the Cobb Justice Center to a nearby sidewalk.
“We’re here to fight for you all’s houses too,” Tim Franzen, who is formerly of Marietta and considered to be the unofficial spokesman for Occupy Atlanta, told deputies while television news cameras rolled.
Investors looking to buy houses at the foreclosure showed little sympathy for the protesters’ cause.
“They’re filling the streets about three years too late,” said an investor who asked to remain anonymous.
The man, who argued with the protesters, said he bought a house that no one has lived in for several years at the auction, adding that most of the bidders weren’t seeking to force people out of homes.
But protesters said that people were not only being forced out of homes they owned, but renters had to leave houses that they didn’t even realize the owner was delinquent on.
“That’s the worst kind of eviction, ’cause there’s no notice on it,” Franzen said. “We’re here to disrupt it. We’re here to shine a light on the injustice of the foreclosure crisis in this country. Georgia’s the third highest in the nation for foreclosures.”
Protesters felt there was an audience for their message in traditionally conservative Cobb.
“One of the interesting things about Cobb County is that it’s one of the wealthiest counties in the nation and it’s also got one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation,” Occupy Atlanta’s Shab Bashiri said. “I think that speaks volumes about the wealth disparity, that people don’t seem to connect the dots.”
“The people here in Cobb County are just like anywhere else, there’s 1 percent of people that want to consolidate all the wealth and aren’t willing to help other homeowners out,” Bashiri said.
While Cobb’s was just one of four foreclosure auctions the protesters planned to disrupt Tuesday, stopping also in Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties, some are working to set up a more permanent “Occupy Cobb” movement.
Rich Pellegrino of the Cobb Immigrant Alliance said he is planning a march from the Cobb Civic Center to the Marietta Square for February, and he is seeking out support from groups ranging from the Cobb United for Change Coalition to the tea party.
“Cobb is changing quite a bit,” he said. “It’s almost equal white and minority, and the same with political ideology. Cobb is going into the 21st century, whether they like it or not.”
So far, Pellegrino said he and Martin Altamirano, who went on a hunger strike for 11 days last year to protest Georgia’s immigration law, are the only Occupy Cobb members.
“A lot of immigrants are affected by the foreclosures that are occurring in Georgia and all over the United States,” said Altamirano, who stood on the sidewalk holding a protest sign. “We’re trying to make connections to people. We have to look for solutions in favor of the 99 percent.”
Along with picket signs, protestors held out a long yellow sign that said the courthouse steps was a “crime scene.”
Some yelled “get a job” or “take a bath” at protesters, and others called the protest “a joke.” But Buddy Payton, who has read courthouse auctions for 20 years, said he understood why people would join the movement.
“This is the first time I can remember protesters,” he said. “That’s what America is all about. I don’t agree with their point of view, but it is what it is.”
Payton said about 300 homes would be auctioned Tuesday, with 80 of those from his own company, which he didn’t want to identify. He said the group of potential buyers Tuesday was a little smaller than usual.
Payton pointed out that those who buy foreclosed homes are taking a risk, with no guarantee of coming out ahead.
“It’s kind of like free enterprise,” he said. “You’re free to succeed, and you’re free to fail.”