Occupy Atlanta protestors set up shop in foreclosed Snellville home



SNELLVILLE -- Occupy Atlanta protestors shifted a portion of their ranks Monday to a quiet Snellville subdivision that typifies middle-class placidity -- and the toll taken by a sluggish economy and questionable lending practices, the movement's supporters said.

Before daybreak, about 20 protestors unloaded from a van and two cars at 4197 Shoreside Circle, a sloping road off Ga. Highway 124, less than a mile from the DeKalb County line. They pitched a tent and tacked up a banner declaring, "This Home is Occupied." They took naps in the basement. They announced a 3 p.m. press conference.

Should deputies show up to evict the family who lives there, Occupy leaders said they won't budge.

"We'll refuse to leave, but it'll be nonviolent," said Occupy Atlanta organizer Tim Franzen, donning his signature red ski cap.

Like other protestors who've been arrested, Franzen had scribbled his attorney's phone number on his forearm in magic marker, in anticipation of an encore arrest.

The objective is to spotlight the five members of the Rorey family who call the two-story, vinyl-sided abode home, and who are bracing for Gwinnett County Sheriff's Deputies to evict them from the foreclosed property. The man of the house, Christopher Rorey, is a DeKalb police officer of more than a decade; his wife, Tawanna, a homemaker.

Though they have three children at home, including an eldest daughter in college, the Rorey family has the resources to keep pace with their mortgage, unlike many underwater families, said their attorney, Tucker-based Asim Alam.

Alam said financial woes began for the family when they were approached by a con artist who promised to facilitate a loan modification with major lenders. Having never missed a mortgage payment in seven years, the family intentionally defaulted in July 2010 in order to qualify for a loan modification, Alam said.

The process moved slower than expected, and by the third month, a foreclosure notification had been issued, Alam said. A yearlong court battled ensued.

Frustrated, the family emailed Occupy Atlanta leaders and struck a chord last week. Protestors attended a Friday hearing in Gwinnett Superior Court where the family tried but failed to convince a judge to grant an emergency injunction stopping the eviction.

"A lot of people are in this situation and don't know where to turn," Tawanna Rorey said to a bank of reporters in her front yard. "I'm hoping this turns into something so big that the federal government will begin to ask why this is happening so much in this state, and all over."

The property was foreclosed by the previous note-holder, EverHome Mortgage Company, in October last year and transferred to Fannie Mae, court records show.

Fannie Mae obtained a writ of possession from the Gwinnett County Magistrate Court on Feb. 8, which the Rorey family successfully stalled, and reissued the writ in August. Fannie Mae then scheduled a "lock-out" date for the first week in November, according to court filings.

The Roreys bought the home in July 2003 for $179,000. The property sold in foreclosure, court documents show.

Alam said the home is worth about $80,000 less than what the Roreys paid, which made refinancing their loan impossible, he said.

In an order denying the Rorey family an emergency injunction against eviction, Superior Court Judge Karen Beyers wrote she wasn't convinced that Fannie Mae lacked the rights it exercised when it sent an eviction notice.

"(The Rorey family) has also waited until well more than a year to bring this civil action, during which time no mortgage payments were made," Beyers wrote in an order signed Monday.

Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Stacey Bourbonnais said an eviction hasn't been scheduled because the matter remains "in the court process."

"It's one of many evictions we have, and nothing has been scheduled yet," Bourbonnais said.

Alam, the attorney, said the Rorey's Lakeside Ridge subdivision is home to "quite a few" vacant, foreclosed homes. He's hopeful the foreclosure process for the Rorey family can be reversed, based on underlying laws, he said.

"They need to do this for every mortgage borrower who's in a similar situation or could be," Alam said.

Protestors said they view Georgia's high foreclosure rate as a symptom of economic disparity.

Franzen said some 100 protestors remained at Atlanta's Peachtree Pine homeless shelter Monday, along with a smaller contingent in Woodruff Park, site of a police-protestor clash this past weekend.

Occupy Atlanta describes itself as a social movement standing for the 99 percent of Americans under the political and economic influence of the wealthiest 1 percent of the population.

Franzen predicted the Rorey's home was only the beginning.

"We're hoping to spread this all over the city, the state and the country," he said. "We will stay here until we get this house back."