The 99% occupy Wall Street

Inspired by the Arab Spring and Spain's movement of The Indignants (which began occupying city squares to build a citizens' movement for real democracy and against austerity), the Occupy Wall Street movement began taking to the streets in September in the famous financial district in New York. Brutal repression by police helped fuel support for those camping at Liberty Plaza (as Zuccotti Park has been renamed by the occupiers). Increasing support has come from trade unions — including a union-organised march in New York of tens of thousands of people in solidarity with OWS.

The movement has also spread rapidly across the United States. The IBTimes said on October 6: “More than 100 cities have clocked in under the 'Occupy' moniker, with more names appearing on the movement's unofficial cyber bulletin board,, every few digital minutes.”

That day, reported that the Occupy Portland movement began with a protest involving tens of thousands of people.

See also:
Occupy Wall Street statement: 'All wronged by corporate forces are our allies'
United States: 'We are the 99%' testimonies
Occupy Wall Street spreads to Australia -- 'Occupy' gatherings for major cities on October 15

Below, Pham Binh, a participant in OWS, provides an eyewitness account of this dramatic movement.

* * *

The entrapment and arrest of 700 peaceful Occupy Wall Street (OWS) activists on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1 has created a huge wave of support for their movement.

The number of daytime occupants in Liberty Plaza (as Zuccotti Park in New York has been renamed by the occupiers) doubled or tripled from 100 the week before to 200-300 on October 3 and 4.

See also:
Occupy Wall Street statement: 'All wronged by corporate forces are our allies'
Occupy Wall Street spreads to Australia -- 'Occupy' gatherings for major cities on October 15

These people are the core who maintain the occupation of the plaza, making it possible for several hundreds and sometimes thousands to hold rallies in the late afternoon, and participate in the open mic speakouts and General Assembly meetings in the evening.

Life at Occupy Wall Street camp at Liberty Plaza on day five of the occupation (September 21).

The mood of the crowd is defiant and determined. Quite a few people were still unsure of how exactly they had been trapped by the New York Police Department (NYPD), but that did not matter.

What mattered was that OWS made front page news in papers around the world along with its official list of grievances, undercutting naysayers who pretended it was a bunch of ignorant jobless kids without a clue as to what they want.

What mattered was that Transit Workers Union Local 100 backed up its solidarity speeches on September 30 with action by filing an injunction against the city for ordering their drivers to take arrested protesters to jail.

The drivers cooperated with the orders, but only because armed high-ranking NYPD officers told them to do so. Who can blame the drivers? You never know which officer might be the next Anthony Bologna (the NYPD officer filmed pepper spraying OWS activists in an unprovoked attack).

On October 5, a brave soul named Steve from the 1% came to talk to the people in the park. He claimed to work for a nearby investment firm, and he certainly dressed, spoke and acted the part.

Many of the activists questioned him and tried to debate him, but he gave them mostly suave evasions, which generated a lot of frustration among the crowd of five-10 that gathered around him.

A white Vietnam veteran and hospice nurse (I never saw an old woman with a purple heart until then) asked Steve why should Medicare or Social Security be privatised using a voucher system? Why should the elderly and sick be forced to do with less during these hard times?

Steve replied that he does not support these moves and believed in a “strong social safety net” (a direct quote).

Next, a middle-aged black guy named Keith Thomas (who later turned out to be a transit worker injured on the job) asked Steve whether or not Wall Street firms had any type of moral obligation to their employees. (Thomas was laid off from a Wall Street firm prior to his job in the transit system.) Steve agreed they have a moral obligation, but added that no entity, whether it was a corporation or government, had obligations that were set in stone.

When I heard this, I could not keep my mouth shut any more and interjected: “So what about Medicare and Social Security? Those are obligations, right? And you said you supported them.” I pointed out that “too big to fail” banks enjoy a government guarantee that they would get bailed out again as in 2008.

Not surprisingly, Steve did not take well to my line of questioning and left soon after. The crowd thanked him for having the dialogue, as did I, and we asked him to come again.

I doubt he will.

In the course of the exchange, some things became clear.

First, Wall Street and corporate America will try to deflect responsibility for what OWS is upset about in the hopes that it falls for the Tea Party mantra that “government is the problem”.

When Steve said we should be protesting in Washington DC, demonstrators said Wall Street owns the government.

Some even went so far to say that Wall Street is the government.

Second, OWS has become what can only be described as a people’s movement. When you go into the park, it really is the 99% that you find there.

Thomas later told me he felt like this was “just like 1968” (when large popular revolts shook the world from the United States, to western Europe, and to Czechoslovakia in the Soviet bloc). He said it evoked feelings in him he had not felt for a long time.

There is a feeling of empowerment, like justice is on our side, of good will, and of seriousness of purpose in the air that is very difficult to capture with mere words. Even pictures and video footage, worth many millions of words, cannot convey it.

You have to come to Liberty Park to experience it. And once you experience it, you cannot stop the inner urge you feel to fight and win, against all odds. It is this feeling that is propelling the movement into the most unlikely of places, like Mobile, Alabama.

I am not old enough to remember 1968, but I imagine this is what it was like.

The occupation in the past few days has become much more multiracial than in the first and second weeks. I saw ageing Vietnam veterans (some of them homeless), union workers, high schoolers, journalists from the corporate media, progressive journalist Laura Flanders, Oscar award-wining filmmaker Michael Moore, Hispanic and African immigrants, low-wage workers who work nearby, retirees, people with disabilities, and college students.

The class and racial breakdown of the occupants looks much more like that of a rush hour subway car in midtown Manhattan than an alternative music concert as it did previously.

If you hear otherwise, you are hearing lies.

The only people missing are the the Steves of the city — the 1%. They are asking their friends in the corporate media, “is this Occupy Wall Street thing a big deal? … Is this going to turn into a personal safety problem?”

Wall Street is worried about what this means. And they are right to be. We are onto them.

The occupy movement is growing roots in all communities among all age groups and races. Everyone is bringing their issue to the table and receiving nothing but 100% support.

There is not a progressive cause OWS will not get behind, nor an injustice that it will not try to address in some way.

Union members from New York City’s largest municipal workers union, DC37, held a rally at OWS on October 3, as did the Teamsters who have been locked out by 1% auction dealer Sotheby’s for months. There were quite a few members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) there as well (their headquarters is two blocks away).

All the middle-aged union members I saw were grinning from ear to ear, cheered by the defiant and militant spirit that was once the calling card of the US labour movement.

Speaking of which, I ran into a young man at the occupation on October 3 who said he was a descendant of the Molly Maguires (a secret organisation of Irish-American coalminers who fought for workers’ rights in the 19th century).

I never expected to hear that name at a protest in this day and age (they were framed and executed in the 1870s using the same methods the state of Georgia used last month to kill Troy Davis because they sought to organise Irish immigrant workers in Pennsylvania’s coal fields).

This young man, Mark Purcell, traveled from central Pennsylvania to OWS and said he planned to get involved in whatever occupation happens in Philadelphia.

Mark told me he realised the system was totally corrupt when he worked at an Allentown warehouse as a temporary worker. He said the companies took advantage of undocumented immigrants since they have no legal rights or protections.

The minute he complained about working conditions, the company he worked for told him to talk to the temp agency that was technically his employer, and the temp agency fired him.

He was pissed off that companies outsource labour to these agencies and use that to dodge responsibility for working conditions. “It’s bullshit,” he said.


The spirit of the Molly Maguires lives on at OWS.

On October 5, National Nurses United, 1199SEIU, SEIU Local 32BJ, the New York AFL-CIO, the UFT, Communications Workers, Professional Staff Congress-CUNY, the NY Central Labor Council mobilised to rally and march to join OWS. Some reports say as many as 30,000 people joined the march.

October 5 union march in support of 'Occupy Wall Street'.

In addition to the alphabet soup of unions mobilising, student activists are organising walkouts from Hunter College, the New School (where professors issued a statement supporting their students’ walkout), and even New York University. Even the children of the 1% support OWS.

The last time the unions mobilised was in May, when the UFT brought out more than 10,000 people during its contract negotiations with Mayor Micharl Bloomberg. The proceedings were tightly controlled and the messages carefully managed from above by union leaders.

This time, things will be different. The turnout will surprise everyone, and the message will not be handed down to the city’s workers and students from on high. “Students and labour can shut the city down,” we shouted at the rallies on September 30 against police brutality.

Perhaps we were prescient.

[Reprinted from Pham Binh's website, . Pham Binh’s articles have been published by Asia Times Online, Znet, Counterpunch, and The Indypendent.]


This puts a smile on my dial. I'm glad this world is filled with great people going against those that are not-so-great. Keep up the good fight and bring the noise!

'We the People of the United States of America'

“We The People” initiative
- Initiative to form a consensus of our collective interests that distills the aims and specific demands of 'Occupy Wall Street' protests into two pieces of legislation designed for submission to the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate for two separate up-or-down votes.

'The People's Act' – Legislative Item #1
- a piece of legislation comprised of comprehensive social-economic reforms of the political process, with an emphasis on the role and function of money in our political system and process (elections).

'Amendment XXVIII' – Legislative Item #2
- a piece of legislation that addresses and redresses social justice issues, with an emphasis on equality, equity and rights.

October 15th - December 31st (Launch “We The People” Reform initiative)
- a critical mass of protest synergies agrees on terms to launch the drafting of legislation as outlined below; open call for and selection of persons to form a 50 member (one per state as determined by state and local protesters) drafting committee.

January 1st New Year's Day (Drafting committees formed and finalized)
- open collaborative participation in support of drafting legislation that resembles wikipedia style submissions and editing. 'We The,- .com. - .edu etc site serves as host of master documents for drafts of the 'Act' and the 'Amendment', edits, submissions to draft 'Act' and 'Amendment' must be approved by a simple majority of the perspective members on the 50 member drafting committee.

January 4th – March 30th (Draft outline of 'The People's Act' and 'Amendment XXVIII')
- general outline of first drafts with bullet point summations of key points of the proposed legislation for comment, debate and on-line voting on overall legislation as well as specific potentially contentious parts of each legislative item. Early March: discussion and debate pauses for 50 member committee to consider and revise initial drafts to be posted and voted for on-line.

April 1st – June 29th (1st Final Draft of 'The People's Act' and 'Amendment XXVIII')
- first final draft of 'Act' and 'Amendment' posted on-line for public review and consideration followed by a popular on-line vote on the 'Act' and 'Amendment' with real time disclosure and display of voting results.

June 30th July 4th (On-line voting and registration for 'Act' and 'Amendment')
- on-line registration and voting for 'Act' and 'Amendment' takes place simultaneously with final results posted on website: by end of day - Independence Day.

July 5th (CBO submission - scoring and analysis of legislation)
-sponsored by House, Senate or President, a 'citizen submission of legislation' – the 'Act' -to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring or a reliable alternative that would yield the same kind and quality of result and analysis.

July 15th – July 28th (Draft, enlist and vote on U.S. Legislators to sit on 'Super committee' – 'The People's Committee of Congress')
- select members of Congress are asked to serve on a NON-government 'We The People' version of the 'Super Committee' tasked with putting the 'Act' and 'Amendment' through a Congressional style committee process in anticipation of their submission to Congress employing the full commitment of their congressional staffs and expertise during the August recess.

August 1st – August 31st ('People's committee' meet during Congressional recess period to review and comment on draft 'Act' and 'Amendment'.)
- Legislators who agree to serve on the 'People's Super Committee' – meet during the scheduled August Congressional Recess to review the draft 'Act' and 'Amendment' for the purpose of submitting specific proposals and revisions necessary to ensure compliance of the draft legislation with Congressional rules and procedures as both pertain to the submission and passage of each piece of legislation.

August 31st Public Consideration of Congressional input
- specific proposals and revisions submitted by the 'People's Super Committee' are posted on-line for discussion, consideration, revision, adoption, adaption and finally voting.

September 6th Labor Day Weekend
- on-line vote on the specific proposals and revisions submitted by the 'People's Super Committee'

October 11th (2nd Final Draft of 'Act' and 'Amendment' posted on-line for debate and commentary)
- based on the outcome of the vote on the specific proposals and revisions made by the 'People's Super Committee' the 50 member drafting committee produces a 2nd Final Draft of the 'Act' and the 'Amendment'

Election Day Tuesday November 4th 2012
- National On-line vote for or against 'The People's Act' and 'Amendment XXVIII' – same day and time of U.S. Presidential Election- if the legislation receives a simple majority of the on-line votes, that version of the 'Act' and 'Amendment' will be petitioned to Congress for an up-or-down vote.

77 Days between election and inauguration November 4th – January 20th
- intensify campaign to submit 'The People Act' and 'Amendment XXVIII' to either the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate for up-or-down votes. Petition a member of Congress and or the President of the United States to submit or sponsor 'Act' and or 'Amendment'.

Turn Out The VOTE! Mid-term elections for House and Senate
- campaign to elect representatives that support passage of 'The People's Act' and or 'Amendment XXVIII' if either has not been passed into law by the time mid-term elections are primaried and scheduled.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the purpose of the 'The People's Act' and 'Amendment XXVIII'?
A: Incorporate the demands and the concerns of the 'Occupy Wall Street' protest into pieces of legislation that are voted on by Congress.

Q: What is in 'The People's Act' and 'Amendment XXVIII'?
A: The structure and content of the 'Act' and the 'Amendment' is determined by a transparent collaborative process that depends on the input and consideration of any and as many U.S. Citizens that participate in the process outlined above. This process and proposal does not attempt to define the 'Occupy Wall Street' protest but rather asked to be defined by the protest and the protesters in terms of the realities represented by the movement.

Q: Does this initiative as outlined above reign in or dilute the social movement that has been identified with the 'Occupy Wall Street' protest?
A: Yes, if the protesters fail to shepherd their demands through each stage of the process or if specific demands or interest are not vigorously promoted and defended in a transparent structured public discourse.

Q: What if we can not get the support or the participation of members of Congress?
A: We maintain the status-quo of a dysfunctional democracy that made the 'Occupy Wall Street' protest possible and necessary. It is the lack of support and participation of members of Congress in a fair and democratic process that has brought us to this point. Any request made of members of Congress is simply a request that they fulfill obligations to the country that they pledged themselves to upon being sworn into office.

Q: What is the advantage of channeling our movement and synergies through the process outlined above?
A: If successful the demands and concerns that the 'Occupy Wall Street' protest represent will have the force of law and become a part of this country's fundamental and founding principles.

Q: What is the disadvantage of the collaborative structure and the nature of this 'We the People Initiative'?
A: It will expose divisions and differences that could potentially splinter the movement and surrender the initiative to groups organized by 'Tea Party', 'Religious Conservative', and or Corporate interest.

Q: Who are the 50 members on the drafting committee?
A: Hopefully, they are professionals, academics, public intellectuals as well as state and local officials who lend their expertise to a collaborative drafting process as did those 'gentlemen' we call 'founding fathers' who came from various and sundry backgrounds.

Q: How are the 50 members nominated and selected?
A: The members are nominated by individuals who are organizing 'Occupy Wall Street' protest in each state. Ideally, the protesters in each state can agree on and vote on a list of candidates that have views and perspectives that qualify them to represent the interest, unique concerns and demands of the protesters in a given state.

Q: Doesn't producing two pieces of legislation require some kind or level of legal training or expertise?
A: Yes, but no more or less that the lobby firms that draft legislation that members of Congress rubber stamp in exchange for hefty campaign donations. There are constitutional law professors, city council members, business owners etc among the protesters; they should be on the drafting committee.

Q: Who will host and be responsible for designing, hosting and maintaining the website that centralizes the creative drafting process of drafting the 'Act' and the 'Amendment'?
A: The same type of people and expertise that are building and operating the on-line and technological aspects of the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement.

Q: Who is in charge of this entire process from draft to up-or-down votes on legislation that comes out of this process?
A: You! This proposal is being submitted with the hope that it will be spontaneously adopted and adapted by the various individuals who are passionate about the issues and concerns that are being expressed and addressed in the form of protest 'occupying' financial districts nationwide. If this proposal can not be sustained by popular support and interest there is little to no chance of either the 'Act' or the 'Amendment' being drafted or voted into law.

Q: What is meant by on-line registration and voting for different drafts of legislation?
A: Anyone, can register using basic and minimum information to ensure some degree of integrity to the voting process and results. For example, an imaged lettered verification form + last name- first initial- zip code and a single I.P. Address for each vote cast. You can vote and register all in one session on the site.

Q: How does this effort manage the large volume of comments and responses that would be submitted and directed at the various committees?
A: Ideally, the comments will take the form of specific and constructive ideas, proposals, and recommendations that are scored – liked – by a critical mass of the people who visit the site and participate in the process. The most liked or highly rated posted ideas, proposals and recommendations enter the work-flow of the drafting committee. This is similar to blog and newspaper website that list the top ten stories or post based on the number of people who read or indicated that they – liked the post.

Q: What if you do not like a specific part of the legislation that the drafting committee produces?
A: Vote and Voice against it! Then propose an alternative. In other words, share your opinion and then your mind.

Q: What if you do not like the comments and recommendations made by the 'People's Super Committee'?
A: The People's Super Committee can only make recommendations to the drafting committee and those recommendations can only be considered by the 50 member drafting committee if they receive a majority of the vote by people like you. The purpose of including the input of members of Congress is the anticipation of the 'Act' and the 'Amendment' having to navigate the procedures and rules that govern the legislative process as it pertains to considering and passing new pieces of legislation.

Q: What if Congress votes down the legislation that we submit?
A: Remember them in the mid-term elections. If a nationwide effort produces a genuine piece of legislation for Congressional consideration, the strength of your local movement and participation will determine how your elected member of Congress votes. It only matters to them if you matter to them.

Q: Is it fair or reasonable to ask a group of members of Congress to give up their August recess to work on two major pieces of legislation that come out of the process outlined above?
A: During this last August (2011) recess members of the Congressional Black Caucus spent their free-time putting on Job Fairs and addressing the disproportionately high unemployment rate among African-Americans and Latinos. The idea behind this recess appointment of a 'People's Super Committee' is that the situation warrants it, no less than it – the situation- warranted the 'Super Committee' that has been tasked with coming up with a debt reduction package under the threat of draconian cuts to domestic and military budgets.

Q: What do we do when 'The People's Act' and 'Amendment XXVIII' are either hijacked or stymied by one of the two major political parties in power?
A: That this is the fate of most legislation that promotes the social welfare of our society. The time table for this initiative piggy-backs on the electoral wave that will be generated by the presidential election. This will give the 'Act' and the 'Amendment' momentum and a longer shelf-life in a media culture of sound bites and short uninformed attention spans. Anticipating a difficult road to passage, this initiative has an organizational grass roots structure that if realized will make a push for the legislation more effective during mid-term and off-years elections. Keep in mind that a million people in any one of the key battle ground states can determine the next couple national elections. Instead, of targeting weak members of congress, a national effort against any committee chair person in Congress should deprive them of their seat if the legislation gets stuck, buried or stonewalled. Any U.S. Senator that attempts to filibuster the legislation should immediately be targeted by a nationwide electoral campaign that deprives him or her of their seat – no matter how entrenched or powerful they are or imagine themselves. Threaten the power and position of a committee chairperson and or U.S. Senator successfully – once – with an all out nationwide campaign and it will send a shock wave through Congress and force either of the two main political parties to spend a disproportionate amount of corporate dollars defending 'safe' seats while making vulnerable 'seats' that much more uncertain. It is not necessary to win every battle as long as the struggle drain their coffers.

Q: What does failure of this initiative and the legislation that it aims to produce look like?
A: It looks like the status-quo. The only acceptable defeat of any legislative item or initiative that emerges out of the process above or one similar to it is when a majority of the people have voted it down after a fair and open exchange of ideas. If the 'Act' and or 'Amendment' gets an up-or-down vote by both houses of congress, win or lose the results of a clean and fair legislative process should be accepted. We get what we want by making it happen; not by demanding what should have been won or lost in a long struggle that starts now!

Q: What if the President of the United States vetoes the legislation or there is a Supreme Court challenge?
A: Redirect the support that got the legislation through both houses of Congress to override the veto. Keep in mind that a super-majority vote will be needed to pass 'Amendment XXVIII' and super-majority vote of state legislatures will been needed to ratify the 'Amendment' if it passes. The 'Act' will be easier to pass, nevertheless, the goal of the overall process that produces the legislation is to mobilize a citizen power base to compel super-majorities on the federal and the state level. The closer we get to achieving this goal, the less successful will be Congressional, Presidential and or Supreme Court attempts to block or negate the legislation that emerges out of this process. It is not simply a matter of taking power from 'Wall Street' but to giving it back to the people.

Q: What can I do right now to make this happen?
A: - Using your facebook, twitter, blogs, email, stamps and envelops to share this idea with as many people as possible.

- Ask people with a significant on-line presence to start a sign-up list for people who are willing to dedicate time and energy to building the site, serving on the committees etc.

- Petition and nominate your member of Congress to serve on the 'People's Super Committee'. Start a facebook page or a Google-circle for the petition state-by-state.

- Think about that woman or man who has articulated views that you want to be considered by the 50 member drafting committee and start a campaign to draft that person into service on the 50 member drafting committee! Promote them using the ideas that they shared with you and which made you think that they speak to an interest of the general public.

- Start a email list of supporters that you can direct to this effort at critical points when it starts to reach escape volatility challenges by entrenched money interest.

- If you are student at a university or college get your political science departments and law schools on board.

- Those that have capacity on a server should offer to host a domain for the drafting committee or offer technical support for the site when it is up and running.

- Address any concerns or weaknesses that you find with this idea by improving it with ideas of your own.

- If you have connections to people that carry weight with law firms get them to ask their firm to donate hours pro-bona in support of this process and the pieces of legislations.

- If you are affiliated with a think-tank, newspaper, catering company or socially responsible lobby or investment organization secure sponsorships of this idea and practical things like donating space to host 'The People's Super Committee'.

- If a gathering of either the 50 member drafting committee or the recess meeting of member of Congress on the 'People's Super Committee' takes place in your area volunteer to staff the location and offer administrative support if you have those expertise.

- But most important, when and where you see this idea gaining traction support it!

Till few years back whenever i saw anything like this happening i used to be impressed that someone is protesting for the right things but genuinely speaking i have been so fed up with this so frequent protest etc they these things have lost the respect in my eyes.

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