Editor’s Note: History should record that the birth of the 99% Movement was on September 17, 2011. That was when the movement became a household name known to the masses. However, the 99% Movement was conceived exactly two years ago, with the release of an online report and call to action titled “The Economic Elite Vs. The People of the United States of America.” The report was originally released as a six-part series. The first part was published on February 15, 2010 and the last part was published on February 27, 2010.
To celebrate the two year anniversary, we are reissuing the report with a new introduction recapping the history and evolution of the movement, from the experience of researching and writing the original call to action, to building up the movement online and organizing occupations worldwide. At the end of the book, we feature statements from occupiers, organizers and supporters of the 99%.
February 2012 Introduction
Respect to the Leaders
The most important point for me to make clear in writing about my experience is that it obviously gives a limited view of all the incredible effort and hard work that many people have put into building this decentralized non-hierarchical crowdsourced movement. It is absurd to give too much credit to any individual or one particular group for its phenomenal growth. The fact of the matter is that this movement has become such a powerful force because millions of people have taken it upon themselves to stand up, be leaders and defend their family and country against global financial interests that have bought control of our government, economy and legal system.
This movement is built upon the courageous people that have sacrificed everything to occupy. All respect to the people on the frontlines, out in the streets; the people who continually show up day in and day out, fighting around the clock. They are the leaders! If it wasn’t for them, I would still be toiling in obscurity.
Support the Troops
I have had many encouraging conversations with very wealthy individuals and people who run large organizations that say that they want to support the movement and help it grow. Many people well within the economic top 1% fully understand that our political process is overrun with corruption and that we are on a critically unsustainable path. They view the 99% Movement and Occupy as our last best chance to turn things around. There are many people within the 1% who do not want to be associated with the “organized criminal class,” which technically only makes up 0.1% of the population, at most. I have a great deal of respect for these compassionate and conscious one percenters.
However, as of this writing, financial and resource support has been minimal. Every day I speak with organizers and occupiers throughout the country who have played a very significant role in building this movement and they can no longer afford to keep fighting fulltime. Just like everyone else, they have bills to pay and families to feed. Other than financially, the past five months have taken a serious physical toll on many of us. Many people have lost considerable weight, have had a nasty cold and cough, and have been getting four hours of sleep on a good night. This struggle is one that is shared by thousands of people who battle every single day. Something that people who are not on the frontlines don’t seem to understand is that we are currently fighting an all-out nonviolent war. This movement is a relentless battle that demands 24/7 commitment.
Since this movement has taken off, many organizations that cover our actions and operate on the periphery of the movement are now receiving large donations and funding, partly as a result of our efforts. They also deserve to be rewarded for their vital work. However, the people putting their bodies on the line daily and doing all the heavy lifting need to have their basic needs met as well. It’s incredibly disheartening to see career “activists,” that have failed for years to do what we have done, fundraise off our backs, while the real fighters and change-makers go hungry. Clearly, after the last five months of intense battle, I’m growing increasingly weary and frustrated by this lack of respect. We need to do a better job of raising funds ourselves. I admire and respect people who try to make the world a better place for a living, but your words of support mean little without substantive actions behind them. This is a nonviolent war, not yet another swanky gabfest conference filled with well-paid suits righteously yapping about someday creating the structural change that anyone with half a political clue knows we urgently need now. Enough with your comfortable talks, it’s time for ACTION! So stop hoarding funds and resources while the real fighters are out on the frontlines.
In other words…
“Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand…
The line it is drawn…
Keep your eyes wide
the chance won’t come again…
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’…
If your time to you is worth savin’
You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone….
The order is rapidly fadin’…
And the first one now
will later be last…
As the present now
Will later be past…
Come gather ’round people
Please heed the call…”
– Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’, #OccupyRemix, 10.24.63 – 2.15.12
It was the last weekend of January 2010, and a heavy snowstorm had trapped us in the house. Not that it mattered much, I rarely stepped foot out of my apartment/home office. I had been working over 60 hours a week sitting in front of my laptop researching and analyzing economic news reports, and then posting excerpts and summaries of them to my independent news site AmpedStatus.com. I had posted thousands of excerpts over the past two years and was growing increasingly frustrated and depressed. The full scope of the economic devastation and trillions of dollars in fraudulent activity were still being ignored by the mainstream press. Even much of the so-called independent online press seemed to be missing the in-depth analysis that was needed for the average American to understand the gravity of the crisis that was now confronting the global economy.
After spending years as an online editor operating behind the scenes aggregating and editing the most hard-hitting news and information I could find, by mid-October 2009, I reached a point where I felt there wasn’t enough reporting adequately presenting vital information in a concise and urgent enough manner, so I decided to start writing my own reports. Within a few weeks I pounded out some commentaries. The first one was titled “How Much Longer Will You Remain Passive?” I created a graphic to go with the piece that showed the New York Stock Exchange with text over it that said, “If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention.” I followed that up with an extensive report titled “News Reports from Inside the Financial Coup.” Then, a commentary and video titled “The Wall Street Economic Death Squad.” Those three reports quickly earned me some critical acclaim and attention.
My first big viral report came in November: “The Critical Unraveling of U.S. Society.” That report was picked up by The Public Record and AlterNet, soon it spread to many sites and had over one million page views. In December, I released an extensive report on military spending titled “Af-Pak War Racket: The Obama Illusion Comes Crashing Down.” That report was also widely published and I was suddenly getting a lot of interview requests. Knowing that I now had solid attention, I needed to make sure that the next report could become an organizing tool. It couldn’t just be another news report or commentary, it had to be a call to action that directly engaged people.
However, I could barely afford to pay the rent anymore. I was on the verge of being broke and didn’t know how I could continue to work independently. Almost a year before, I was living in a nice apartment in the Financial District, a few blocks from Wall Street. In early 2009, I ran into financial problems and couldn’t afford the high cost of Manhattan rent anymore. I was working in nonprofit media and the financial crisis dried up key funding sources.
Moving out of Manhattan was a low point in my life. I remember my last night in the city before leaving. I walked down my street, John Street, hung a left on Broadway and walked down to Borders bookstore. I used to go to Borders, get a book and then walk up Broadway to the nearest park and sit on a stone bench with a cup of coffee. This was something of a ritual for me, so on my last night I headed for Borders. But I was too depressed to get a book, so I just headed for the nearby park on Broadway and sat on a stone bench. I sat there facing East, looking toward the NY Federal Reserve building, and Southeast toward Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange. I remember thinking about how tragically poetic it was that I was sitting by the two buildings that I felt were most responsible for driving me out of my home. I thought to myself, if the Fed and top Wall Street executives weren’t engaged in trillions of dollars of fraudulent activity and robbing the US public blind, I could probably still get funding for my work and wouldn’t have to move. Well, enough with the pity party digression. Back to that snowy weekend in January 2010.
I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. I thought, “How am I going to afford to keep up the fight and keep working in independent media? How am I going to use the attention that I have been getting to rally the passive masses into action? If my next report doesn’t do well, I’m screwed.” After dinner, at around 7pm on Friday January 29th, I felt like I was on the verge of a breakdown. I was incredibly stressed out and depressed as I went into my room/office and closed the door. I didn’t come back out until Monday afternoon, 15,000 words later I had a solid first draft of what was initially called “It’s Time for 99% of Americans to Rise.” After spending hours over the next two weeks fact checking and editing the report, I decided to change the title to “The Economic Elite Vs. The People of the United States of America,” to have a more descriptive headline that would more effectively grab attention, and hopefully get more people to click on it. I then decided to use the 99% call as a bold tagline under the headline. The report was way too long to put into one post, so I decided to break it up into six parts. The entire report would be a call to action for a “99% Movement.” The last section of the report had a link to an online sign up form where we could begin to collect the email addresses of people who were ready to “take action against the 1% that have robbed our country and set our economic future on fire.”
The first part of the series was posted to AmpedStatus.com on February 15, 2010. Once again, The Public Record and AlterNet quickly picked up the report. AlterNet changed the headline of part one to “The Economic Elite Have Engineered an Extraordinary Coup, Threatening the Very Existence of the Middle Class.” They also edited out the bold tagline at the top of the piece that called for the 99% to unite and mobilize on common ground. I was upset about that, but their site was key in making that report and my previous two take off online. Once AlterNet posted part one, it instantly became their most popular report and quickly went viral, sections of the report ended up being published all over the internet. Across many sites, the series is estimated to have received over five million page views. Just before publishing the series online, I decided to turn it into a short book, more of a pamphlet inspired by the pamphleteers of the American Revolution, and made it available on AmpedStatus.com for a donation of $15 or more. Some people were generous enough to provide larger donations, so I could afford to give out many copies for free. The money I made off the book was enough to keep our rent paid over the next six months and keep me in the fight.
[I won’t excerpt or go into the details of the Economic Elite report and 99% call to action here, as it is published in full starting on page 47.]
With a flood of interview requests and attention building around the 99% Movement throughout February and early March, I then released another extensive report and call to action to keep the momentum building. On March 31st, this radical essay with a headline asking a highly controversial question was posted: “Is It Time for Law Abiding American Citizens to Stop Paying Their Taxes and Start a New Government?”
The teaser under the headline stated:
“The evidence is now overwhelming. The United States government has facilitated the theft of trillions of dollars of national wealth and 99% of the US population no longer has political representation.”
The introduction continued:
“I torturously spend 60 plus hours a week researching this and the torrent of devastating news and evidence is mounting by the minute. The staggering level of theft continues unabated. As I am watching this unfold, I am horrified thinking about the severe consequences that have only just begun to reap their toll. Our nation is being raped and pillaged. Our future is going up in flames and our government isn’t even making the slightest effort to put out the fire. In fact, they are purposely pouring gasoline all over it.”
The introduction ended with this famous quote from Mario Savio:
“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that… the machine will be prevented from working at all.”
After extensively exposing information on the fraudulent activity of Wall Street and laying out the government’s complicity in the theft, the report ended with another call to action titled “Time for a Second American Revolution – The 99% Movement.” That section ended by saying:
“Our politicians won’t defend us and exercise the will of the people, so we must. It’s time to get moving, start organizing and to form a new government that is, as the Constitution states: of, by and for the people.
We will restore a rule of law. The second American Revolution has now begun!
We are US soldiers, police officers, firefighters, teachers, students, business owners, postal workers, transit workers, construction workers, union members, artists, journalists, doctors, nurses, lawyers, social service workers, factory workers, farmers, we are 99% of the population and we will not stand by and let our country be destroyed like this!
We are launching a 99% Movement and all the propaganda and labels that are used to divide us will fall to the wayside. We are not just Republicans and Democrats, or Tea Party and Coffee Party people, we are Americans and we are uniting against our common enemy.”
After that, I featured this quote from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem, “Mask of Anarchy”:
“Rise like Lions after slumberIn unvanquishable number
Shake your chains
to earth like dew
Which in sleep
had fallen on you
Ye are many
they are few”
Next came this quote from Trent Reznor’s song, “The Hand That Feeds”:
“Are you brave enough to see?Do you want to change it?”
Then the call to action ended with another link to sign up for the 99% Movement.
Some websites that ran my previous reports felt this one was “too radical” and did not run it. However, many sites that were just becoming aware of my work and leaned toward a more radical approach jumped on it and the 99% Movement became viral amongst a new audience. The 99% meme was now spreading across the political spectrum.
While using the attention to get many interviews in support of the movement, an Anonymous person helped keep the momentum rolling by creating a music remix of my television interview clips and called it “The Road to Revolution: 99% Uprising.” It featured a bunch of sound bites of me ranting about the consolidation of wealth, financial terrorism, a rigged political system and the need for the 99% to unite on common ground and get into the streets. The song in the background of the video was the Muse anthem “Uprising.”
We were now focused on building the 99% Movement into an online army. We began to build an online network dedicated to creating a “decentralized global rebellion against neo-liberal economic domination.” After beginning to help organize people in the US and throughout Europe online, our attention shifted to Tunisia and Egypt where we first made contact with a “subgroup” within Anonymous that was helping revolutionaries organize online free from government surveillance and censorship.
In early January 2011, our site started to get hit by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and got knocked offline. The attacks kept escalating and on January 7th an attack took out our entire ISP network, which affected many other sites as well. Our hosting company was helpful at first, but as the attacks kept coming, they made it clear that they couldn’t host the site anymore, unless we moved to a very expensive system, which we couldn’t afford. In complete desperation, we put out a call for help. Several Anons
(“members” of Anonymous) then stepped up and helped us out. Once we were back up and running, I released another extensive report in February 2011 titled “Analysis of the Global Insurrection Against Neo-Liberal Economic Domination and the Coming American Rebellion – We Are Egypt [Revolution Roundup #3].”
Here’s the introduction to that report:
“If you think what’s happening in Egypt won’t happen within the United States, you’ve been watching too much TV. The statistics speak for themselves.
In previous Revolution Roundups, before we were knocked offline, we featured mass protests by the people of Ireland, Italy, Britain, Austria, Greece, France and Portugal, as the Global Insurrection contagion spread throughout Europe. And now, as we have seen over the past month, North African and Middle Eastern nations have joined the movement as the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco, Gabon, Mauritania, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Palestine, Iraq, Sudan and Algeria have taken to the streets en masse.
The connection between this latest round of uprisings and the prior protests throughout Europe is one the mainstream media is not making. We are witnessing a decentralized global rebellion against Neo-Liberal economic imperialism. While each national uprising has its own internal characteristics, each one, at its core, is about the rising costs of living and lack of financial opportunity and security. Throughout the world the situation is the same: increasing levels of unemployment and poverty, as price inflation on food and basic necessities is soaring.
Whether national populations realize it or not, these uprisings are against systemic global economic policies that are strategically designed to exploit the working class, reduce living standards, increase personal debt and create severe inequalities of wealth. These global uprisings, which have only just begun, are the first wave of the inevitable reaction to the implementation of a centralized worldwide Neo-Feudal economic order.
The global banking cartel, centered at the IMF, World Bank and Federal Reserve, have paid off politicians and dictators the world over – from Washington to Greece to Egypt. In country after country, they have looted national economies at the expense of local populations, consolidating wealth in unprecedented fashion – the top economic one-tenth of one percent is currently holding over $40 trillion in investible wealth, not counting an equally significant amount of wealth hidden in offshore accounts.
IMF imperial operations designed to extract wealth and suppress populations have been ongoing for decades. As anyone researching economic imperialism will know, a centrally planned Neo-Liberal aristocracy controls the global economy.”
Section seven of the report, “A Recipe For Revolution: Tax Breaks for the Rich, Budget Cuts for the Poor,” stated:
“Republicans and Democrats, along with their Wall Street masters, are so arrogant, deluded with wealth, completely lacking perspective, shortsighted and, quite frankly, ignorant.
As the economic top one-tenth of one percent has more wealth than they have ever had, the middle class is quickly disappearing and poverty is soaring. As politicians ignore the needs of the suffering masses in favor of a Kleptocratic Oligarchy, which operates above the law, it is only a matter of time before an uprising takes hold.
After analyzing societal and economic indicators within the US, in comparison to rebelling countries, it is not a matter of whether people will revolt or not, it’s a matter of when.”
Section eight of the “Analysis of the Global Insurrection” report was titled “The Empire State Rebellion.” In that section, we posted a map of New York’s Financial District and called for millions of people to flood into lower Manhattan and camp out “from Wall Street to the NY Fed, spilling over to the corporate offices of JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.” As the report stated:
“Given all the data, due to New York’s geographical layout, population size and proximity to power, it is a prime candidate for insurrection…. One million people gathering in Cairo, Egypt sent shock waves throughout the world, and rightfully so, but just wait until millions of Americans begin flooding the streets. The revolution contagion will spread throughout the world like a category five hurricane.”
Several Anons loved the idea. Having just helped Egyptians Occupy Tahrir Square, they felt it was time to Occupy Wall Street.
The Anonymous subgroup and the 99% Movement then formed a collaborative effort called A99. On March 12, 2011, A99 issued their first video and announced “A99 Operation Empire State Rebellion, #OpESR, Communication #1.” As the video declared:
“We are a decentralized non-violent resistance movement, which seeks to restore the rule of law and fight back against the organized criminal class.
One-tenth of one percent of the population has consolidated wealth in unprecedented fashion and launched an all-out economic war against 99.9% of the population.
We are not affiliated with either wing of the two-party oligarchy. We seek an end to the corrupted two-party system by ending the campaign finance and lobbying racket.
Above all, we aim to break up the global banking cartel centered at the Federal Reserve, International Monetary Fund, Bank of International Settlements and World Bank.
We demand that the primary dealers within the Federal Reserve banking system be broken up and held accountable for rigging markets and destroying the global economy, effective immediately.
As a first sign of good faith, we demand Ben Bernanke step down as Federal Reserve chairman.
Until our demands are met and a rule of law is restored, we will engage in a relentless campaign of non-violent, peaceful, civil disobedience.”
The video ended with the famous Mario Savio quote that was used at the end of the “Second American Revolution – 99% Movement” call to action. That video instantly went viral and tore a hole through cyberspace with hundreds of thousands of views within a few days. Also on March 12th, to coincide with the A99 video release, I did an interview with Max Keiser to discuss the video and call for an occupation of Wall Street. An Anonymous member then released a rough edit dubstep music video of that interview and called it “Empire State Rebellion: An Idea Whose Time Has Come.” Here are some excerpts from the transcript:
“Mainstream media in the United States is the most efficient weapon of mass oppression….
… there is so much divide and conquer rhetoric – it goes from the mainstream media and it filters all the way down into independent media.
So it’s a matter of finding that place where you can overcome the divide and conquer propaganda. And where we can find that place is on Wall Street….
How would a million people clogging lower Manhattan’s financial district play out in the global media?
If we came down there and said: ‘We’re not leaving until we have commitments to break up the banks and end the campaign finance racket.’…
We have the highest, most severe inequality of wealth we have ever had, unlimited campaign spending, budget cuts for the poor, tax breaks for the rich – this is the ultimate recipe for revolution…
Decentralized global rebellion.
It was at this point where I learned from various Anons about their strategy of operating in three-month cycles. With the first video announcement in mid-March, it was then announced that on Flag Day, June 14th, 2011- three months later – they would launch their first offline US operation by holding protests in 23 cities. On June 1st, a call to action titled “Acts of Resistance: What Are You Going To Do To Rebel Against Economic Tyranny?” was released. It stated:
“The big banks have sold us out.
Democrats and Republicans have sold us out.
No one is defending our interests.
Our future is going up in flames.
It’s time for us to stand up and defend ourselves….
#OpESR is a decentralized non-violent resistance movement to end the system of political bribery (campaign finance and lobbying) and break up the big banks centered at the Federal Reserve…”
They were calling for people across the country to “Occupy Public Space.” Being that it was their first day of offline operations, we weren’t expecting much of a turnout, but as the 14th approached, there was an inspiring amount of online attention. On June 9th, I wrote, “Economic Rebellion Update – This Is What Decentralized Resistance Looks Like.”
“Exciting times over here, to say the least! The June 14th Flag Day Rebellion against economic tyranny is growing much stronger and more rapidly than anticipated. As a small part of a decentralized movement, it’s hard to measure the overall impact, but my email inbox is exploding with support and interest. This movement is definitely succeeding in uniting people from all over the political spectrum. Hardcore progressives and libertarians have found common cause. Liberals who are sick of ‘spineless Democrats.’ Conservatives who have had enough of ‘crony-capitalist and imperial Republicans.’ Apolitical people who are sick and tired of living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to get by. The foreclosed upon. The unemployed. People desperately surviving off of food stamps. And especially people who have been impoverished by medical bills. I’ve heard from so many people with horror stories from financial ruin as a result of health problems who are ‘ready to fight back.’ The anger throughout the population is much more intense than even I thought it was.
People who spent their career working on Wall Street are ‘done sitting idle while the market is rigged in favor of a handful of politically connected global banks and firms.’ The people who are taking it upon themselves to take action and spread the word come from all walks of life. Emails have come in from people in the military, veterans, police, firefighters, real estate brokers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, construction workers, accountants, Wal-Mart workers, union members, union haters – they’re all coming together on this. Teachers and students have been strong supporters. College students and recent graduates are feeling completely trapped in debt. Their awareness of their limited opportunities and lack of financial security moving forward is very evident. And, of course, the activists and hacktivists are coming out in force.”
On June 11th, A99 released “OpESR Communication #2: Ctrl+Alt+Bernanke.” This video stated:
“US Politicians have not taken action to break up the Federal Reserve and the ‘Too Big To Fail’ Banks.
US Politicians have not taken action to prosecute the people who caused our economic crisis.
US Politicians have not taken action to end the system of political bribery, the campaign finance and lobbying racket, which allows global bankers to control our political process….
We cannot remain passive while our future is going up in flames.
It is time for us to stand up for ourselves.
It is time for you to stand up for yourself.
We must restore the rule of law and fight back against the organized criminal class.
We must now launch Operation Empire State Rebellion.
The operation will commence on June 14th.
As a first step, we are calling upon you to occupy a public space…”
Once again, that video also instantly went viral and got hundreds of thousands of views. Once that happened, I thought we were on the verge of something big.
A member of A99, going by the name of Gary Roland, researched potential Wall Street occupation sites. He told me that he thought a public-private park on Broadway, named Zuccotti Plaza, which was strategically located near the New York Federal Reserve building and Wall Street, was legally the best shot we had at holding a space. I said to him: “Zuccotti Plaza? You mean Liberty Park. I know that park very well. I used to live around the corner from there and go there all the time.” I immediately felt like it was destiny and fate: the very park that I spent my last depressing night at home as an NYC resident would be the place where we would return and the Empire State Rebellion would begin.
With only one day to go before the June 14th launch date, we put up a call for the protesters to “Occupy Liberty Park.” Not wanting to give the police too much lead time, it wasn’t until June 13th that we announced “Activists to Occupy Financial District’s Liberty Park Until Demands Are Met.” The release stated:
“On June 14th at 1pm EST, a group of activists will begin occupation of Liberty Park (recently renamed Zuccotti Park) in lower Manhattan’s Financial District, a few blocks from Wall Street (14971 Broadway, 10007)….
Gary Roland, an organizer of the action, says they will occupy the park ‘indefinitely, to express non-violent dissent to the further consolidation of wealth into the hands of international corporations by the corrupted two-party oligarchy. This is a non-violent action that seeks to express dissent and raise awareness of the failures of our current political discourse, until our demands are satisfied.’…
There are public protests taking place in at least 22 other cities on June 14th to help launch this movement…. This movement has inspired and united supporters from across a broad range of political opinion.”
On the night of June 13th, I packed a bag and sleeplessly waited for the sun to come up on Flag Day, June 14th, 2011. After originally thinking it was going to be a small turnout, I kept thinking: If only 300 people show up, given the attention we were getting throughout the media and the solidarity actions happening in 22 other cities, we might actually pull this off.
However, despite hundreds of thousands of people engaged online and the excitement buzzing around the day’s actions, with such little lead time in shifting the focus to our attempt at occupying Liberty Park, our first occupation attempt was a failed one. We ended up having just as many media cameras there as protesters. Only about 16 of us showed up. It was a humiliating and depressing disappointment. With our bags and folding chairs, we looked pretty pathetic sitting there surrounded by news reporters and cameras. As time went by, the occupation was quickly down to just four of us and one documentary filmmaker. The news crew from Al Jazeera was the last news outlet to leave, giving us a pat on the back, but shaking their heads while saying that they were not going to run a report on our actions. I was extraordinarily frustrated after all the hard work we put in and the attention we got online and throughout the media. I felt as if we just squandered a major opportunity to spark a “relentless nonviolent civil disobedience movement against the organized criminal class.”
Going into June 14th, we were already facing a lot of criticism and ridicule for calling for protests. A prominent journalist that I have a lot of respect for told me I was committing career suicide. People online were mocking us and saying that Americans were too propagandized and passive to take action. However, by the evening of June 14th, reports from protests in the other cities were coming in and people seemed excited. By this time, Gary, Kevin, Oren, me and the documentary filmmaker were the only people left in Zuccotti Park. Disappointed, but still determined, the five of us decided to march down to Wall Street. Standing across the street from the stock exchange, we began to strategize our return. Given the commitment to three-month cycles, mid-September would be the time to try it again.
After having a long discussion on Wall Street, Gary said that he was going to check out the protest that was happening that same day down the road by City Hall. They were calling their protest site Bloombergville. We were hoping to get them to join us at Liberty Park, but they wanted to be closer to City Hall and keep the focus on Bloomberg and his budget cuts. I told Gary that I had to go home to help recap the day’s actions in an online report. We discussed the importance of convincing the Bloomberg protesters that their real enemy is Wall Street. Gary gave his word that he would recruit them for our future actions. He spent the next two plus weeks occupying Bloombergville, spreading the message and rallying the troops for a return to Wall Street. As it turned out, the Bloombergville protesters didn’t need much convincing. They were ready to take on Wall Street next.
While Gary went to help start Bloombergville, I went home on the night of June 14th feeling very depressed, but determined as ever, and posted the following statement to the A99 social network:
“Back home from Liberty Park. It is nice to know that I will be sleeping in a comfortable bed tonight, but pretty depressing that we didn’t get enough people willing to stand up and occupy the park. Despite thousands of emails, tweets, comments and a video that already has 200,000 views, only four people in NYC were ready to put serious action behind their words. (At this point, I don’t know how all the other actions went, so I’ll hold off on commenting on them.)
It seems everyone is content just tweeting and writing strong comments, passively waiting and hoping that other people will do the hard work for them. Unfortunately, as most of you already know, we don’t have much time left to turn things around, some think it is already too late.
Hopefully, now that we have brought a lot of much needed attention to these issues and this movement we can keep building and most of the people who just found out about this, and sat on the sidelines this time, will realize that they actually need to take action next time.
The most frustrating part is that we had so much media attention on this, if only a few hundred people were willing to occupy the park this would have quickly escalated.
I would like to thank Gary Roland, Oren Clark and Kevin Dann – the only other people in all of NYC who were ready to answer this call today and take a stand. It was great spending time with you guys. I’m sure we will meet again very soon.
As disappointed as I am now, given the attention we were able to get online, which obviously doesn’t translate into action, I know that we are building awareness. Americans may not be ready yet, but it is just a matter of time before that awareness grows into the action we need. After all, this was just the first day of the Empire State Rebellion. That’s what we need to keep in perspective. Rome wasn’t built in a day and Rome will not be conquered in a day. We’re getting there, I just hope we can get there before it’s too late.”
The next morning, I posted a recap of #FlagDay actions to AmpedStatus that several A99 Anons wrote, “OpESR Status Update: Empire State Rebellion Day 1.” Here are some excerpts from their report:
“While we have launched this movement beyond expectations throughout Media and Online Operations, and have achieved success in Phase 1 of Cyber Operations, our first step in Ground Operations has been insufficient…. If we are to achieve success, you must take your own action and be a leader. We are confident in our numbers and strength online, but we must urgently evolve into a much stronger offline force as well….
The most ambitious ground operation launched on Day 1 was in New York City’s Financial District, just a few blocks from Wall Street, at Liberty Park. The protest only attracted 16 people in total, with only 4 people ready to occupy the park indefinitely…. Getting people to stand up in this way requires a very strong commitment that most people have not yet realized will be necessary and in their best interests. As we continue Awareness Operations and build momentum, we will reactivate this part of our Ground Operation at a future date. We have set up a social network group dedicated to planning this operation. If you are ready to peacefully occupy a public place, please join the planning group here.”
As you will read in the next section, after the June 14th actions we picked up a significant amount of help, both online and offline. Sure enough, after we spent another three months organizing people to Occupy Wall Street, we ended up back at that park in Manhattan across from the Federal Reserve building and Stock Exchange – exactly where I was on my last depressing night at home and had a humiliating failure in our first attempt at occupation. It was time for some redemption. And this time, on September 17th, 2011, thanks to the leadership, hard work and inspiring commitment of hundreds of others, including many of the people who occupied Bloombergville, the occupation of Wall Street was a success and the 99% Movement soon became a household name.
When people ask me who I’m working for, or if I’m a leader of the movement, I realize that they don’t get it. As Bob Dylan once said: “You know something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mister Jones?” In this movement, everyone is free and empowered to do what they want, when they want. No one leads by words or title, they lead by their actions, by putting in the hard work. If your actions are positive, constructive and empowering, a critical mass of people will gravitate toward them. If your actions are counterproductive, people will ignore and/or dismiss them. That’s what a decentralized non-hierarchical crowdsourced movement is all about.
The fact is we are all leaders. Unless everyone looks into the mirror and finds the leader within, this movement will not achieve the success that is necessary to create significant and meaningful change. In the early A99 days, people would always ask, “Who is your leader?” One of the Anons brilliantly posted a reply on the A99 social network with the bold headline “A99 Operation Empire State Rebellion Exposed, Leaders Revealed.” It stated:
“There have been many rumors surrounding A99 Operation Empire State Rebellion. Here we will reveal all you need to know.
We are a DECENTRALIZED non-violent movement. If you are looking to contact one of our leaders, go to the nearest mirror and peer deeply into it. It may take some time, but, eventually, one of our leaders will appear with answers to all of your questions.
Empire State Rebellion is an idea… an idea whose time has come!”
When I look back at all the events that I have witnessed, not to mention all the significant events that I’m unaware of, there are many things that make me think that if it wasn’t for that one particular action, maybe the movement would have never taken off and become as powerful as it is.
What if Anonymous hadn’t been there? Anonymous played such a pivotal role in getting the message out and developing the decentralized non-hierarchal strategy. They had three videos that each went viral in support of this movement. They also played a vital role in helping revolutionaries worldwide organize online free from government surveillance and censorship. After we first made contact with some Anons who were active in Tunisia and Egypt, they came to our defense and saved our site from being knocked off the internet. If they hadn’t done that, the 99% Movement may have been over before it began to gain traction. It was from that critical situation that the A99 collaborative effort began. Out of that relationship grew calls to Occupy Wall Street, Occupy the Federal Reserve and Occupy Public Space.
What if Adbusters hadn’t made the call? It was Adbusters who made the now historic call to #OccupyWallStreet on September 17th. It was also Adbusters who provided the highly controversial “What Is Our One Demand?” framing. We had our demands: Get money out of politics, break up the Federal Reserve and big banks, prosecute the banksters and tell Ben Bernanke to step down. However, it was Adbusters’ invitation for people to come and air their own grievances and demands that played a significant role in bringing people out. Adbusters also had a core group of committed people throughout the world who had admired and respected their work for years that were poised and ready to heed their call. I have been an avid reader of Adbusters since they put out their first issue. They’ve been fighting a media war since 1989, inspired by Situationist theories and tactics that I highly respect and admire.
What if Bloomberg hadn’t made his budget cuts and the Bloombergville camp had never been set up? The Bloombergville protest was pivotal. The group of organizations and people that made up Bloombergville were a driving force in making Occupy Wall Street successful. They had community based organizing and boots on the ground! It was also during Bloombergville that protesters were experimenting with The People’s General Assembly concept that was being used in other countries during occupation protests. Without that experience, the New York City General Assembly (NYCGA) probably wouldn’t be what it is today. The NYCGA was making so many key decisions throughout August and early September, before the occupation started, and many people and organizations that were not involved in Bloombergville were added into the mix during this time frame.
The NYCGA was a key factor in building the participatory direct democratic experience that made Liberty Park a vibrant community. Instead of just being a protest against Wall Street and our corrupted government, the NYCGA created an alternative, a new way of living were everyone’s voice could be heard and mattered. People across the country then wanted to have their own communities based around the GA concept. The GA was another very powerful meme that united people on common ground. And with the New York City rule against amplified sound; the human microphone, mic checks, twinkling fingers and hard blocks became the language of a new revolutionary generation.
What if Global Revolution hadn’t been there livestreaming? After taking part in the Spanish uprising and protests around the world, the Global Revolution team came to Zucotti with a wealth of experience and skill to provide internet video livestream coverage of the occupation as it unfolded. Many people that came to the park told me that they had seen what was happening on the livestream and decided to come down to help out and take part. Global Rev exploded the livestream concept, which became yet another very powerful meme and tool for organizing.
What if the “Stop the Machine” coalition hadn’t been organizing and building awareness for their October occupation of DC? The Stop the Machine coalition featured an amazing collection of veteran organizers who were planning an occupation of DC as we started planning the September 17th occupation. They had already built up awareness and momentum, and they threw their support behind OWS in the run up to September 17th in a significant way. I remember thinking, if we can just make the NY occupation last until October 6th, when the other occupation started in DC, we could really break through to mainstream consciousness. As it turned out, the DC occupation began just as many other occupations began to spring up around the country.
Going back even further, to February 2011, what if the Wisconsin state capital building hadn’t been occupied? As I wrote on February 20th, 2011:
“This battle in Madison, Wisconsin, between the American people and the global financial elite, represents the opening salvo, the awakening of an American resistance movement and a sign of what’s to come.”
You can even look back at some of the crucial individual actions. What if Chris hadn’t proposed making “We Are the 99%” the rally cry, and started the influential WeAreThe99Percent Tumblr blog that allowed people to upload their picture and tell their story? After much debate, the “We Are the 99%” rally cry achieved consensus. When we headed toward Wall Street on September 17th chanting “We Are the 99%,” the feeling I had was comparable to how I felt when I got married and when my son was born. The energy I felt that day was incredible! And once I found out that Chris and Priscilla had put up the Tumblr site, I instantly posted it to AmpedStatus and blasted it out to the 99% email list. That site was a stroke of genius. Priscilla then played another key role in starting the Occupied Wall Street Journal, giving the movement its first newspaper.
What if Justine had never put up OccupyWallSt.org? OccupyWallSt.org became the online voice of OWS. It quickly evolved into the go-to site for news on the occupation, with vital information on how people could get involved. What if Alexa hadn’t built the US Day of Rage Twitter army? What if Nathan hadn’t been covering the run up to September 17th for Waging Nonviolence? What if Ella hadn’t co-created OccupyTogether.org with amazing 99% graphic designs? Her designs spread all over the internet and throughout occupations worldwide. OccupyTogether.org became a key organizing platform where people could find and announce new occupations. These are just a few of many pivotal individual actions that helped build this movement.
What about the significant role of the New York Police Department (NYPD)?
What if some NYPD officers hadn’t committed acts of brutality against peaceful protesters? What if Tony Bologna hadn’t pepper sprayed defenseless women? I was nervous that Saturday, September 24th was going to be our last big day of action. And then, out of the blue, came a white-shirted police officer firing pepper spray at a group of defenseless and peaceful women that were already netted and trapped into a corner. It was one of many shocking and disgusting moments of police brutality. When video of that incident went viral, the movement instantly took off. This incident also demonstrates the power of internet video and citizen journalism. If people didn’t have the ability to share videos instantly and create the news themselves, this act of police violence would have gone unreported by mainstream media.
Then, the following Saturday, we had the Brooklyn Bridge incident where hundreds were arrested after a police officer told us to step off the sidewalk into one lane on the street after we were halfway across the bridge. A few weeks later came the tragic Scott Olsen incident. Then Dorli Rainey, an 84-year old woman who was a school teacher and ran for mayor, got pepper sprayed. Countless incidents of police brutality enraged and energized the movement in ways we could never have. What if Sergeant Shamar Thomas hadn’t been on the frontlines of Times Square to bravely stand up in his Marine uniform and call out the police?
What if small groups of people in cities and towns across the US hadn’t found the bravery within themselves to step up and start a local occupation in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in New York and throughout the world?
What if the courageous people of Tunisia, Egypt, Greece, Spain, Chile and the many other millions of people in oppressed nations throughout the world hadn’t all stepped up and risked their lives protesting under harsh conditions?
All of these “what if” examples are just a few of many. There are so many examples that it is obvious that the birth and growth of this decentralized movement has been the result of many powerful forces standing up and coming together, in the right place, at the right time. Clearly, this movement is built on an idea whose time has come… and we all know that you cannot arrest, evict or kill an idea.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is guilty of crimes against humanity. The Fed’s policies have deliberately impoverished tens of millions of people. The Federal Reserve has been the central planning force behind our predatory economy and has played the most pivotal role in the criminal Wall Street mafia racket. To use just one of countless examples of how Ben Bernanke has implemented destructive policies that ultimately led to our current global rebellion against Neo-Liberal economic domination, consider his Quantitative Easing (QE) policies and their contribution to rising food costs. As I wrote in February 2011:
To be clear, there are several significant factors contributing to rising food prices, such as extreme weather conditions, biofuel production and Wall Street speculation; but the Federal Reserve’s policies deliberately threw gasoline all over those brush fires. QE2 was another economic napalm bomb from the global banking cartel.
In a recent McClatchy news article titled ‘Egypt’s unrest may have roots in food prices, US Fed policy,’ Kevin Hall reports:
‘The truth of the matter is that when the Federal Reserve moved on the quantitative easing, it did export inflation to a lot of these emerging markets…. There’s no doubt that one of the side effects of the weak dollar and quantitative easing has been rising commodity prices. It helped create this bullish environment for commodities. This is a very delicate balancing act.’
‘It’s a view shared by Ed Yardeni, a veteran financial market analyst, who reached a similar conclusion in a research note to investors…. He joked that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke should be added to a list of revolutionaries, since his quantitative easing policy, unveiled last year in Wyoming, has provoked unrest and change in the developing world.
‘Since he first indicated his support for such a revolutionary monetary change… the prices of corn, soybeans and wheat have risen 53 percent, 37 percent and 24.4 percent through Friday’s close,’ Yardeni noted. ‘The price of crude oil rose 19.8 percent over this period from $75.17 to $90.09 this (Monday) morning. Soaring food and fuel prices are compounding anger attributable to widespread unemployment in the countries currently experiencing riots.’
The people throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa, on the fringe of the Neo-Liberal economic empire and most vulnerable to the Fed’s inflationary policies, are the first to rebel.”
It is important to point out that the people of countries like Tunisia and Egypt have long suffered from grotesquely exploitative International Monetary Fund economic policies under puppet dictators like Mubarak and Ben Ali. However, as stated above, it was Bernanke’s QE policies that ignited this global revolution. And the QE policies were yet another facet of the $29 TRILLION criminal bailout of the global banking cartel, centered on Wall Street, that caused the collapse of the global economic Ponzi scheme that enriches the world’s wealthiest one-tenth of 1%, at the expense and suffering of the 99%.
Due to Bernanke’s central role in all of this, when we held protests and attempted to occupy Liberty Park on Flag Day 2011, we came there, inspired by Egyptians that called for Mubarak’s resignation, to demand that the Mubarak of the global economy step down as well – that, of course, being Bernanke. Obviously, Bernanke is only a figurehead, an interchangeable puppet like Mubarak and Obama. The fact that President Obama supported Bernanke’s reconfirmation as chairman, and the fact that Obama has chosen people like Geithner, Summers, Dailey and Lew to run the economy and his administration, also shows that the President – whether it’s Obama or Romney – is ultimately a bankster propaganda puppet in a rigged system. The presidency of the United States has been reduced to a public relations operation. The president is an empty suit reading from a teleprompter designed to sell and deceive the American public into passively accepting whatever it is that the masters on Wall Street want.
When politicians talk about the need to have an “adult conversation” about fixing the problems that have put us into this severe crisis, if they were serious that conversation would be about getting money out of politics. No matter what your issues of concern are – healthcare, education, foreclosures, unemployment, the environment, war, debt, etc. – when you get to the root of that particular problem, it all boils down to the system of political bribery. Through campaign finance, lobbying and the revolving door between Washington and the most powerful global corporations, our government has been bought off. A stunning 94% of the time, the candidate who spends the most money on their campaign wins the election. Therefore, we have a country that is run by a Wall Street mafia that bribes and pays off politicians to do whatever they want at the expense of 99% of the population.
This is not some debatable opinion. If you pay attention to our current political system, it is common sense.
As a first step in fixing our problems, we need a Constitutional Amendment that clearly states that “corporations are not people” and “money is not speech.” Until we make this first common sense step to get money out of politics, all the changes we need to make urgently will not happen in a meaningful and significant way.
In my opinion, we need to create entirely new decentralized governmental and economic systems. However, to evolve our current obsolete system of rule to a point where that is possible, without bloodshed, we must engage in a relentless campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience until money is removed from our political process. And we cannot wait years and election cycles for this to happen! The damage has already been done and our crisis is too severe for anyone with an aware conscious to remain passive any longer.
Most of us who are active within this movement and fighting on the frontlines are not doing this because it’s fun. We are doing this because we are aware enough to know that we have to. We have no choice. You can remain passive and die a slow death while leaving future generations in catastrophe, or you can stand up for yourself and your family and fight a nonviolent war for a sustainable future.
Which side of history do you want to be on?
The choice is yours.
Since this movement has taken off and evolved far beyond our original conception, my opinions and sense of possibility have also evolved. After spending countless hours at Liberty Park in conversation and debate with people from across the world, I can see how I, too, was trapped in a certain type of groupthink when I originally wrote this call to action two years ago. However, I still firmly stand by the opinions expressed and the facts are still the facts.
The opinions expressed throughout the report are solely mine and are not endorsed by the overall movement.
So here it is… the exact original report and call to action as it was written two years ago.
(Read full original report here.)
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
See you on the frontlines,
In the last section of the book, we feature many statements from occupiers, organizers and supporters of the 99%. I do not agree with everything they say, nor do they agree with everything I say. This is what democracy looks like.
David DeGraw, a regular contributor to The Public Record, is an investigative journalist whose work has been featured in numerous publications and websites. He is the founder and editor of AmpedStatus.com, editorial director of MediaChannel.org and author of The Economic Elite Vs. The People of the United States.