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US/CT- Occupy Wall Street Background

Released on 2012-03-02 01:00 GMT

Email-ID 1576512
Date 2011-10-16 16:28:28
*these were sent out before, but bringing them up again
Occupy Wall Street: FAQ
Nathan Schneider
September 29, 2011

Q: I hear that Adbusters organized Occupy Wall Street? Or Anonymous? Or US
Day of Rage? Just who put this together anyway?

A: All of the above, and more. Adbusters made the initial call in
mid-July, and also produced a very sexy poster with a ballerina posed atop
the Charging Bull statue and riot police in the background. US Day of
Rage, the mainly internet-based creation of IT strategist Alexa O'Brien,
got involved too and did a lot of the early legwork and tweeting.
Anonymous-in its various and multiform visages-joined in late August. On
the ground in New York, though, most of the planning was done by people
involved in the NYC General Assembly, a collection of activists, artists
and students first convened by folks who had been involved in New Yorkers
Against Budget Cuts. That coalition of students and union workers had just
finished a three-week occupation near City Hall called Bloombergville
protesting the mayor's plans for budget cuts and layoffs. They had learned
from the experience and were itching to do it again, this time with the
hope of having a bigger impact. But no one person or group is running the
Wall Street occupation entirely.
[ Click for More ]

Activist at Occupy Wall Street

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Video: Voices From Liberty Square
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Nathan Schneider
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So nobody is in charge? How do decisions get made?

The General Assembly has become the de facto decision-making body for the
occupation at Liberty Plaza, just a few blocks north of Wall Street. (That
was Zuccotti Park's name before 2006, when the space was rebuilt by
Brookfield Properties and renamed after its chairman, John Zuccotti.) Get
ready for jargon: the General Assembly is a horizontal, autonomous,
leaderless, modified-consensus-based system with roots in anarchist
thought, and it's akin to the assemblies that have been driving recent
social movements around the world, in places like Argentina, Egypt's
Tahrir Square, Madrid's Puerta del Sol and so on. Working toward consensus
is really hard, frustrating and slow. But the occupiers are taking their
time. When they finally get to consensus on some issue, often after days
and days of trying, the feeling is quite incredible. A mighty cheer fills
the plaza. It's hard to describe the experience of being among hundreds of
passionate, rebellious, creative people who are all in agreement about

Fortunately, though, they don't need to come to consensus about
everything. Working alongside the General Assembly are an ever-growing
number of committees and working groups-from Food and Media to Direct
Action and Sanitation. Anyone is welcome to join one, and they each do
their own thing, working in tacit coordination with the General Assembly
as a whole. In the end, the hope is that every individual is empowered to
make decisions and act as her or himself, for the good of the group.

What are the demands of the protesters?

Ugh-the zillion-dollar question. Again, the original Adbusters call asked,
"What is our one demand?" Technically, there isn't one yet. In the weeks
leading up to September 17, the NYC General Assembly seemed to be veering
away from the language of "demands" in the first place, largely because
government institutions are already so shot through with corporate money
that making specific demands would be pointless until the movement grew
stronger politically. Instead, to begin with, they opted to make their
demand the occupation itself-and the direct democracy taking place
there-which in turn may or may not come up with some specific demand. When
you think about it, this act is actually a pretty powerful statement
against the corruption that Wall Street has come to represent. But since
thinking is often too much to ask of the American mass media, the question
of demands has turned into a massive PR challenge.

The General Assembly is currently in the midst of determining how it will
come to consensus about unifying demands. It's a really messy and
interesting discussion. But don't hold your breath.

Everyone in the plaza comes with their own way of thinking about what
they'd like to see happen, of course. Along the north end of the plaza,
there's a collage of hundreds of cardboard signs people have made with
slogans and demands on them. Bystanders stop and look at them, transfixed,
all day long. The messages are all over the place, to be sure, but there's
also a certain coherence to them. That old standby, "People Before
Profits," seems to capture the gist fairly well. But also under discussion
are a variety of other issues, ranging from ending the death penalty, to
dismantling the military-industrial complex, to affordable healthcare, to
more welcoming immigration policies. And more. It can be confusing, but
then again these issues are all at some level interconnected.

Some news reports have been painting the protesters as unfocused, or
worse, as hopelessly confused and uninformed. Is there any truth to that?

Sure. In a world as complex as ours, we're all uninformed about most
things, even if we know about a few. I remember a police officer remarking
of the protesters on the first or second day, "They think they know
everything!" That's how young people generally are. But in this case,
noticing the over-concentration of wealth around Wall Street and its
outsized influence in politics does not require a detailed grasp of what a
hedge fund does or the current selling price of Apple stock. One thing
that distinguishes these protesters is precisely their hope that a better
world is possible. I might add that, for many Americans, such nonviolent
direct action is the only chance of having a political voice, and it
deserves to be taken seriously by those of us in the press.

How many people have responded to the Adbusters call? How large is the
group? And how large has it ever been?

The original Adbusters call envisioned 20,000 people flooding the
Financial District on September 17. A tenth of that probably ended up
being there that day. Despite a massive Anonymous-powered online social
media blitz, lots of people simply didn't know about it, and traditional
progressive organizations like labor unions and peace groups were
uncomfortable signing on to so amorphous an action. Over the course of a
difficult first week, with arrests happening just about every day, new
faces kept coming, as others filtered out to take a break. The media
coverage after last weekend's mass arrests and alleged police brutality
has brought many more. Now, during the day and into the night, one finds
500 or more people in the plaza, and maybe half that sleeping over. At any
given time, several thousand people around the world are watching the
occupation's 24/7 livestream online.

Rather than a mass movement from the outset, this occupation has ended up
depending on a relatively small number of highly determined, courageous
young activists willing to sleep outside and confront police intimidation.
But that is changing. As word spreads about it, the crowd has been getting
older, more diverse. Already, though, this tactic of a somewhat rowdy
occupation has garnered influence far greater than a traditional march
would. After all, 20,000 marched on Wall Street on May 12-protesting bank
bailouts and budget cuts for state employees-and who remembers that?

What would a "win" look like for the occupation?

Again, that depends on whom you ask. As September 17 approached, the NYC
General Assembly really saw its goal, again, not so much as to pass some
piece of legislation or start a revolution as to build a new kind of
movement. It wanted to foment similar, like-minded assemblies around the
city and around the world, which would be a new basis for political
organizing in this country, against the overwhelming influence of
corporate money. That is starting to happen, as similar occupations are
cropping up in dozens of other cities. Another big occupation has been in
the making for months, slated to begin on October 6 at Freedom Plaza in
Washington, DC, and the organizers of that have been visiting Liberty
Plaza on and off, learning all they can from its successes and mistakes.

I've heard some people saying, when Liberty Plaza was swamped with TV news
cameras, "We've already won!" Others think they've hardly begun. Both, in
some sense, are true.

Are there cops all over the square? How bad has the police brutality been?
If I came there, what are the risks?

The police presence is nonstop, and there have been some very scary
encounters with them-which also gave occasion for tremendous acts of
courage by protesters. The worst incident was last Saturday, of course,
but there has been very little trouble since then. A large contingent of
protesters has no intention of getting arrested, and almost nobody is
interested in taking pointless risks or instigating violence against
people or property. The more that ordinary people join the cause-together
with celebrity visitors like Susan Sarandon, Cornel West and Michael
Moore-the less likely the police will probably be to try to suppress it.
As one sign along Broadway says, "Safety in Numbers! Join Us!"

Nonetheless, challenging the powers that be-and doing so impolitely,
outside the bounds of a permit-is never going to be 100 percent safe. To
the extent that this movement is effective, it will also carry risks. If
you take part, it's not a bad idea to keep the National Lawyers Guild's
phone number written on your arm, just in case.

If I can't come to Wall Street, what else can I do?

A lot of people are already taking part in important ways from afar-this
is the magic of decentralization. Online, you can watch the livestream,
make donations, retweet on Twitter and encourage your friends to get
interested. People with relevant skills have been volunteering to help
maintain the movement's websites and edit video-coordinating through IRC
chat rooms and other social media. Soon, the formal discussions about
demands will be happening online as well as in the plaza. Offline, you can
join the numerous similar occupations that are starting up around the
country or start your own.

Finally, you can always take the advice that has become one of the several
mantras of the movement, expressed this way by one woman at Tuesday
night's General Assembly meeting: "Occupy your own heart," she said, "not
with fear but with love."
Nathan Schneider
September 29, 2011

How Occupy Wall Street has Evolved

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- When Occupy Wall Street began on September 17, the
protest consisted of a few hundred people speaking out about corporate
greed and inequality. They practiced tai chi in a park near Wall Street,
painted homemade signs and discussed what their demands should be.

Now, almost three weeks later, the once-haphazard movement is growing
larger and more coordinated. Hundreds of people have been arrested. Large
labor unions, including the AFL-CIO and SEIU, have joined in. When new
arrivals turn out, volunteers swiftly equip them with donated sleeping
bags and food. Dozens of cities nationwide have launched their own
"occupy" protests in solidarity.

Like the "Arab Spring" uprisings that inspired its tactics, Occupy Wall
Street is evolving.

From the beginning, organizers -- including activist magazine Adbusters,
which hatched the idea and put out a call for participants back in July --
have said they hope protesters will occupy Manhattan's Financial District
for two months. On Day 1, no one knew what that would look like. Fast
forward to Day 19, and Zuccotti Park is loaded with makeshift camps and
organized "stations": medical, food, legal, media, security and more.

Food and blankets have come in from donors all over the nation, said Matt
Ingram, who was volunteering at the "Comfort" station on Wednesday.

"It's incredible to see the outpouring of support from people who can't be
here," said Ingram, 28. "It reminds you that there's still humanity, and
that people are inherently good."
Meet the Occupy Wall Street protesters

The support from labor unions, which began signing on in late September,
has brought hundreds more to the scene. Representatives from the groups
have garnered attention by sending press releases about the protest.

"It brings us more people and more attention," said one twenty-something
man who declined to give his name. "I don't think that their cause is the
same as most people here. But we're all angry about something, so I guess
it's OK."

The crowd and atmosphere shift depending on the day of the week. It's
tough to leave your day job for two months straight, and so the number of
protesters dwindles on weekdays, when those present tend to be college
students, the unemployed and retired people. Weekends ramp back up again,
with a larger and more diverse crowd turning out.

Day-by day highlights: Before the protest began on Saturday, Sept. 17, the
New York Police Department closed off Wall Street and barricaded the
iconic bull on Broadway. A few hundred protesters gathered around the bull
and in nearby Zuccotti Park, with the crowd growing to about 500 by the

On Day 3, a misty Monday, the number of protesters had fallen to about 125
people. But the following weekend brought hundreds more people -- and the
first spate of arrests.

The NYPD closed Broadway that Saturday -- Day 8 of the demonstration --
and protesters marched down the avenue. Photographer Daniel Fitzsimmons
said that day that "a protestor dropped to his knees in front of the Chase
Bank on Wall Street, saying the bank took his parents' house. He was later

Around Day 12, labor unions began signing on to show their support.

On Day 15, this past Saturday, the tone changed sharply. The protesters
extended the rally to Brooklyn Bridge, where hundreds were arrested and
later released with tickets for blocking the roadway.

"Over 700 summonses and desk appearance tickets have been issued in
connection with the demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge ... after
multiple warnings by police were given to protesters to stay on the
pedestrian walkway," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.

Browne said authorities had warned protesters they would be arrested.
Bridge traffic heading to Brooklyn from Manhattan was shut down for
several hours.

A few hundred people remained at Zuccotti Park on Day 19, Oct. 5,
preparing for a late-afternoon march from Foley Square to the Financial

Meanwhile, an Occupy Philadelphia is slated to launch Thursday, joining
protests in Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Denver and Chicago, among
other cities.

The protest has drawn some criticism for its lack of concrete goals. But
the fact that Occupy Wall Street is still going strong 19 days later means
it's done what it set out to do: Draw focus to the concerns -- and anger
-- many Americans have about the country's growing economic gap, plant the
seed of an organized voice, and let the protest evolve naturally.

"We're showing that 'we the people' really are here, present, from all
walks of life," said Tammy Bick, 49, an unemployed former medical
secretary. "It's a meeting of the minds and a voicing of our issues. That
alone makes it the best single experience of my life." To top of page

Sean Noonan

Tactical Analyst

Office: +1 512-279-9479

Mobile: +1 512-758-5967

Strategic Forecasting, Inc.