Occupy Wall Street Support Forum
Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is an ongoing series of demonstrations in New York City based in Zuccotti Park in the Wall Street financial district. The protests were initiated by the Canadian activist group Adbusters. They are mainly protesting social and economic inequality, corporate greed, corruption and influence over government—particularly from the financial services sector—and lobbyists. The protesters' slogan, "We are the 99%", refers to the difference in wealth and income growth in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population.
The first protest was on September 17, 2011. By October 9 similar demonstrations were either ongoing or had been held in 70 major cities and over 600 communities in the U.S..
Other "Occupy" protests modeled after Occupy Wall Street have occurred in over 900 cities worldwide.
In mid-2011, the Canadian-based Adbusters Foundation, best known for its advertisement-free anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters, proposed a peaceful occupation of Wall Street to protest corporate influence on democracy, address a growing disparity in wealth, and the absence of legal repercussions behind the recent global financial crisis. According to Adbusters' senior editor Micah White, Adbusters suggested the idea on their email list in mid-July and “it was spontaneously taken up by all the people of the world.” At their website they wrote: "Beginning from one simple demand—a presidential commission to separate money from politics—we start setting the agenda for a new America." They promoted the protest with a poster featuring a dancer atop Wall Street's iconic Charging Bull.
Activists from the internet group Anonymous encouraged its followers to take part in the protests, calling protesters to "flood lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street." Other groups began to join in the organization of the protest, including the internet group, Hacktivists Anonymous, the U.S. Day of Rage, and the NYC General Assembly, the governing body of the Occupy Wall Street group.
Adbusters' Kalle Lasn, when asked why it took three years after the implosion of Lehman Brothers' to call for a people's protest, said that after the election of President Obama there was a feeling among the young that he would pass laws to regulate the banking system and "take these financial fraudsters and bring them to justice." However, as time passed, "the feeling that he's a bit of a gutless wonder slowly crept in" and they lost their hope that his election would result in change.
The protest was held at Zuccotti Park since it was private property and they could not be legally forced to leave. At a press conference held on September 17, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "People have a right to protest, and if they want to protest, we'll be happy to make sure they have locations to do it."
We are the 99%
Main article: We are the 99%
A chart showing the disparity in income distribution in the United States. Wealth inequality and income inequality have been central concerns among OWS protesters. CBO data shows that in 1980, the top 1% earned 9.1% of all income, while in 2006 they earned 18.8% of all income.
The term, "We are the 99%" is a political slogan, Internet meme and implicit economic claim used by demonstrators involved in the "Occupy" protests. It is intended as a statement of a trend, since the 1970s, for wealth and income to become concentrated within the top 1% of the United States population. According to the Congressional Budget Office, between 1979 and 2007, incomes of the top 1% of Americans have grown by an average of 275%, versus just 40% for the 60 percent of Americans who are in the middle of the income scale. Since 1979, average pre-tax income for the bottom 90% of households decreased by $900, and that of the top 1% increased by over $700,000, as federal taxation became less progressive. In 2009, the average income of the top 1% was $960,000 with a minimum income of $343,927. The top 1% of the American population controls about 40% of total wealth in the country and the top 10% controls 73%. Over the last 30 years, the top 1% bore a smaller percentage of the tax burden, down to 37% in the year 2009, and the 400 taxpayers with the highest incomes saw their income increase by 392% and their tax rate go down 37%.
The protesters include persons of a variety of political orientations, including liberals, political independents, anarchists, socialists, libertarians, and environmentalists. At the protest's start, the majority of the demonstrators were young, mostly because the social networks through which the demonstrators spread their message are primarily used by younger people. However, as the protest grew the age of the protesters became more diverse. Religious beliefs are diverse as well, with both Muslim and Jewish services and events held at the OWS location. On October 10 the Associated Press reported that "there’s a diversity of age, gender and race" at the protest. Some news organizations have compared the protest to a left-leaning version of the Tea Party protests. Some left-leaning academics and activists expressed concern that it may become co-opted by the Democratic party, much the same way the Republican party co-opted the Tea Party.
A crowd of protesters engaging in the 'human microphone' on September 30
According to a survey of Zucotti Park protesters by the Baruch College School of Public Affairs published on October 19, of 1,619 web respondents, 1/3 were older than 35, half were employed full-time, 13% were unemployed and 13% earned over $75,000. 27.3% of the respondents called themselves Democrats, 2.4% called themselves Republicans, while the rest, 70%, called themselves independents.
On Oct. 10 and 11, the polling firm Penn, Schoen & Berland interviewed nearly 200 protesters. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, 98% would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and 31% would support violence to advance their agenda. Most are employed; 15% are unemployed. Most had supported Obama; now they are evenly divided. 65% say government has a responsibility to guarantee access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement. They support raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and are divided on whether the bank bailouts were necessary. In the Wall Street Journal, Douglas Schoen wrote that the protesters reflect "values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people" and have "a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas," and that politicians who support them will be hurt in the 2012 elections. However, other authors said Schoen misrepresented his results. When asked, "What frustrates you the most about the political process in the United States?," 30% said, "Influence of corporate/moneyed/special interests." Only 6% said "Income inequality" and 3% said, "Our democratic/capitalist system." When asked, "What would you like to see the Occupy Wall Street movement achieve?," 35% said "Influence the Democratic Party the way the Tea Party has influenced the GOP" and 11% said, "Break the two-party duopoly." Only 4% said "Radical redistribution of wealth."
Demands and goals
The group has been frequently criticized for its lack of specific policy demands. The General Assembly has already adopted a “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City,” which includes a list of grievances against corporations, and many protesters believe that the general statement is enough. However, in early October other protesters, strongly in favor of a need for demands, had formed a Demands Working Group to identify and present a formal statement of specific actions they would ask local and federal governments to adopt. The Demands group published its list of demands in the New York Times in mid-October. However, on October 31, the "Working Group" disappeared from the New York City General Assembly website and later that evening a member of the group began making disparaging remarks about the site administration team and the movement overall.
While the Demands Working Group favored a fairly concrete set of national policy proposals, others within the movement prefer a looser, more localized set of goals and they have put together a competing document, the Liberty Square Blueprint, a wiki page edited by some 250 occupiers and still undergoing changes. The introduction to the draft document read: "Demands cannot reflect inevitable success. Demands imply condition, and we will never stop. Demands cannot reflect the time scale that we are working with."
Journalists such as Shannon Bond for the Financial Times have said it was hard to discern a unified aim for the movement. However, other commentators have said that although the movement is not in complete agreement on its message and goals, it does have a message which is fairly coherent. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, protesters want more and better jobs, more equal distribution of income, bank reform, and a reduction of the influence of corporations on politics. Adbusters co-founder Kalle Lasn has compared the protests to the Situationists and the Protests of 1968 movements.
The General Assembly meets in Washington Square Park on October 8
According to Fordham University communications professor Paul Levinson, "Occupy Wall Street" and similar movements, symbolize another rise of direct democracy that has not actually been seen since ancient times. Sociologist Heather Gautney, also from Fordham University has said, while the organization calls itself leaderless, the protest in Zuccotti Park has discernible "organizers", or emerging public faces such as blogger Jesse LaGreca.
New York City General Assembly
The New York City General Assembly (NYCGA) is OWS' main decision-making body. At its meetings the various OWS committees discuss their thoughts and needs, and the meetings are open to the public for both attendance and speaking. The meetings are without formal leadership, although certain members routinely act as moderators. Volunteers take minutes of the meetings so that organizers who are not in attendance can be kept up-to-date.
An October 13 survey by TIME magazine found that 54 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of the protests, while 23 percent have a negative impression. An NBC/Wall Street Journal survey found that 37 percent of respondents "tend to support" the movement, while 18 percent "tend to oppose" it. An October United Technologies/National Journal Congressional poll found that 59 percent of Americans agree with the movement while 31 percent disagree.
An October Quinnipiac University poll of New York City voters found that 67 percent of New Yorkers approved of the movement with 23 percent disapproving. The results also found 87 percent of New Yorkers find it OK that they are protesting. Despite media criticism that the protestors views are incoherent, the poll also found that 72 percent of New York City voters understand their views. An October CBS News/New York Times polls found 43% of Americans agree with Occupy Wall Street while 27% disagree. An October Rasmussen poll found a plurality of Americans approved of the movement with 33 percent favorable, 27 percent unfavorable and 40 percent with no opinion.
Authors and academics
Naomi Klein leading an open forum on October 6
Canadian writer Naomi Klein has spoken at the protest several times. Writing in the New York Times she said she is "delighted" that OWS has not given in to issuing a list of demands. "This is a young movement still in the process of determining just how powerful it is, and that power will determine what demands are possible. Small movements have to settle for small reforms: big ones have the freedom to dream."
Educator and author Cornel West addressed the frustrations that some critics have expressed at the protest’s lack of a clear and unified message, saying, "It’s impossible to translate the issue of the greed of Wall Street into one demand, or two demands. We’re talking about a democratic awakening."
Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek gave a speech on Wall Street in which he expressed support for the protests saying, "They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are awakening from a dream which is turning into a nightmare."
Over one thousand authors have announced their support for the movement via “Occupy Writers”, an online petition that states “We, the undersigned writers and all who will join us, support Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement around the world.” The initiative began when Jeff Sharlet e-mailed Salman Rushdie to suggest a petition for writers who support Occupy Wall Street, and signatories range the spectrum of literary genres and include Margaret Atwood, Noam Chomsky, Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket, and Alice Walker. The site also features original work from the writers expressing their take on the Occupy movement.
Other authors and academics lending their support include David Graeber, Chris Hedges, Stéphane Hessel, Paul Krugman, Jeff Madrick, Joseph Stiglitz, Jimmy Wales, James Kwak, and Richard D. Wolff.
Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine wearing an IWW cap, a member of a musicians union and Industrial Workers of the World, on Day 28 of Occupy Wall Street.
On September 19, Roseanne Barr, the first celebrity to endorse the protest, spoke to protesters calling for a combination of capitalism and socialism and a system not based on "bloated talk radio hosts and that goddamn Ayn Rand book."
Filmmaker Michael Moore spoke against Wall Street, saying, "They have tried to take our democracy and turn it into a kleptocracy." Rapper Lupe Fiasco, one of the initial supporters of Occupy Wall Street, wrote a poem, "Moneyman," for the protest. Susan Sarandon spoke at the demonstration saying, "I came down here to educate myself.... There's a huge void between the rich and the poor in this country." Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo has supported the Occupy Wall Street protest saying, "Peaceful Resistance. That is what changes the world. We must be peaceful. This movement is about decency."
Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel played a solo acoustic set for the protesters on October 4, and Tom Morello performed on October 13. Folk singer Pete Seeger led a group of several hundred protesters on a march through the streets on October 22, singing several songs, including "This Land Is Your Land" and "We Shall Overcome." Other musicians joining them included Arlo Guthrie, Tao Rodríguez-Seeger, Tom Chapin, David Amram, and Guy Davis.
On October 23, Asmaa Mahfouz, whose video blog helped spark the 2011 uprising in Egypt, held a teach-in at Liberty Plaza. When asked why she came to the OWS protest she replied, "Many of U.S. residents was in solidarity with us. So, we have to keep going all over the world, because another world is possible for all of us."
Other celebrities lending their support include John Carlos, Anti-Flag, Radiohead, and Kanye West.
On October 5 members of the National Nurses United union march to Foley Square in solidarity with OWS
Various unions, including the Transport Workers Union of America Local 100 and the New York Metro 32BJ Service Employees International Union have pledged their support for demonstrators.
The Industrial Workers of the World announced on September 28, 2011, that its General Executive Board (GEB), and the General Defense Committee (GDC) had issued statements of support for Occupy Wall Street. On October 3, Transport Workers Union bus drivers sued the New York Police Department for ordering their buses to drive to the Brooklyn Bridge to pick up detained protesters.
Union President John Samuelsen said,
"We're down with these protesters. We support the notion that rich folk are not paying their fair share. Our bus operators are not going to be pressed into service to arrest protesters anywhere." However, after numerous arrests of protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge, city buses were indeed commandeered by police to pick up detained protesters, and drivers later sued the New York Police Department. On October 5, representatives from more than 14 of the country's largest labor unions intended to join the protesters for a mass rally and march. On November 3, the National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union of registered nurses in the nation, expressed support for OWS and rallied in front of the White House and Department of Treasury. Karen Higgins, co-president of NNU, said, "A real finance tax would generate $350 billion a year in the U.S. alone and bring relief to families out of homes, friends out of work, patients out of care, communities running out of time. The tax starts a revenue flow back to the 99 percent." 
Noting the growing union support, an article in the liberal Mother Jones magazine said that union support could splinter and derail the protests rather than sustain them because while unions are tightly organized, hierarchical, and run with a clear chain of command, Occupy Wall Street is the opposite in that they are "a horizontal, autonomous, leaderless, modified-consensus-based system with roots in anarchist thought." However, the article went on to suggest that if the unions and OWS joined together they could work to create a progressive movement that "effectively taps into the rising feeling among many Americans that economic opportunity has been squashed by corporate greed and the influence of the very rich in politics."
The New York City police department has assigned Rick Lee, a community relations detective assigned to the First Precinct to duty at the demonstration. He is one of the department’s main liaisons with the protestors on behalf of the police department, and advises protesters on such matters as, avoiding arrest and getting along with police as well as attempting to get information of protesters plans. As a plainclothes officer, he has been referred to as the “hipster cop’’ for his attire consisting of glasses, cardigan sweaters, skinny ties and skinny trousers. Reaction to his presence is mixed.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly reported on October 7 that Occupy Wall Street has cost the Police Department $1.9 million in overtime. As of October 27, the overtime cost had risen to $5 million.
High income support
Several wealthy supporters have joined the protest, and have started a blog, westandwiththe99percent, in which they say, "I am the 1%. I stand with the 99%," and give their stories. The granddaughter of oil tycoon H. L. Hunt, Leah Hunt-Hendrix, 28, was quoted as saying “We should acknowledge our privilege and claim the responsibilities that come with it.” Farhad Ebrahimi, 33, has been participating in the Occupy Boston protest wearing a T-shirt that says, "Tax me. I'm good for it."
Business and banking
John Paulson, who became a billionaire by short-selling subprime mortgages in 2007 and is founder of the hedge fund Paulson & Co., criticized the protesters for "vilifying our most successful businesses," citing that "The top 1% of New Yorkers pay over 40% of all income taxes, providing huge benefits to everyone in our city and state." Vikram Pandit, head of Citigroup, called the protesters' sentiments "completely understandable" and that Wall Street had broken the trust of its clients. Bill Gross, manager of PIMCO's Total Return Fund, the world's largest mutual fund, stated "Class warfare by the 99%? Of course, they're fighting back after 30 years of being shot at." PIMCO's co-CEO Mohamed El-Erian argued that people should "listen to Occupy Wall Street."
Karl Denninger, former CEO and one of the original co-founders of the Tea Party movement, expressed support for the movement, saying "The problem with protests and the political process is that it is very easy, no matter how big the protest is, for the politicians to simply wait until the people go home, and then they can ignore you. Well, Occupy Wall Street was a little different, and back in 2008, I wrote that when we will actually see change is when the people come, they set up camp, and they refuse to go home. That appears to be happening now." Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric and a member of President Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, stated "It is natural to assume that people are angry, and I think we have to be empathetic and understand that people are not feeling great." Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund, stated in an interview with Charlie Rose, "I think the number one problem is that we're not having a quality dialogue...I certainly understand the frustration, I understand the dilemma, I understand the discontent."
Other business leaders lending their support include George Soros and Russell Simmons.
Businessman and CEO, Peter Schiff, said to a protestor, "I employ 150 people, how many do you employ?" Schiff also wrote an opinion column where he stated, "I own a brokerage firm, but I didn't receive any bailout money... Yes, I am the 1% - but I've earned every penny. Instead of trying to take my wealth away, I hope they learn from my example."
Federal Reserve and Bank of Canada
During a hearing before the Joint Economic Committee October 4, 2011, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said, "[P]eople are quite unhappy with the state of the economy and what’s happening. They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. And at some level, I can’t blame them. Certainly, 9 percent unemployment and very slow growth is not a good situation." Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard W. Fisher said that he was "somewhat sympathetic" to the views of the protestors, and added, "We have too many people out of work. We have a very uneven distribution of income. We have a very frustrated people, and I can understand their frustration." Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney cited income inequality and economic performance as the main motivators, calling the protests "entirely constructive."
The White House
During an October 6 news conference, President Obama said "I think it expresses the frustrations the American people feel, that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country ... and yet you're still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on the abusive practices that got us into this in the first place." When Jake Tapper of ABC News pushed Obama to explain the fact that his administration hasn't prosecuted any Wall Street executives who didn't play by the rules, he replied, "One of the biggest problems about the collapse of Lehman's and the subsequent financial crisis and the whole subprime lending fiasco is that a lot of that stuff wasn't necessarily illegal; it was just immoral or inappropriate or reckless." On October 18, when interviewed by ABC news, he said "in some ways, they’re not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party. Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that their institutions aren’t looking out for them."
Vice President Joe Biden likened the protest to the Tea Party, saying, "What are the people up there on the other end of the political spectrum saying? The same thing: 'Look guys, the bargain is not on the level anymore.' In the minds of the vast majority of the American—the middle class is being screwed."
House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, said she supports the growing nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement. Pelosi said she includes herself in the group of Americans dissatisfied with Congress and stated, "I support the message to the establishment, whether it's Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, that change has to happen. We cannot continue in a way (that) is not relevant to their lives."
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with the Democratic Party, appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann and supported the protests saying, "We desperately need a coming together of working people to stand up to Wall Street. We need to rebuild the middle-class in this country and you guys can't have it all."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va), in a speech to a Values Voter Summit, characterized the movement as "growing mobs" and said that President Barack Obama's "failed policies" and rhetoric "condon[ing] the pitting of Americans against Americans" were to blame. In response, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney accused Cantor of "unbound" hypocrisy, given the Majority Leader's support of the Tea Party Protests, adding, "I don't understand why one man's mob is another man's democracy." Carney characterized both movements as examples of American democratic traditions.
The Democratic co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Representatives Raúl Grijalva and Keith Ellison announced their solidarity with the movement on October 4. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is asking for 100,000 names on its website which will subsequently be added to 100,000 letters to Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor expressing support for the Occupy Wall Street protesters, the middle class, and opposition to tax loopholes for millionaires and big oil.
2012 Presidential candidates
2012 Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain accused the movement of being "anti-capitalist" and argued "Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks, if you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself!" Republican Ron Paul came out to refute Cain by saying, "the system has been biased against the middle class and the poor...the people losing jobs, it wasn't their fault that we've followed a deeply flawed economic system." In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Cain also expressed his belief that Occupy Wall Street was "planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration," but admitted that he "[didn't] have facts" to back up his accusation.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich was quoted as saying at the 2012 Bloomberg Washington Post Debate, "Let me draw a distinction. Virtually every American has a reason to be angry. I think virtually [every] American has a reason to be worried. I think the people who are protesting in Wall Street break into two groups: one is left-wing agitators who would be happy to show up next week on any other topic, and the other is sincere middle-class people who frankly are very close to the Tea Party people who care. And actually...you can tell which are which. The people who are decent, responsible citizens pick up after themselves. The people who are just out there as activists trash the place and walk off and are proud of having trashed it, so let’s draw that distinction."
U.S. Congressman and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX) stated, "If they were demonstrating peacefully, and making a point, and arguing our case, and drawing attention to the Fed—I would say, 'good!'"
2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney did admit that there were 'bad actors,' and the need for them to be 'found and plucked out.' Yet, he believes to aim at one industry or region of America is a mistake and views encouraging the Occupy Wall Street protests as "dangerous" and inciting "class warfare." Romney later expressed sympathy for the movement, saying, "I look at what's happening on Wall Street and my view is, boy, I understand how those people feel."
2012 Republican presidential candidate Buddy Roemer expressed support for the movement, saying, "We have almost permanent unemployment. They say it’s nine percent, but the real unemployment rate is more like 16 percent. These are people there are no jobs for, or they have to work part time to try to make ends meet. It’s disturbing. The Wall Street protest is unshaped, unfocused, but there’s a lot of power in it."
On October 18, 2012 Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson visited with the protesters in New York, expressing his support for the movement, stating, "I just have to express my solidarity with everyone there that expresses the notion that we have a country that doles it out unfairly. Corporatism is alive and well in this country."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the protests "aren't productive," although he also expressed sympathy for some of their complaints. On October 8, during his weekly radio show, Bloomberg complained that the protestors are trying to "take the jobs from the people working in the city," and said that although "[t]here are some people with legitimate complaints, there are some people who just like to protest." In an interview with The Washington Post, Former Democratic U.S. Senator Russ Feingold endorsed the movement on October 5 stating, "This is like the Tea Party—only it's real... By the time this is over, it will make the Tea Party look like ... a tea party."
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