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Occupy Wall Street: Movement

On July 13, 2011, Adbusters, a Canadian not-for-profit magazine, asked its readers, "Are you ready for a Tahrir moment? On September 17, flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street." The movement gathered inspiration from both the Arab Spring and anti-globalization movement. On August 8, first Facebook page calling for general assembly (GA) was launched. The New York General Assembly describes itself as: "an open, participatory and horizontally organized process through which we are building the capacity to constitute ourselves in public as autonomous collective forces within and against the conctant crisis of our times."

On September 17, hundreds of activists gathered in lower Manhattan. The movement received little national coverage until September 24, when YouTube footage of of a female protester being pepper sprayed by a police officer went viral. Organizations such as Occupy Together and Occupy Colleges were formed to spread the movement. The movement has stayed visible in cities and towns across the United States, and internationally creating encampments.

The movement began on Wall Street with a focus on financial sector, but the lack of specific demands enabled local movements to adopt messages personalized to their experience or location beyond the Wall Street. The unifying frame is the slogan "We are the 99%" This flexible frame, shared identity and tactics have added to the spread of the "Occupy" movement.

The Occupy Wall Street continues to evolve and spread around the world from its original location in New York City to cities around the world. The non-traditional media played an enormous role for the movement in the beginning as the mainstream media covered the story lightly.

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

This document by the New York City on September 29, 2011:

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.
As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.
  • They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
  • They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
  • They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
  • They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
  • They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
  • They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
  • They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
  • They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
  • They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
  • They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
  • They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
  • They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
  • They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
  • They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
  • They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
  • They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
  • They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
  • They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
  • They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
  • They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
  • They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
  • They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

This is the visual representation of the Declaration of the Occupation document from the Arts and Culture Group and the Call to Action Working Group. To download your own copy of this image as a jpeg (12.7 MB), click here.

Declaration of the Occupation

We are the 99%

A chart demonstrating increases in the annual income of the top 1% of wealthy persons in the U.S. before economic crises

The movement has used widely the phrase, “We are the 99%,” which has become a political slogan referring to the income inequality and corporate greed in the United States and widely used by the “Occupy” protesters. It refers to the vast concentration of wealth among the 1% highest income group in comparison with the other 99% as argued by the economist Joseph Stieglitz in his Vanity Fair (May, 2011) article called, “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%.”

Daily Kos on "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%"

Income Inequality Charts

To read more on income inequality, click here.

References and Resources

Strength of Movements

Infographic - Who is Occupy Wall Street?