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Occupy movement - Wikipedia
« on: October 05, 2012, 15:50:58 PM »
Wikipedia - Occupy movement

The Occupy movement is an international protest movement against social and economic inequality, its primary goal being to make the economic structure and power relations in society fairer. Different local groups have different foci, but among the prime concerns is the claim that large corporations and the global financial system control the world in a way that disproportionately benefits a minority, undermines democracy and is unstable.

Part of response to the late-2000s financial crisis and subprime mortgage crisis and the impact of the Arab Spring
Combination of October 2011 global protests.jpg - Occupy Movement, October 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) was initiated by the Canadian activist group Adbusters,[11][12][13] and partly inspired by the Arab Spring,[14][15] especially Cairo's Tahrir Square protests, and the Spanish Indignants.[16][17][18] The movement commonly uses the slogan We are the 99%, the #Occupy hashtag format, and organizes through websites such as Occupy Together.[19] According to The Washington Post, the movement, which has been described as a "democratic awakening" by Cornel West, is difficult to distill to a few demands.[20][21] In fact, in a teaser poster for the beginning of Occupy Wall Street, the tagline is: What Is Our One Demand? On October 12, 2011, the Los Angeles City Council became one of the first governmental bodies in the United States to adopt a resolution stating its informal support of the Occupy movement.[22]

In the United States the first Occupy protest to receive wide coverage was Occupy Wall Street in New York City's Zuccotti Park, which began on September 17, 2011. By October 9, Occupy protests had taken place or were ongoing in over 95 cities across 82 countries, and over 600 communities in the United States.[23][24][25][26][27] Although most popular in the United States, Occupy has seen protests and occupations in dozens of other countries and on every continent except Antarctica. For the first two months of the protest, authorities largely adopted a tolerant approach toward the movement, though this began to change in mid November with over a dozen camps being cleared in both the US and Europe. By the end of 2011 authorities had cleared out most of the major camps. The last remaining high profile camps - at Washington DC and at St Paul's Cathedral in London - were cleared by February 2012.[28][29][30][31]

The Spanish Indignados movement began in mid May 2011, with camps at Madrid and elsewhere. According to sociologist Manuel Castells, by the end of the month there were already hundreds of camps around Spain and across the world.[32] For some journalists and commentators the camping in Spain marked the start of the global occupy movement, though it is much more commonly said to have begun in New York during September.[33] [34]

On May 30, 2011, a leader of the Indignados, inspired by the Arab Spring, 5.18 Movement of 1980, and June Democracy Movement of 1987[35][36] called for a worldwide protest on October 15.[37] In mid-2011, the Canadian-based group Adbusters Media 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.[11] Adbusters co-founder Kalle Lasn registered the web address on June 9.[38] According to the senior editor of the magazine, "[they] basically floated the idea in mid-July into our [email list] and it was spontaneously taken up by all the people of the world, it just kind of snowballed from there."[11] One of the inspirations for the movement was the Democracy Village set up in 2010, outside the British Parliament in London. The protest received additional attention when the internet hacker 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".[16][39][40][41] They promoted the protest with a poster featuring a dancer atop Wall Street's iconic Charging Bull.[42][43] The first protest was held at Zuccotti Park in New York City on September 17, 2011,[44] the tenth anniversary of the re-opening of Wall Street trading after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The protests were preceded by a similar Occupy Dataran movement in Kuala Lumpur in July, seven weeks before Occupy Wall Street.[45][46][47][48]

"We are the 99%" slogan

The phrase "The 99%" is a political slogan used by protesters of the Occupy movement.[49] It was originally launched as a Tumblr blog page in late August 2011.[50][51] It refers to the concentration of wealth among the top 1% of income earners compared to the other 99 percent;[52] the top 1 percent of income earners nearly tripled after-tax income over the last thirty years according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report.[53]

The report was released just as concerns of the Occupy Wall Street movement were beginning to enter the national political debate.[54] According to the CBO, between 1979 and 2007 the incomes of the top 1% of Americans grew by an average of 275%. During the same time period, the 60% of Americans in the middle of the income scale saw their income rise by 40%. Since 1979 the average pre-tax income for the bottom 90% of households has decreased by $900, while that of the top 1% increased by over $700,000, as federal taxation became less progressive. From 1992 to 2007 the top 400 income earners in the U.S. saw their income increase 392% and their average tax rate reduced by 37%.[55] In 2009, the average income of the top 1% was $960,000 with a minimum income of $343,927.[56][57][58] In 2007 the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.6% of the country's total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%. Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country's wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15% —an example of the Pareto principle. Financial inequality (total net worth minus the value of one's home)[59] was greater than inequality in total wealth, with the top 1% of the population owning 42.7%, the next 19% of Americans owning 50.3%, and the bottom 80% owning 7%.[60] However, after the Great Recession which started in 2007, the share of total wealth owned by the top 1% of the population grew from 34.6% to 37.1%, and that owned by the top 20% of Americans grew from 85% to 87.7%. The Great Recession also caused a drop of 36.1% in median household wealth but a drop of only 11.1% for the top 1%, further widening the gap between the 1% and the 99%.[60][61][62] During the economic expansion between 2002 and 2007, the income of the top 1% grew 10 times faster than the income of the bottom 90%. In this period 66% of total income gains went to the 1%, who in 2007 had a larger share of total income than at any time since 1928.[63] This is in stark contrast with surveys of US populations that indicate an "ideal" distribution that is much more equal, and a widespread ignorance of the true income inequality and wealth inequality.[64]


During the early weeks, the movement was criticized for having no clearly defined goals. Speaking on October 7, Kalle Lasn of Adbusters said that in the early stages demands and leaders were the "mysterious part" that allowed the movement to grow.[65] By late October, Adbusters had been trying to "rally it around a single, clear demand" for a Robin Hood tax, with a global march in support of the Robin Hood tax planned for October 29.[66][67] Naomi Wolf has argued that the impression created by much of the media that the protestors do not have clear demands is false. Wolf argues they do have clear demands including a desire to end what they see as the corrupting effect of money on politics. [68] The New Yorker magazine stated that the claims of Lasn and White were specific: tighten banking-industry regulations, ban high-frequency trading, arrest all 'financial fraudsters' responsible for the 2008 crash, and form a Presidential commission to investigate and prosecute corruption in politics.[38] 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.[69] The movement has also been described as broadly anticapitalist.[70][71][72] Some commentators such as David Graeber and Judith Butler have criticized the idea that the movement must have clearly defined demands; they argue that issuing demands is counterproductive for the Occupy movement, because doing so would legitimize the very power structures the movement seeks to challenge.[73][74]

In late November, the London contingent of the Occupy movement released their first statement on corporations, where they called for measures to end tax evasion by wealthy firms. The reason for the delay in articulating a clear demand was given as the time it takes to reach a consensus with the sometimes slow processes of participatory democracy.[75] Efforts are still underway to reach consensus with other occupy groups around the world for a global statement.[76] The global movement has been called the reinvention of politics, revolution, and utopia in the twenty-first century.[77]


Activists have used web technologies and social media like IRC, Facebook, Twitter, and Meetup to coordinate events.[78] Indymedia have been helping the movement with communications, saying there have been conference calls on Skype with participants from up to 80 locations. Interactive live streams of events by independent journalists such as Tim Pool have been used to augment Mainstream media coverage. The progressive provider May First/People Link offered cost-free memberships for dozens of groups, including in Iran and Germany, to host websites, emails, and email lists securely.

The movement has gone further to create a diverse, multi-media culture of art production and distribution, which is being archived and gathered by institutions such as the National Museum of American History and New York Historical Society. The purpose of much of the art produced is to visually impact the mainstream through imagery to create solidarity and unity among the "99%".[79]

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has released a model community bill of rights for occupy organizers to adopt locally, pushing through laws that strip corporations of their personhood rights and elevating the rights of citizens.[80]

In December 2011, Occupy Homes embarked on a movement to assist home owners who have lost their homes or are scheduled to lose their homes to foreclosure due to what they call the illegal practices used by banks that took advantage of consumers. The group plans to occupy foreclosed homes, disrupt bank auctions, and block evictions.[81]


The movement has been described as having an "overriding commitment" to Participatory democracy.[82] Much of the movement's democratic process occurs in "working groups," where any protestor is able to have their say. Important decisions are often made at General assemblies,[83] which can themselves be informed by the findings of multiple working groups. Decisions are made using the consensus model of direct democracy. This often features the use of hand signals to increase participation and operating with discussion facilitators rather than leaders - a system that can be traced in part to the Quaker movement several centuries ago, to participatory democracy in ancient Athens, and to the spokescouncils of the 1999 anti-globalization movement.[84][85][86] At the assemblies, working group proposals are made to meeting participants, who comment upon them using a process called a stack; a queue of speakers that anyone can join.

In New York, Occupy Wall Street uses what is called a progressive stack, in which people from marginalized groups are sometimes allowed to speak before people from dominant groups, with facilitators, or stack-keepers, urging speakers to "step forward, or step back" based on which group they belong to, meaning that women and minorities get to go to the front of the line, while white males must often wait for a turn to speak.[85][87] The progressive stack concept has been criticized by some outside of the movement as "forced equality" and "unfair."[88] The movement claims, in its own media [1], to be using or moving towards robust consensus decision-making methods, in which some of these compensatory airtime methods are less necessary. Each local Occupy movement however typically has a General Assembly [2] (and some have online expressions of it en sp that are generally conducted along the lines of the New York General Assembly, which is still largely considered to set the standard for how facilitators should conduct themselves.


The occupy movement began with a commitment to nonviolence. In late May 2011, sociologist Manuel Castells congratulated Spanish occupiers for the fact that not a single violent incident had been reported after 11 days of camping all over Spain.[32] Castells said that nonviolence was of fundamental importance, and was echoed by various other sociologists and social historians including Lester Kurtz, Prof. Maurice Isserman and Prof. Tom Juravich.[32][89][90] Juravich and others have however said that conflict can be important in attracting attention, with much to be gained if occupiers are seen as victims of the violence, providing occupiers keep their own aggression strictly within limits.[89] In the words of one occupier, it can help them gain media coverage if they "make things a little sexy and badass" .[91] Not all occupiers have upheld the commitment to nonviolence, with aggressive tactics being used in Spain from as early as 15 June, and with some journalists saying the New York branch of the movement did initially accept protestors who had not signed up to nonviolence.[92][93]

In September, sympathetic coverage given to the movement by the media was substantially increased after the circulation of a video of pepper spray being used by a police commander against peaceful female protestors.[89] In early October, Naomi Klein congratulated New York occupiers for their commitment to nonviolence.[94] By November 2011, media sources began to report an increase in violence, with allegations of sexual assault and incidents of violence from occupiers against the police, including one officer allegedly stabbed with scissors.[89][95][96] Some occupy camps responded by requiring that all occupiers sign a resolution to be nonviolent if they wished to stay.[90] Rick Hampton for USA Today said the vast majority of occupy members have been nonviolent.[89] Reviewing the global movement in December 2011, Anthony Barnett said its nonviolence remained an immense strength.[33]

In late January 2012, the movement's commitment to nonviolence was questioned after clashes with the police that saw about 400 arrests in the US city of Oakland. Some protestors and witnesses said the police initiated the violence, others said there was violence against the police, however they blamed black bloc anarchists and agents provocateurs. After the arrests, a survey of people in the San Francisco Bay Area found that 26% of respondents said they had withdrawn their previous support for the movement, and some leaders of the Occupy movement also distanced themselves from the events. One protester who did not take part stated, "It was organized by a very militant anarchist segment of the movement; I support the idea of taking a building, especially for housing those who don't have housing. But I don't support it with the kind of triumphal attitude I saw expressed."[93][97][98][99]

Chronology of events


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