J.A. Myerson

Only sectarian factionalism can save us now!

Most Occupiers I’ve asked (and it’s not just one or two) agree that the 99% Spring is at best cool and at worst harmless, but you would never know it from the hue and cry clogging up my inbox.

Two examples:

AdBusters issued another exhilarating “Tactical Briefing” (what an exquisitely self-congratulatory name) from “Culture Jammers HQ” (see previous parenthetical observation), issuing strict marching orders to take up the “battle” for the “soul” of OWS against the “cabal” not of Wall Street, K Street and the Pentagon but MoveOn, The Nation and Ben & Jerry’s. These are the forces of the “old left” which are out to destroy the “new, vibrant, horizontal left.” How a commitment to horizontalism squares with instructions handed down from “HQ” goes unexplained. We have to fight the “old left,” says AdBusters, or risk going the way of “Paris ’68.” The more skillful Wikipedia-users out there may discover that it was not the progressive French left that destroyed the workers’ and students’ commune, but General De Gaulle’s tanks. One level deeper, people will point out that the French Communist Party and liberal trade unions shepherded participants back to work. To them I say: MoveOn, The Nation and Ben & Jerry’s have not discouraged anyone from Occupying. To the contrary. Look: The Nation was founded by abolitionists and has published the work of, among many others, Bertrand Russell, Edward Said, James Baldwin, Naomi Klein and Mai68 supporter Jean-Paul Sartre. Hell, their OWS beat reporter is Allison Kilkenny, who is about as radical as any successful journalist in the United States. If that’s the dark side, sign me up. If Kalle Lasn and Micah White’s frenzied ravings (“Whatever you do, don’t allow our revolutionary struggle…”) are the new left, count me out.

CounterPunch valiantly calls our attention to the true villains: AlterNet, Truth Out, The Nation (again!) and the television shows of Bill Moyers, Thom Hartmann and Chris Hayes (Disclosure: I have appeared on or in all but Moyers’ show). Never mind that CP is the outfit of Alexander Cockburn, a longtime columnist at The Nation (where he heroically dismisses the evidence of climate crisis on a regular basis). Forget the fact that Hayes’ show has done the most in-depth investigation of a whole slew of third rail topics (e.g. atheism, Palestine, the racist criminal justice system, and American imperialism, which he discussed, by name, with four Arab guests) probably in the history of American television. The 99% Spring, we are told, is “merely a front group” for the Democratic Party, though it remains unclear how the 7-hour milquetoast direct action training is supposed to coerce participants into campaigning for President Obama. The article is so breathless in its rapid-fire associations (Bank of America! ALEC! President Obama! Mother Jones!) that it proclaims the whole affair “A Shakespearean tragedy, to say the least.” Well, in Titus Andronicus, Lavinia, who has been raped and her hands and tongue severed, picks up the freshly severed hand of her father in her still-bleeding mouth. In the 99% Spring, people watch a clip from a movie and meet other activists. Parity?

How does this make more sense than pounding away at the corporate state? Why isn’t the battle with bankers, polluters and warmongers but instead the United States’ finest publications and broadcasts? A revolution is a massive social consensus that sweeps aside the institutions of power. Mubarak only fell after more than 10% of the Egyptian population took to the streets, and that wasn’t even enough to get rid of the Egyptian social order. For something like that, you need an absolutely overwhelming show of people power. Deliberately alienating supporters is exactly the wrong way of going about generating such a thing — how is this not obvious? Without recruiting liberals and progressives, attempting to radicalize them and train them in the skills necessary for successful protest, Occupy Wall Street becomes what the corporate media want us to be: a bunch of hippies and anarchists, whining and drumming, talking to one another self-righteously, without analysis or tactical sophistication.

As someone who has been madly in love with Occupy Wall Street since its earliest moments, I decline CounterPunch and AdBusters’ offer of protection from the “old left.” Right now is the time to build the movement, to engineer solidarity, to teach and share and radicalize and do what is done at general assemblies everywhere: enlist democratic support for a series of proposals. No working group has ever gotten a GA to consent to a measure by vilifying and fear-mongering about other working groups.

We have a really big job ahead of us, confronting global neo-liberal corporate capital and the disastrous effects it has wrought on everything in its path. Can we please get serious about organizing our defense?


HuffPo’s honesty and responsibility quotients reach new low

Based on this headline…

…it is reasonable to suspect that the “Community,” as quoted in the article will have been shown to “[Blame] Occupy For Tragic Murder.” Reasonable, but wrong.

The meat of the Berkeley, CA story:

On Saturday night, Peter and Andrea Cukor called Berkeley police on a nonemergency line to report a trespasser outside their garage. However, police did not immediately respond, claiming they were busy with an Occupy protest. Soon after, 67-year-old Peter Cukor was beaten to death by the trespasser, allegedly 23-year-old Daniel DeWitt.

Sure sounds to me like this was not the fault of the “Occupy protest” but the “police” who “did not immediately respond.” Still, the “Community” can have blamed Occupy. Except it didn’t! Who blamed Occupy? The cops whose lethal fuck-up is in question!

“At that time, available officers were being reconfigured in order to monitor a protest which was to come into Berkeley from Oakland in the next hour,” said Berkeley Police Spokesman Lt. Andrew Greenwood in a statement. “Only criminal, in-progress emergency calls were to be dispatched, due to the reduction in officers available to handle calls for service.”

The “Community” members quoted in the piece — Occupy Oakland folks — agree with me. One example:

“This is not the first time this has happened, with or without Occupy Oakland,” Occupy Oakland Activist Boots Riley told HuffPost. “Information is available about the average response times in Berkeley to non-emergency numbers; there is an incredibly long wait time. This has nothing to do with Occupy Oakland and they are using it as a scapegoat.”


“The police fear that protesters are going to break windows,” said Yassin. “If police choose to make sure windows don’t get broken instead of responding to life-threatening crimes, that is the Police Department’s fault for having those kinds of priorities. And the community should be furious.”

As it happens, the protesters appear NOT to have broken any windows anyway. You need cops elsewhere? Call off the cops supervising peaceful dissidents!

HuffPo’s OWS landing page rewrites the headline as a question. (h/t @rosefox for pointing out the variation):

No. Occupy Is Not To Blame.

…And you guys are assholes. Shame on you.

UPDATE: This just in. The cops appear to have lied in the first place! Check it out:

UPDATE II: Here is @sparrowmedia’s photo of the police-less march. And here‘s the endpoint at UC, where “there was a handful of police inside the international house but no interaction w/ protestors.”

UPDATE III: I just heard back from Huff.

Hi Jesse, thank you so much for your email about this. We have corrected the headline to read “Police Blame” as opposed to “Community Blames.” Thanks so much again for bringing this to my attention.

This now appears at the bottom:

CORRECTION: A previous headline elsewhere on the site inaccurately stated that the “community,” rather than the police department, had attributed Cukor’s death to the fact that the police were busy with the protest.

No mention of doubts of the accuracy of the police’s assessment, no change to the “Is Occupy To Blame?” headline, no apology for contributing to the Breitbart/Santorum effort to insinuate that Occupy is dangerous. Let’s file this one under COLD COMFORT.

I’ll meet conservatives halfway on money in politics.

I can imagine good results coming from electoral campaigns voluntarily funded by private donations, as long as everyone had about the same amount of money. So if the important thing to conservatives is that electoral campaigns be voluntarily funded by private donations, then I am willing to meet them half way, so long as they accept my demand that we make everyone have about the same amount of money.

Those are the two philosophies in competition here, and it would be really good for everyone to figure out which side they are on. As we see demonstrated before us, it is unworkable to have both expansive economic freedom *and* privately funded political campaigns. The result is necessarily the rapid acceleration of a) extreme amounts of wealth in the hands of minute few and b) very meager means on a widespread basis.

The movement for publicly funded elections really had better get its ass in gear, because I somehow don’t see conservatives relenting on the economic equality question.

Schneiderman can win my reluctant vote for President Obama

I post this with great anxiety that I’m just being bombastic, but the lawsuit Scheiderman announced the other day bodes very well for the future and gives me some confidence that the bravado and gumption the AG displayed on Chris Hayes’ show indicates accurately the spirit with which he means to pursue this charge of his.

Now: I am still absolutely certain that the most grave matter before us is the climate crisis. This and a million other things besides lead me to tremendous dissatisfaction of Obama’s presidential performance. And I won’t drop any of my objections to Obama’s presidency, which I have written about often and all over the place. But if Schneiderman can put some of these guys in jail and achieve an impressive amount of restitution to underwater homeowners and taxpayers and especially if the might of litigation inspires some really tough financial reform, I will reward President Obama for having commissioned this thing with my vote.

I will not stop harassing him and the Democrats and the political system with whatever little platform I have, but credit where it’s due. I think it would probably be irresponsible to speculate that Obama all along envisioned such a result and was just biding his time or proving to everyone the inability of the legislative process to redress popular grievances, all the while planning to drop this card at exactly the right moment, so I won’t. I’ll just say that ends are important, and Schneiderman appears in possession of the means to achieve a formidable end, courtesy President Obama.

Why I can’t get with Ron Paul on foreign policy

Everything Glenn Greenwald and Michael Tracey and others with their perspective say is true: Rep. Paul’s positions on drone attacks, the security state, American aid to Israel, &c. are all admirable and courageous and valuable, and Obama and the Democrats should feel ashamed for adopting such a revolting posture on these matters. But Ron Paul doesn’t have a good foreign policy as much as a wholesale aversion to foreign policy.

The whole nuttiness of right-wing libertarian provincialism (the same philosophical bent that leads Paul and the GOP field he has influenced to adopt such reactionary domestic policies) is centered around an aggrandizement of the self and a hatred and mistrust of scaled decision-making. I can figure it out, and if I can’t, my family can help. Local government should butt out of my family’s life and mine, but I’d take it over the dreadful state government, and the state government, a thousand curses on its ugly head, is nothing like as horrific as the federal government, which, though I will stop short of nothing but its abolition, is orders of magnitude better than super-national organizations. (Walter Russell Meadwrites well about this.) Humanitarian aid (as pathetic and awful as the situation in that field is and has been) is absolutely critical, and if Ron Paul thinks that government-funded food stamps in Houston abridge liberty, imagine what he thinks of government-funded medicine in Botswana.

This much is true: the most important thing in the world is the fact that, if we don’t radically restrict the business practices of heavy industrial polluters through some really hefty government intervention at the federal and global level, and that in the next ten years, the Earth stands every chance of being inhospitable to human life in the next hundred. (I’m being generous). For starters, Ron Paul doesn’t believe that, because he’s a religious fundamentalist crackpot — “The greatest hoax I think,” the good doctor proclaimed, “that has been around for many, many years if not hundreds of years has been this hoax on… global warming.” But even if he did, there is no way to solve the climate crisis without tremendously strong global governance. Period.

Yes, Ron Paul’s aversion to foreign policy leads him to adopt a host of positions that are very attractive, but they don’t come from a humane or sophisticated ideology. They come from the same nutty madness that infects his domestic policy, and that, in 2012, is not something that the world can abide.

We are allowed to want a good foreign policy.

UPDATE: In a comment thread on facebook, while discussing Ron Paul, I wrote an explanation that helps solidify some of the arguments above.  This is in response to, among other comments, one friend’s confession that, “When I read through Ron Paul’s positions it generally goes like this ‘Hey, that’s good. Oh god, that’s bad. Hey, that’s good. Oh god, that’s bad.’ Repeat until you get to the end of the list.” My response:

I mean, I can definitely see how the “Hey, that’s good” positions are really, really central ones, and that, if he weren’t saying them, nobody in politics or the media would be — no one with Ron Paul’s stature critiques the racism of the criminal justice system and police state, for instance, or questions the entire premise of the global war on terror or objects with his every vote to the method by which America funds its imperial wars, by releasing currency on debt. In fact, there are some times when I almost don’t object to a single thing he says in a debate. My point isn’t that the “Hey that’s good” positions are not important — they really, really are. My point is that the “Hey that’s good” positions all stem from exactly the same consistent ideology whence come the “Oh god, that’s bad” ones. And when looking at presidential candidates, it’s way more important to examine their ideologies than their positions. For one, it gives you clues to how they’ll face unforeseen challenges or issues that aren’t currently in the limelight but, due to a shift in political circumstances or a big news story, soon will be. And an ideology as batshit as Ron Paul’s is (however incisive and courageous and important and good many of the positions he takes as a result) games out to a really fucked up government. This should create huge problems for people who fall for him because of those positions.

For the heck of it, know that the comment thread sits under this Ron Paul ad, which I’d posted.

Partisan bickering, congressional gridlock… sometimes

I made a point on RT America last night that I think bears repeating.

When the countries of Europe get together to try and rescue their sovereign budgets from the vice-like grip of international finance, there is bickering and gridlock, and the people suffer. When American politicians try to create solutions to the health care crisis, there is bickering and gridlock, and the people suffer. When world leaders meet to figure out a response to the climate crisis, there is bickering and gridlock, and the people suffer. There is frequently bickering and gridlock when people would benefit from passage.

But when it comes to bailing out banks, there is never bickering and gridlock — 74 Senators voted for TARP — and the people suffer. When it comes to handing crucial civil liberties over to unaccountable, arbitrary executive discretion, there is never bickering and gridlock — 86 Senators voted for the NDAA — and the people suffer. There is seldom bickering and gridlock when people would suffer from passage.

Let’s drop this myth that there is partisan bickering and congressional gridlock. Instead let’s be honest: the powers that be hold the people in contempt. I say it’s a good thing we’ve begun to respond in kind.

Change is…

Change is… keeping Robert Gates at the Pentagon.

Change is… keeping Guantanamo open.

Change is… protecting war criminals from prosecution.

Change is… hiring bankers to run your economic policy.

Change is… surrounding yourself with aides to the previous Democratic President.

Change is… a health care overhaul that maintains the private insurance industry’s primacy.

Change is… a financial regulation reform bill that reifies Graham-Leech-Blyly.

Change is… bringing a bank executive on board after your previous chief of staff leaves.

Add yours in the comments section! I’ll tweet my favorites.

Impressions from a comrade in Tunisia

I just got off the phone with a friend who’s in Tunisia doing some writing. I took a few notes on our conversation, which was fascinating. My impressions:

Tunisia is bleeding jobs every day. Nothing has been done in the rural areas (where the revolution started) to address the needs of the people, who are impoverished and agitated. There’s wage repression and no foreign investment coming in and so the government is turning to union-busting and austerity. (We can look to the streets of Athens and Madrid and London and Madison this year to see how that works out.)

My friend’s prediction: in a year or two, people who are now pretty excited about the constituent assembly, will find what people in the United States have, which is that the political process is rigged by the corrupt at the expense of a lot of privation and abuse, and then “this thing is gonna blow open again.” The leadership class right now might not be the “old guard,” but it definitely does not look like the demonstrators risking their lives. That will not go unnoticed for very long.

Though a lot of the energy from the social movement has gone into the political parties (and though a lot of the country is perhaps glad about Ben Ali’s ouster but put off by the impoliteness of the protesters and anyway considers the revolution over), the social movement is definitely alive and well, and it’s definitely made up of a lot of young people. In the universities, and especially in the rural areas, like where Mohamed Bouazizi was from, radicalism is bubbling.

Included in this world is an indigenous dissident media movement (as opposed to those financed from here, say), including a website I’m encouraged to check out because, alleges my friend, it’s doing really good work reporting: Nawaat.

There we can keep up on the mischief in the Interior Ministry, which, contrary to other ministries whose headquarters are guided perhaps by a tank, is surrounded by barbed wire, hundreds of soldiers and at least eight tanks. The state security apparatus remains essentially in tact from the previous regime and there is great nervousness about taking it on. (Roughly 250,000 people are part of the state security apparatus. Ben Ali’s army was a tiny fraction of the size.)

For now, these fundamental issues are not getting addressed in the political sphere. The party in power, a fairly moderate Islamist party, won’t tell you about its economic program on its campaign literature, but it will talk a lot about language. There is a large cultural current toward the “Arabization” of a country who still derives much from its previous colonizers, the French, and is still feeling the effects of a post-imperial shift.

The US Ambassador extended a social invitation my friend’s way. My friend had no idea how the Ambassador even knew my him to be in Tunis. “Strange people,” he tells me, “doing strange things at an interesting time.”

This is a fascinating document.

Google Alert – occupy wall street


News 10 new results for occupy wall street


Occupy Wall Street protesters regroup after tent cities are cleared, consider …
Washington Post (blog)
Occupy Wall Street protesters around the country are regrouping after several cities evicted them from parks where the movement had set up tents. As AP reported: For more than two months, they were open-air communes where people came to rebuild society …
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Jackson Browne jams in Zuccotti Park to support Occupy Wall Street protest
New York Daily News
Musicians including Browne, Dawes and Third Eye Blind played at the park to show their support for the Occupy Wall Street movement. A past-their-prime rock band and aging singer-songwriter took center stage in Zuccotti Park yesterday, …
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New York Daily News


Why Occupy Wall Street Is So Hard to Understand
The Atlantic
By Evan Selinger & Thomas Seager Commentators continue to struggle to make sense of what Occupy Wall Street means as political form of expression. Will it continue? Or, is it more of a moment than movement? Perhaps the deepest question that keeps…
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The Atlantic


Occupy Wall Street Demonstrates Against Obama Fund-raiser
New York Magazine (blog)
By Noreen Malone Occupy Wall Street might be done camping out overnight in Zuccotti Park, but that doesn’t mean the movement is finished with physical protests. Last evening, a group of several hundred demonstrators marched to midtown, where President …
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New York Magazine (blog)


NYC Protesters Arrested During Demonstration Linking HIV/AIDS Activism With …
Huffington Post
The protest, held on World AIDS Day, marked what for many was the public unveiling of a connection between New York’s HIV/AIDS activist community and the Occupy Wall Street movement, event organizers said. Most of the protesters were members of …
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Luntz Warns GOP on Occupy Wall Street, “Don’t Say <em>Capitalism</em>” Because …
Amazingly, “Yahoo News sat in on the session,” where Luntz went through his spin at the Republican Governor’s Association on “How can Republicans do a better job of talking about Occupy Wall Street?” Don’t say that the government ‘taxes the rich. …
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Occupy Wall Street returns this weekend to Times Square
New York Daily News
Occupy Wall Street is turning into Occupy Broadway with protesters expected to set up shop from 6 pm Friday to 6 pm Saturday in Times Square by the red stairs between 46th and 47th Sts. along Seventh Ave. One lane in each direction of the …
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Adam Carolla on Occupy Wall Street: ‘Self-Entitled Monsters!’
The former “Man Show” host had a fiery little sit-down with conservative organization Media Research Center recently, unloading on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Lamenting that the top 1 percent of earners in the country — reviled as the enemy by …
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Occupy Wall Street has already beaten the Tea Party
Reuters Blogs (blog)
By David Callahan Occupy Wall Street protestors are pondering their next steps after police raids this week dismantled more Occupy encampments in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. In some ways, though, the movement has already scored its most important …
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Reuters Blogs (blog)


Monster Mash: Grammy nominations; museum eyes Occupy Wall Street
Los Angeles Times
(Culture Monster) Capturing the moment: The National Museum of American History is collecting memorabilia from the Occupy Wall Street protest. (Washington Times) Speaking up: Stephen Adly Guirgis is upset over the casting of non-Latinos in certain…
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Los Angeles Times




On demands, once and for all

Michael Moore thinks that what Occupy Wall Street should do is endorse a list of demands. Laying out some desirable measures, among them reinstating Glass-Steagall and campaign finance reform, Mr. Moore admirably makes it clear that he speaks for no one but himself. He’s just a fan of the movement who’s been looking at these ideas for a while and has some suggestions. But the question left lingering is the one that buzzes on the tip of the tongue every time anyone – Mr. Moore as well as commentators less sympathetic than he is to the cause – recommends that the occupation make demands. That question: what good would demands do Occupy Wall Street?

Presumably, the point of making demands on the government would be to try to influence the national dialogue to address the issues there contained. It must be this. Surely, no one thinks that, were the General Assembly to endorse a list of legislative demands, the government would send delegates to negotiate these demands with the occupiers; this is not a hostage situation, after all, but a social movement. Short of this fantasy, the extent to which demands would further legislative initiatives would be by helping to build public consciousness about the implied grievances and consensus around the solutions prescribed.

But this is already happening. People are talking now about student debt forgiveness, foreclosure protection, taxes on the wealthy, income inequality, campaign finance reform, staggering unemploymentand all the rest of it, without Occupy Wall Street having had to demand a single thing. Bernie Sanders’ introduction of an Amendment to the Constitution that would declare a corporation not a person shows this – the General Assembly did not have to make the demand for such an amendment in order for action to be taken. Rep. Ted Deutch’s introduction of the OCCUPIED Constitutional Amendment (Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy) also attests to this observation: all of the political advantages of issuing a list of demands are in motion even without the issuing.

Naomi Klein has said – in the presence of Mr. Moore – that the President’s shift on the Keystone XL pipeline could not have been achieved without Occupy Wall Street. The uproar Occupy Wall Street fostered over Bank of America’s plan to levy a $5 monthly debit card fee succeeded in foiling the proposal. Occupy Wall Street got Harlem tenants their heat and hot water back from an avaricious landlord who had cut off access. How could these victories have been better won if they’d been articulated in a statement of demands?

As long as we’re seeing these trends continuing, the movement remains much more useful to the cause without endorsing demands, even ones as sane as Michael Moore’s. There are already organizations who have issued those demands, and they all know that, in the current moment in the history of struggling for justice and equality, Occupy Wall Street is the rising tide that will lift all boats. It is the force that will shape what the country votes on and how it votes on those, that will shape what candidates will feel pressured to campaign on. That is why the major players in the labor movement and the environmental movement and the rest of an impressive coalition of diverse organizations with specific aims have declared themselves solidary with Occupy Wall Street. There is every risk of jeopardizing that coalition by endorsing views that the support groups potentially couldn’t get behind, on account of whatever institutional roadblocks exist for them.

Let the organizations already fighting for these demands fight for these demands. Occupy Wall Street’s assistance will come in the creation of political culture that includes protesting corporate control of the country without interruption every day and every night in hundreds of cities and towns.

The ultimate weakness of demands is their temporal limitation. A demand is essentially a statement of the conditions on which one will relent, and implying that relenting is possible casts the protest as temporary. In fact, Wall Street will permanently exert pressure on the government with ever-changing demands and campaigns and projects, and that is what Occupy Wall Street will have to do. The steadfast determination, the permanence implied in that word, Occupy, is not only the movement’s only hope for change – making people power a permanent countervailing force to wealth power – but also its good light. People like that this isn’t a weekend of protest and panels, that it operates, as it likes to chant, “All day, all week.” Demands would turn that chant into “All day, all week, Occupy Wall Street, until you do the following things,” which is an unattractive rallying cry, not to mention its scansion deficiency.

One tires quickly of responding to the demands question. It has become the stock talking point that anyone can reliably be counted on to make. It is almost a matter of catechism in the mainstream press. It is asked polemically to do everything from dismiss the political sophistication of the occupation to denigrate the occupation’s ideology of direct democracy. At a certain point – the point where, as now, the people the least well informed hold the view most avidly – it is difficult to see the “Where are the demands?” question as anything more than “9/11 changed everything” or “Communism is good in theory but fails in practice:” the unquestionable official line for whose advancement no thought is required.

In fact the protesters have already made their demand. No one mentioned The Declaration of the Occupation of New York City the day after it was adopted by consensus by the General Assembly, because everyone was too busy peddling the rumor that Radiohead was going to play at Liberty Plaza Park. But that document issues a demand. It’s not on Congress. It’s not on the President. It’s not on corporate boards or the Federal Reserve or the media or the police. It’s not on any historically empowered body or individual. It’s on the 99%, the people of the world, the ones with no power, the mass majority that gets steamrolled by corporate control over the functions of government the world over.

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!

A different type of demand from a different type of movement.