Through an inspiring experiment in direct democracy and consensus building, this statement was released after a unanimous vote of Occupy Wall Street’s general assembly:
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 workplaces 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 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 worker’s health care 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, but 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 kept 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.
DECLARATION OF THE OCCUPATION OF NEW YORK CITY
This is the first official statement from Occupy Wall Street, representing their collective effect and approval. Located in occupied Liberty Plaza, protesters gather every day in a General Assemby. The General Assemblies are an open, participatory, and horizontally organized process through which they “are building the capacity to constitute ourselves in public as autonomous collective forces within and against the constant crises of our times.”
They have a live video stream of the meetings, as well as all the minutes posted online. The entire process is transparent and inclusive, reflecting the type of government and culture they are trying to create.
The assembly on September 29th which discussed the statement was facilitated by activists Kobi and Nalini. It began with some opening remarks…
Start today with acknowledgement and celebration of this great movement in 66 cities in the United States, who will join us in the coming weeks! All of us here are making history, writing history together!
How many people are here for the first time? Many! Welcome to the General Assembly of New York City!
Kobi — My heart is full with joy to see so many people here tonight trying to make our future better for all of humanity!
Nalini — I have learned so much from everyone here! We have all learned true solidarity! We should all be proud of this movement. So now we’re going to go over process.
They then went through the many different committees with updates and information, always inviting new people to join them. Then they voiced support for the global movement of which they are a part…
Global democracy statement: On the 15th of October 2011, united in our diversity, united for global change, we demand global democracy, global governance by the people, for the people inspired by our sisters and brothers in Tunis, Cairo, Palestine, Israel, Spain, and Greece. We too call for a regime change, a global regime change! Today we demand replacing the G8 with the whole of humanity. The G7billion!
They then read the entire official declaration together in unison, explaining that the “document reveals what we are pissed about! Not what we know. But with this we can say with clarity what we really want. Our movement has now a reason, now we work in the action! Solidarity! It is our proposal to release this document to every other Occupy Movement, to put it on the internet as a beacon to those who are incredibly angry and want to do something about it, even if they can’t be here.”
After a couple of issues were resolved, and the allowance of future editing by consensus, the statement was voted on and received unanimous approval.
“This is what democracy looks like,” indeed!
Keith Olbermann interviewed Ryan Hoffman and Lex Rendon of the New York General Assembly on his Countdown program. They were two of the writers of the statement, which was modeled after “one of the most famous list of grievances,” the Declaration of Independence. The interview gives insight into the process that created it, a process that included direct democracy and consensus building. The statement was read and debated by the whole community assembled at Liberty Plaza, until everyone could agree on its exact wording. The solutions to the grievances will be found once more of “the 99 percent” get involved.
Here are the highlights from that interview…
KEITH OLBERMANN: Ryan, one thing I noted in reading it — both on the air and off — they’re questions. They’re not answers. I’m gathering that was deliberate.
RYAN HOFFMAN: Yeah, I think part of the process is identifying the problem. And, I think, a big part of the process was creating an apathy killer. To get people engaged, and, you know, hopefully, if you don’t agree with everything on that declaration and the list of grievances, you agree with some of it or something, or one part of it. And we can work together towards getting everybody involved in the conversation, and I think that was a big part of why we decided to do it that way.
LEX RENDON: Well, the declaration actually originated as a very short, simple call to action. The idea for it came from something that happened at the GA. A man from Bed-Stuy came and kind of gave us a wake-up call. He said, people from his neighborhood didn’t want to join us because we weren’t addressing the issues in his community, and realized that we can’t know the issues in each individual community. We needed everyone to get involved. We need everyone to start the conversation that will lead to the solutions that will get us out of this crisis.
LEX RENDON: I think it will definitely develop organically. This one came from a working group. Everyone involved in the GA can form a working group, can bring proposals to the GA and have them, you know, approved or turned down.
KEITH OLBERMANN: But then that leads us to the question about the premise of Occupy being consensus, which is tough enough, I tell you — it’s the original form of democracy. However many people you got, they all have to vote on this. How do you, on Earth, do you get consensus on a document that takes four minutes to read? That’s a lot of document.
RYAN HOFFMAN: Patience and persistence.
KEITH OLBERMANN: That’s why it appeared at — almost at the three-week mark.
RYAN HOFFMAN: Oh, yeah. I mean — well, everybody down there sort of knew. When I first went down there and the conversations that I was having with the people there — the general sentiment was, the system has failed us. And I think that’s something that we can all agree on, and nobody could really sort of put a face to the problems that we were having right now.
And so, we decided that we would take a look at one of the most famous list of grievances there is, the Declaration of Independence, and we took a look at that for the first time since high school. And we decided to model our declaration after that, just to give us a point of solidarity, a point of unity, things that we could do. And luckily, we were able to convince people of our working group that this was a good idea, and they all helped and edit it. And then we went to the General Assembly — who had already published principles of solidarity for us, things to unite around — and we decided that we were going to push through.
And, you know, every person there has the right to block. Every person there has the right to veto. So, if you don’t put the right terminology in there, somebody’s going to block, and then we have to go through this all over again.
It’s a very time consuming, very frustrating, but also — ultimately — very rewarding process. To have everybody reach consensus was extremely uplifting, I think, for everyone involved.
Right now, the major thing that we have to focus on is getting people away from the apathy and towards action, and I think once more people are involved solutions will present themselves.
And this is the opportunity for everyone to get involved in this conversation, and that’s what we want. We’re not going to make demands on behalf of the 99 percent when the 99 percent aren’t involved yet. This is not a liberal issue. This is not a conservative issue. This is a person issue, and we want all people involved.