Earlier this week, members of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement in New York put forth a call to convene a non-partisan National General Assembly in early 2012 and released a draft of demands.
Now in it’s fifth week, the nature of the movement itself has been the biggest obstacle to the formation of a cohesive list of demands. While Occupy demonstrations have expanded around the globe, many protestors have come out against the idea of presenting demands at all.
“Demands are disempowering since they require someone else to respond,” Gabriel Willow, a protester, told the New York Times. “It’s not like we couldn’t come up with any, but I don’t think people would vote for them.”
The push to bring together a National General Assembly sprang from the Demands Working Group (DWG), a committee of protestors designated at one of the regular General Assembly meetings held in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan. Their plan includes the election of two delegates from each of the 435 Congressional Districts by direct vote. The 870 delegates would then vote on a non-partisan list of grievances at the July 4th, 2012 Assembly in Philadelphia.
Soon after its formation, the DWG launched a website and published the list online. Yet, the demands and national assembly call have not been adopted by the movement as a whole, or even backed completely by the OWS movement in New York.
The list online is cleared marked as a “suggested list of grievances” and not as the platform for the movement that claims to represent “99 percent” of the country. The final list, to be voted on by the National General Assembly, may or may not include 20 proposed reforms.
Chief among the list, however, is the role corporations play in the country’s government. The first couple, for example, call for an immediate ban on all monetary and gift contributions to all politicians, implementing a public financing system for political campaigns, and the reversal of the Citizens United case by the Supreme Court, which, the document says, "equates the payment of money by corporations, wealthy individuals and unions to politicians with free speech.”
The list goes on to suggest a complete reformation of the tax code to close loopholes and other methods of avoiding tax collections, the implementation of a single-player healthcare system, the substantial reduction of the national debt to a lower percentage of GDP by 2020, along with a slew of other ideas.
Meanwhile, Occupy protests around the nation have been marching to their own beat without any sort of national unity aside from the “Occupy” label.
Occupy Seattle started a running vote on their website dealing with issues such as the “nationalization of the Federal Reserve” and implementing “universal education,” but the tally will likely be taken down since not everybody has the ability to vote online.
The list of demands out of New York close with a warning:
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that IF the PETITION OF GRIEVANCES approved by the 870 Delegates of the NATIONAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY in consultation with the PEOPLE, is not acted upon by Congress, the President, and Supreme Court, to the satisfaction of the Delegates of the NATIONAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY, said Delegates shall organize a THIRD, COMPLETELY NON-PARTISAN, INDEPENDENT POLITICAL PARTY to run candidates for every available Congressional seat in the mid-term election of 2014 and again in 2016 until all vestiges of the existing corrupt corporatocracy have been removed by the ballot box.
Here in Atlanta, Occupy members issued a list of their own demands in the past few days. Only three points long, Atlanta occupiers call for the rescinding of a recent fair hike of MARTA (the area's rapid transit system) an end to the Atlanta Police Department’s “stop and frisk” policies (including roadblocks) and the repeal of House Bill 87, Georgia’s controversial immigration law.
But the want list of many is much longer.
On one of the city's last warm and sunny days before the onset of a cold snap, dozens of Occupy participants milled around Woodruff Park, a spot of green space in the business district. A look at the signs being carried by young and old alike (but mostly young) expresse grievances from the power of corporations to the high unemployment. On one white board, Occupiers were encouraged to write their concerns and why they were participating. And they did: Big Banks - Poisoned Assets, Big Agra - Poisoned Foods, Big Pharm - Poisoned Drugs; More Transparency in Politics and Government; Standing up for Suffering People at Home and Abroad; Immigration Reform and High Unemployment.
One young man who gave his name as Glenn, simply said, "I'm here because I want to be heard."
Photography: Clay Duda/JJIE.org