- Anti-capitalist movement that seeks to create "a society of cooperation and community" – i.e., a socialist economy
- Its members refer to themselves as "the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%."
- Uses "the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic" to achieve its ends
Launched on September 17, 2011, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is a movement whose activism is planned and coordinated via a free, open-source social-networking website that is maintained by an independent group of organizers who describe themselves as “committed to doing technical support work for resistance movements.” Strongly anti-capitalist, OWS characterizes America as a “ruthless,” materialistic society where the chief objective is to “always minimize costs and maximize profits”; where “lives are commodities to be bought and sold on the open market”; and where “the economic transaction has become the dominant way of relating to the culture and artifacts of human civilization.” The “deep spiritual sickness” that necessarily results from this repugnant philosophy of perpetual economic “growth for the sake of growth,” says OWS, has caused “vast deprivation, oppression and despoliation … to cover the world.” OWS’s prescribed remedy is to replace the foregoing arrangement “with a society of cooperation and community” – i.e., a socialist economy.
During its first year of existence, OWS succeeded mainly in drawing widespread public attention to its incessantly repeated narrative of corporate greed, the inherent evils of capitalism, the injustices of financial inequality, and the need for a massive transfer of wealth from the top “1 percent” to the other “99 percent.” By injecting this narrative into the political atmosphere, OWS laid important groundwork for President Barack Obama‘s 2012 re-election campaign, which was based heavily on the fomentation of class envy and class warfare.
Kalle Lasn and Adbusters
The individual most responsible for launching OWS was Kalle Lasn, a longtime documentary producer, radical environmentalist, and, by his own telling, lifelong “student of revolution.” Denouncing American consumerism as an “ecologically unsustainable” and “psychologically corrosive” phenomenon, Lasn has long derided “the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism” as “a destructive system” that has caused “a terrible degradation of our mental environment.” He especially detests capitalism’s handmaiden, consumerism, which he blames for having spawned many disastrous “environmental, psychological, and political consequences.” In an effort to “wreck this world” of consumerism, Lasn in 1989 co-founded the Adbusters Media Foundation.
Lasn reports that in mid-2011 he and his fellow Adbusters staffers, “inspired” by the events of the Arab Spring, “thought that America” was likewise “ripe for this type of [mass] rage.” “Deep in recession and with scary ecological scenarios looming,” said Adbusters, “now may be the ripest moment we’ll ever have to power-shift global capitalism onto a new sustainable path.”
Further, Lasn was confident that young Americans’ “despondency” over such concerns as “climate change,” “corruption in Washington,” and the “decline” of their country, would significantly increase the likelihood that the U.S. might experience “a Tahrir moment” of sorts—i.e., an opportunity for revolutionary change. (The reference was to Tahrir Square, a Cairo plaza that was a key site during the dramatic events of the Egyptian Revolution in early 2011.) Emboldened also by “that sort of anarchy cred” which the civil disobedience/“hacktivism” group Anonymous had been demonstrating in recent times, Lasn and his Adbusters associates brainstormed ideas for effecting “some kind of a soft regime change” that would diminish the political influence of “finances,” “lobbyists,” and “corporations.” On June 9, 2011, Lasn registered the domain name “OccupyWallStreet.org” and thus gave birth to the movement which he hoped would help “pull the current monster down”—i.e., the two-headed serpent of capitalism and consumerism.
America was struggling through a lingering economic crisis at that time, something which radicals have always recognized as fertile soil for the seeds of revolution. But another key factor was in play as well: A relentless class-warfare narrative had already been injected into the political air by Barack Obama. Seeking to lay the groundwork for his reelection, the President was actively suggesting that the nation’s economic recession was not so much a result of ill-advised government policies, but rather of capitalism’s inherent excesses, which could be reined in only by a powerful and benevolent central government. Thus had Obama articulated a host of disparaging public references to such villains as the “millionaires and billionaires,” the “corporate jet owners,” and the “fat cat bankers on Wall Street” who allegedly were not paying their “fair share” in taxes—and who were thereby exploiting “working families” and the poor. These themes would become central to the message of OWS, and Obama himself would state that he “understand[s] the frustrations that are being expressed” by the protesters. Further the President would tell an OWS contingent in New Hampshire: “You are the reason I ran for office.”
On July 13, 2011, Lasn and Adbusters posted an “Occupy Wall Street” call-to-action recruiting “redeemers, rebels and radicals” to join a mass protest movement “against the greatest corrupter of our democracy: Wall Street, the financial Gomorrah of America.” This rallying cry would prove to be what Adbusters contributor David Graeber called the “magical spark” capable of igniting a revolution.
The revolutionary tactic of choice, said Adbusters, would be “a fusion of Tahrir with the acampadas [protesters who camped out for extended periods in public spaces] of Spain,” whereby demonstrators would “go out and seize a square of singular symbolic significance and put our asses on the line to make it happen.” Toward that end, Adbusters exhorted its supporters to prepare to “flood into lower Manhattan” on September 17 and “set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months”—and to do so “with a vengeance.”
According to Lasn and Adbusters, “Tahrir succeeded in large part because the people of Egypt made a straightforward ultimatum—that Mubarak must go—over and over again until they won.” Following that model, Adbusters instructed its recruits to likewise “incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.” But that demand, explained an Adbusters communique to “radicals and utopian dreamers,” would have to be carefully worded so as to conceal its deeper motives:
“Strategically speaking, there is a very real danger that if we naively put our cards on the table and rally around the ‘overthrow of capitalism’ or some equally outworn utopian slogan, then our Tahrir moment will quickly fizzle into another inconsequential ultra-lefty spectacle soon forgotten.”
To guard against this possibility, Lasn knew that his organization would need to articulate “a deceptively simple Trojan Horse demand” that was “so specific and doable” that it would be “impossible for President Obama to ignore.” Soon thereafter, under the slogan “Democracy Not Corporatocracy,” Adbusters demanded that Obama “ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.”
Lasn’s “Trojan Horse” tactic adhered faithfully to the methods of the famed community organizer Saul Alinsky, whose preferred brand of revolution was a slow, patient process of incremental, rather than sudden, transformation. As author Stanley Kurtz explains, Alinsky “was smart enough to avoid Marxist language in public…. Instead of calling for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, [he] and his followers talk about ‘confronting power.’ Instead of advocating socialist revolution, they demand ‘radical social change.’ Instead of demanding attacks on capitalists, they go after ‘targets’ or ‘enemies.’”
The call-to-action issued by Kalle Lasn and Adbusters built upon groundwork that other leading leftists and radicals had been laying for decades. One of those luminaries was the neo-communist Wade Rathke, founder of ACORN. According to journalist Aaron Klein, the launch of OWS represented “the culmination” of an “anti-banking jihad” that Rathke had heralded in a March 2011 call for “days of rage in ten cities around JP Morgan Chase.” Not coincidentally, OWS’s inaugural event on September 17 was widely dubbed a “Day of Rage” and was conducted in conjunction with an affiliated movement known as USDayOfRage, named after a series of Weatherman-inspired anti-Vietnam War protests in Chicago in 1969.
Rathke’s radical efforts were aided by SEIU board member Stephen Lerner, a leftist organizer who aims, by exploiting the “transformative stage of what’s happening in capitalism,” to “literally cause a new financial crisis,” “bring down the stock market,” and “interfere” with wealthy people’s “ability to be rich.” Paraphrasing Saul Alinsky, in March 2011 Lerner said of the wealthy: “We have to politically isolate them, economically isolate them, and disrupt them.” He then revealed that “a bunch of us around the country” had “decided” that JP Morgan Chase “would be a really good company to hate.” As a result, he said, “we are going to roll out over the next couple of months what will hopefully be an exciting campaign about JP Morgan Chase that is really about challenge [sic] the power of Wall Street.”
By waging such “brave and heroic battles challenging the power of the giant corporations,” Lerner hoped “to inspire a much bigger movement about redistributing wealth and power” in the United States. On September 10—just a week before the first Occupy Wall Street event in Manhattan— Lerner revealed his connection to OWS when he foretold that demonstrations would be staged “in Seattle, in L.A., in San Francisco, in Chicago, in New York, in Boston.” “We’ve got some stuff in Boston and New York that’s going to really be spectacular,” he emphasized. “This is about building and creating power,” Lerner added. “We’re not going to convince the other side that we’re right through intellectual argument. We need to create power, and in a way we need to talk about how we create a crisis for the super rich.”
In the pantheon of OWS luminaries, no one occupies a higher position than Lisa Fithian, a legendary community organizer who specializes in aggressive “direct action” tactics and, as journalist Byron York puts it, “operates in the world of anti-globalism anarchists, antiwar protesters, and union activists.”
In 1999 Fithian was a key organizer of the chaotic anti-globalization demonstrations which devolved into violent riots and caused the shutdown of the World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings in Seattle. Fithian would later say, reflectively, that she and her fellow Seattle protesters “were going after the capitalist system, the neo-liberal system.”
Since 2000, Fithian has organized all over the world against such targets as Free Trade Area of the Americas summits, IMF/World Bank meetings, G8 Summits, and a World Economic Forum in New York. She was a key planner of protests at the Republican and Democratic national conventions in 2000 and 2004. She currently serves on the national steering committee of United for Peace and Justice, and she has provided training and support for such radical groups as ACORN, National People’s Action, the new Students for a Democratic Society, and many others.
Fithian says that she and others “who are trying to create a new world … have to dismantle or transform the old order” which is dominated by “the corporations [and] the big banks [that] have been destroying this country.” In an effort to fulfill her moral “obligation” to “undo all the oppression” that exists in American society, she seeks to “create crisis, because crisis is that edge where change is possible.” Armed with this mindset, Fithian quickly emerged as the top street-level organizer of the OWS movement and its various urban chapters.
Describing itself as a “leaderless resistance movement” composed of “people of many colors, genders and political persuasions” whose goal was to use “the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic” to create “an American Tahrir Square,” OWS portrayed itself from the outset as an organic, spontaneous eruption of popular sentiment propelled only by the passionate commitment of its grassroots supporters. For the most part, the movement’s admirers in the media and elsewhere echoed that narrative: Fox News commentator Juan Williams affirmed that OWS was both “spontaneous” and “organic.” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman characterized it as part of a worldwide pattern of “spontaneous social protests.” And congresswoman Nancy Pelosi lauded the movement as “young,” spontaneous,” and “focused.”
OWS claimed to be “fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process,” and against “the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations.” Moreover, the movement sought “to expose how the richest 1% of people who are writing the rules of the global economy are imposing an agenda of neoliberalism and economic inequality that is foreclosing our future.” “We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%,” said OWS. Aiming to bring the despised one-percenters to justice by “creat[ing] real change from the bottom up,” OWS declared that “the only solution is World Revolution.”
OWS’s initial “Call to Action”—dated September 17, 2011 (the day of the movement’s first mass gathering)—was alternatively dubbed a “call for revolution” whose intent was to collapse “the capitalist political system” where “inequality” between the “have[s] and have nots” had unjustly enabled the former “to rule, whether by the sword or by the dollar.” To wage this revolution, OWS called for “protests to organize and disrupt the system”; “for workers to not only strike, but seize their workplaces collectively”; and for students and teachers together “to seize the classrooms” and “free minds together” by “teach[ing] democracy”—a politically expedient euphemism for “socialism.”
As a consequence of these core OWS values, posters and t-shirts bearing anti-capitalist slogans would become ubiquitous at “Occupy” rallies across the United States. These included such slogans as: “Smash Capitalism”; “Capitalism Isn’t Working”; “Death to Capitalism”; “Capitalism = Systematic Exploitation”; and “F* Capitalism.” Some related themes, equally representative of OWS’s prevailing mood, included: “Tax the Filthy Rich”; “Eat the Rich”; “Taxidermy the Rich”; “Declare War on Banks”; “Nationalize the Banks”; “Turn Workers’ Anger into Communist Revolution”; “This is the Revolution”; “Worker-Communism Unity”; “Try Socialism”; “Viva la Revolucion”; “No War but Class War”; and the very creed of Marxism: “From Each According to His Ability, to Each According to His Need.”
Also popular at OWS demonstrations were t-shirts and speeches glorifying such renowned Communists as Che Guevara, Emiliano Zapata and Mao Zedong; lionizing convicted cop-killer Troy Davis and WikiLeaks collaborator Bradley Manning; promoting the DREAM Act and 9/11 Trutherism; and denouncing Fox News, the American Legislative Exchange Council, Wisconsin’s Republican governor Scott Walker, the Koch family, the New York Police Department, “Nazi Bankers,” and Jews.
The Movement Grows
OWS’s inaugural demonstration — on September 17, 2011 — drew approximately 5,000 participants. Such organizations as the AdBusters Media Foundation, Anonymous, the NYC General Assembly, Take The Square, and USDayOfRage and helped organize the event as well.
By early October, OWS had spread to dozens of cities nationwide, in each case blending its own name with that of the city (e.g., Occupy Wall Street in Oakland became known as “Occupy Oakland”). Given this development, the major media focused ever more attention on the story. During OWS’s first 40 days, the New York Times and Washington Post together devoted fully 224 articles and opinion pieces to their coverage of the movement. Among the cities where OWS protesters had established a foothold were Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Lexington, Tallahassee, Tampa, Gainesville, Washington DC, Houston, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Atlanta, Huntsville, Birmingham, Jersey City, Trenton, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, St. Louis, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Wichita, New Orleans, Cleveland, Austin, Dallas, Phoenix, Indianapolis, Hartford, Madison, Colorado Springs, Tulsa, Chattanooga, Boise, Minneapolis, Sacramento, Nashville, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Portland (Oregon).,
OWS’s major base of operations, however, was Zuccotti Park (formerly known as Liberty Plaza Park), a 33,000-square-foot publicly accessible park in Lower Manhattan. The park is privately owned by Brookfield Office Properties (BOP), a Canadian-American commercial real estate company. Brookfield Asset Management (BAM), which owns 50% of BOP’s outstanding common shares, gave its approval for the protesters’ takeover of the park. A few days later, the Obama Department of Energy finalized a guarantee for 80% of a $168.9 million loan to Granite Reliable Power (GRP), to support the construction of New Hampshire’s largest wind farm. The GRP wind farm project was headed by Brookfield Renewable Power (wholly owned by BAM) and Freshet Wind Energy.
OWS’s Official Positions
On September 29, 2011, the NYC General Assembly—OWS’s main decision-making body—adopted its official “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City,” condemning banks and other corporations for having placed “profit over people,” “self-interest over justice,” and “oppression over equality.” This Declaration, which stands as OWS’s most important internal document, levies a host of specific and serious charges, though it adheres to the movement’s policy of refraining from issuing any formal demands related to those charges. In the Declaration:
- OWS accuses banks and corporations of having “donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.”[1: Click here for analysis]
- OWS accuses corporations of having “influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.”[2: Click here for analysis]
- OWS accuses corporations of perpetuating “inequality and discrimination in the workplace.”[3: Click here for analysis]
- OWS accuses corporations of denying employees “the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.”[4: Click here for analysis]
- OWS accuses banks of holding “students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.”[5: Click here for analysis]
- OWS accuses corporate America of “block[ing] alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.”[6: Click here for analysis]
- OWS accuses banks and corporations of having “outsourced labor” as leverage “to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.”[7: Click here for analysis]
In addition, the OWS Declaration accuses corporations of such transgressions as: poisoning Americans’ food supply “through negligence”; undermining the farming system “through monopolization”; profiting from animal cruelty; using the military and the police “to prevent freedom of the press”; deliberately failing to recall dangerous products so as to preserve their own profits; perpetuating “colonialism at home and abroad”; participating in “the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas”; and “creat[ing] weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.”
Proceeding from the planted axiom that capitalist America is an evil nation, OWS in a separate communique:
- chastised the U.S. for being “at war with the world,” and called for “ending American imperialism”
- called for an “end [to] capital punishment,” which it depicted as a practice emblematic of a racist criminal-justice system
- called for an end to “health-profiteering”
Who Are The Demonstrators?
On October 2, 2011, New York magazine published the results of a poll it had conducted with 100 committed OWS protesters in Manhattan, half of whom were in their twenties. Of those who rendered opinions on the particular questions they were asked, 45% said that capitalism “can’t be saved” and is “inherently immoral,” while 35% said the U.S. government is “no better than, say, Al Qaeda.”
In another October 2011 survey of 200 OWS protesters, 65% said that government has a moral responsibility to guarantee all citizens access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement—regardless of the cost; 77% supported tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans; 52% had participated in political movements before; 98% endorsed civil disobedience to achieve their goals; and 31% said they would support violence to promote their agendas. Pollster Doug Schoen, whose firm conducted this latter survey, concluded that OWSers hold “values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people … and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies.” OWS organizer John McGloin himself confirmed that people who are not “socialist[s] or…anarchist[s]” are “under-represented at OWS.”
Conservative journalist Andrew Breitbart depicted the OWS protesters as “the same types of groups [as] the anti-WTO crowd that in 1999 attacked Seattle“; “the same group of people that created ‘Camp Casey‘ at President Bush’s compound … in Crawford, Texas”; and members of “the anti-war movement” who have “now been co-opted as a means to divert attention away from the Tea Party and on to an organization that shifts [onto the banks] the blame from the government for giving … out-of-control loans to their political cronies.” “It is a sleight of hand for the benefit of the Democratic Party and for the benefit of President Obama,” Breitbart elaborated, “to change the onus away from the government policies that created our failed economic system.”
In October 2011, Breitbart’s website BigGovernment.com reported that it had succeeded in acquiring a vast archive of leaked emails containing messages exchanged by left-wing activists during their “strategic and daily tactical planning of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and broader ‘Occupy’ campaign this fall.” These emails document what BigGov describes as the extensive “involvement of socialists, anarchists, and other radicals,” as well as “heavy union involvement,” in the OWS movement. Further, the emails show that OWS aims to promote extreme levels of economic and governmental destabilization; to create social unrest throughout the democratic world; and to form alliances with other radical causes, including the anti-Israel movement. Most notably, a number of the emails discuss how a “Trojan Horse” strategy—as identified by Kalle Lasn—could be employed to deceive the public about the Occupy movement’s real agendas. As OWS organizer John McGloin explained in one email:
“[F]irst you get large numbers of people to join by showing how reasonable you are….[I]f you talk about overthrowing governments, capitalism or wholesale changes, most of the 99% will be scared off, and we’ll never have the power we need to affect real change. In order to fight the global corporations I estimate we need a minimum of 15 million Americans on the street. There are not 15 million radical socialist/anarchists in the US. We need people without political agendas, but with anger at corporations.”
Among the most significant of the leaked emails was a manifesto written by Adbusters senior editor Micah White, in which, as The Daily Caller reports, “she betrayed the beginnings of a more ambitious social agenda than one merely concerned with banking and Wall Street regulation.” While the manifesto cannot be considered an official OWS document, its contents offer a revealing window into the movement’s major objectives: an end to foreclosures for the unemployed, sick and elderly; the enactment of a tax on the wealthiest 1% to fund public services; the forgiveness of all student loan debt; the implementation of a worldwide 1% “Robin Hood” tax on all financial transactions and currency trades, the revenues of which could be used to fund social-welfare programs and combat climate change; the arrest and prosecution of “the financial fraudsters responsible for the 2008 meltdown”; and an end to “the influence corporate money has on our elected representatives.”
In January 2013, the City University of New York’s Joseph A. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies released the findings of a 6-month study it had conducted on OWS participants in New York. Some 750 protesters were surveyed for this study, which found that:
- a third lived in households earning more than $100,000 annually;
- more than two-thirds were employed professionals;
- 76% were college educated; of those, half had earned graduate degrees and 28% had attended elite universities;
- 55 were men;
- a disproportionately high percentage were white; and
- many of the under-30 participants had been recently laid off or were underemployed, with nearly a quarter saying they worked fewer than 35 hours per week.
“It’s a pretty affluent demographic and highly educated,” said Professor Ruth Milkman, one of the study’s authors. “Many were the children of the elite, if you will.”
The study concluded: “Occupy Wall Street was not a spontaneous eruption but rather an action carefully planned by committed activists,” the study concluded…. Most OWS activists and supporters were deeply skeptical of the mainstream political system as an effective vehicle for social change.”
Violence, Arrests, and the Occupations
The OWS movement’s first large-scale clash with law-enforcement occurred on October 1, 2011, when a horde of demonstrators shut down traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge for two-and-a-half hours, a move that resulted in some 700 arrests. It should be noted that getting arrested is a calculated OWS tactic; the movement’s organizers commonly select their “arrestables”—i.e., people who project a desired image or demeanor—in advance of a direct action. This is essentially a prescription from the Saul Alinsky playbook, which emphasizes the inspiration that a group can experience when some of its members—particularly key figures—are “willing to suffer imprisonment for the cause.”
Another landmark date for OWS was October 15, when rallies were held in many hundreds of cities around the world. Violence broke out most notably in Rome, where tens of thousands of protesters converged. According to a Reuters report: “Hundreds of hooded, masked demonstrators rampaged in some of the worst violence seen in the Italian capital in years, setting cars ablaze, breaking bank and shop windows and destroying traffic lights and signposts.” Meanwhile, 175 protesters were arrested in Chicago and 92 were arrested in New York.
The mayhem of October 15 offered evidence that although OWS had publicly professed, at its inception, to “encourage the use of nonviolence,” by no means does the movement uniformly deem violence off-limits. No less a personage than OWS organizer Lisa Fithian, who cites the late-19th and early-20th century anarchist movement in Spain as her inspiration, has candidly declared: “I am not a pacifist.… I was raised in this culture, which is a very violent culture and I understand that I have some violence in who I am.” Moreover, Fithian once told the Internationalist Socialist Review:
“I have no issue with property destruction. I think sometimes it’s appropriate, sometimes it’s not. Again, I look at it strategically. Does this help us or does it hurt us? Does it help us achieve our goal, or does it not? We’re in a society where property is idolized, so a lot of people don’t get it yet that it doesn’t really matter. It’s just glass or products.”
Likewise intimating that violence might become more widespread as the OWS movement continued to gain momentum, a featured speaker at an October 2011 “Occupy L.A.” rally praised the French Revolution of 1789 for having “made fundamental transformation,” even though “it was bloody.” “[U]ltimately,” the speaker told the cheering crowd, “the bourgeoisie won’t go without violent means…. Long live revolution! Long live socialism!”
Violence and other forms of criminality indeed became commonplace at OWS demonstrations. Among the many documented transgressions: vandalism, extortion, assault, theft, trespass, rape, rioting, computer hacking, sexual perversions, knife attacks, threatened violence, civil disobedience, the use and trafficking of illegal drugs, and public urination and defecation. One cursory search of news stories reporting criminal behavior at OWS locations found hundreds of such incidents which had occurred as of November 22, 2011. As of November 15, at least 4,049 OWS protesters had been arrested nationwide.
It is noteworthy that many of the OWS arrestees, based on their net worths and incomes, were in actuality “one-percenters” rather than “99-percenters.” Consider that for each of the 984 OWS protesters who were arrested in New York City between September 18 and October 15, 2011, police filed an intake form recording the arrestee’s name, age, sex, criminal charge, home address, and — in most cases — race. Among the addresses for which information was publicly available, the single-family homes listed on those police forms had a median value of $305,000 — much higher than the $185,400 median value of single-family homes nationwide. Even in the depressed housing market of that time period, at least 95 of the NYC protesters’ residences were worth $500,000 or more.
Perhaps the most notable crime committed at an OWS site was a November 10 homicide, where a 25-year-old protester at Occupy Oakland was shot and killed by a man whom other demonstrators described as a “frequent resident” at the camp. Numerous brutal sexual assaults were reported at OWS sites as well, during October and November 2011. At Occupy Cleveland, for instance, a 19-year-old woman was raped while she was inside her tent. At Occupy Baltimore, a woman was raped and robbed by an assailant who subsequently escaped without detection. In New York, an 18-year-old woman was raped by a 26-year-old man who had been working at the protesters’ makeshift kitchen at Zuccotti Park, where OWS’s New York City contingent was headquartered until mid-November 2011. In yet another New York incident, a female protester was sexually assaulted inside her tent early one morning. In Texas, police initiated an investigation of reports that a 14-year-old girl had been raped by an adult male at the Occupy Dallas encampment. Yet another sexual assault was reported at the Occupy Lawrence camp in Kansas. A woman at Occupy St. Louis was raped on November 8, and five days later a 23-year-old woman was raped by a 50-year-old man at Occupy Philadelphia. Nor were such heinous crimes confined solely to OWS sites in the United States. Indeed, a female resident of the Occupy Glasgow camp in Scotland was sexually assaulted in her tent on October 26.
At the Occupy Phoenix site, copies of an “informational” document were distributed to “educate” protesters vis à vis the possible efficacy of violence directed against police officers. Asserting that “far more injustice, violence, torture, theft, and outright murder has been committed IN THE NAME [emphasis in original] of ‘law enforcement’ than has been committed in spite of it,” the document advised:
“When those violently victimizing the innocent have badges, become a cop-killer….The next time you hear of a police officer being killed ‘in the line of duty,’ take a moment to consider the very real possibility that maybe in that case, the ‘law enforcer’ was the bad guy and the ‘cop killer’ was the good guy.”
In late October 2011, violence erupted when officials in Oakland, California sought to remove OWSers from the plaza surrounding City Hall, so as to give municipal workers an opportunity to clean up the mounds of garbage and filth that had accumulated there. When many of the protesters ignored repeated instructions that they vacate the plaza, police were dispatched to clear out the site. Undeterred, a mob of roughly 400 people armed with rocks and bottles tried to reoccupy the plaza by force, provoking clashes with riot police. Some protesters threw paint at the officers’ faces while chanting, “This is why we call you pigs!” Ultimately, 85 provocateurs were arrested, and some had to be subdued with clubs and pepper-spray. But again, this was a calculated part of OWS’s plan. Kalle Lasn himself had acknowledged that “police brutality actually helps the movement” by drawing media attention; even false allegations and provoked confrontations can serve that same purpose.
Oakland was once more the scene of violence on November 2, 2011, when hundreds of OWS demonstrators started a large bonfire in the middle of a downtown street and successfully shut down operations at one of America’s busiest shipping ports. Moreover, a mob of some 300 protesters smashed the windows of a Wells Fargo bank while chanting, “Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.” The protesters also spray-painted an expletive on the bank’s exterior wall and blocked the front door of a nearby Citibank. Police in riot gear cleared out the area, but soon thereafter many OWSers returned to the scene to march and chant defiantly: “Whose streets? Our streets!” The Oakland violence came just two days after United Steelworkers international president Leo Gerard, an advisor to President Obama and a board member of several George Soros-funded organizations, had called for “more militancy” in the OWS movement.
A number of OWS protests across the U.S. severely disrupted the lives of residents and merchants in the vicinity. Consider the case of Marc Epstein, proprietor of a normally bustling Wall Street cafe which suffered a dramatic loss of business as a direct result of OWS activities and was forced to lay off 21 employees within the first six weeks of the protests. In early November, four elected officials representing Lower Manhattan complained that the OWS demonstrations were creating “serious quality-of-life concerns” for residents of the area. A member of New York’s Community Board stated, “It’s a crime scene down there, and it’s attracting all of the worst people in this city. We’re hearing reports of rapes, assaults, violence, drug use. The mentally ill are assembling. It’s a public hazard.” Moreover, complaints about vandalism, theft, and public urination and defecation were widespread. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg lamented, “This isn’t an occupation of Wall Street. It’s an occupation of a growing, vibrant residential neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, and it’s really hurting small businesses and families.”
Anti-Semitism at OWS
Significant displays of anti-Semitism have been evident at “Occupy” events in various cities, where posters and chanted slogans denouncing the alleged conspiracies of “Jewish bankers,” “Wall Street Jews,” “Jewish billionaires,” and “Zionist Jews” square neatly with OWS’s relentless condemnations of “greedy Wall Street bankers” and thus go unchallenged by others in the protesting throngs. Likewise, many of the posters displayed at OWS rallies feature caricatures of Jewish bankers bearing a striking resemblance to the propaganda art that was once produced in Nazi Germany. According to the American Nazi Party, which supports OWS, the movement strikes a welcome blow against an obscenely corrupt “Judeo-Capitalism.”
New York OWS protester Danny Cline, dubbing himself “Lotion Man,” gained considerable YouTube notoriety in October 2011 when he angrily derided an elderly Jew with such taunts as “You’re a bum, Jew”; “Go back to Israel”; and “You got the money…Jewish man.” Another New York protester stated: “The small ethnic Jewish population in this country, they have a firm grip on America’s media [and] finances.”
At Occupy Chicago, featured speaker Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab-American Action Network (which was founded by the radical PLO propagandist Rashid Khalidi), told a cheering crowd that “Israel is beginning to be seen as the criminal pariah state that it is.” Soon thereafter, Abudayyeh, whose home was raided by the FBI in 2009 on suspicion of his ties to terrorist groups like Hamas and the Colombian F.A.R.C., led fellow OWSers in chants of “Free, Free Palestine!”
At an Occupy L.A. rally, Los Angeles Unified School District employee Patricia McAllister told a television reporter: “I think that the Zionist Jews who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve … need to be run out of this country.” After McAllister’s school district subsequently fired her for her comments, the woman publicly defended and amplified her positions: “I think that we should be able to [tell] the truth about what the Jews are doing to this nation, the Zionist Jews, how they control the money system, how they control the markets and everything else.… Jews have been run out of 109 countries throughout history. And we need to run them out of this one.” McAllister said all this while an Occupy L.A. spokeswoman stood silently nearby, listening. Yet the latter steadfastly refused to condemn McAllister’s rhetoric, maintaining that it “doesn’t erode our [movement’s] credibility, not one bit.”
At an Occupy Boston rally in early November 2011, a contingent of protesters marched into the lobby of the building that houses the city’s Israeli consulate and held a sit-in, chanting such slogans as: “Hey hey, Ho ho! Israeli apartheid’s got to go!”; “Long live the Intifada!”; “Free, free Palestine!”; “Viva viva Palestina!”; “Not another nickel, Not another dime! No more money for Israel’s crimes!”; and “Disarm the police, from Israel to Greece!” This action had been planned in advance and was officially sanctioned by Occupy Boston.
Some noteworthy anti-Israel organizations have jumped aboard the OWS bandwagon as well. For instance, the activist group Jewish Voice for Peace, which views Israel as morally analogous to apartheid South Africa, distributed flyers in Chicago bearing the headline: “Refuse to Pay Taxes. Destroy Israel.” Another group, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, asserts that “the connections between the struggles of Palestinians and the Occupy movement are unmistakable: the spotlight on privilege and inequality, the mass imprisonment, the police repression, and the people’s steadfastness.”
In October 2011, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) claimed solidarity with the OWS movement in the United States. “Our oppressors,” said BNC, “whether greedy corporations or military occupations, are united in profiting from wars, pillage, environmental destruction, repression and impoverishment. We must unite in our common quest for freedoms, equal rights, social and economic justice, environmental sanity, and world peace.” Further, BNC described Palestinians as “part of the 99% around the world that suffer at the hands of the 1% whose greed and ruthless quest for hegemony have led to unspeakable suffering and endless war.”
Defenders of OWS maintain that it is unfair for critics to broadly smear the movement as anti-Semitic merely because of the words and actions of an allegedly small minority, or because of the endorsements of certain activist groups. But what cannot be so easily dismissed is the fact that OWS organizers and spokespeople have elected not to come forward and publicly condemn the anti-Semitic rhetoric. Rather, like the aforementioned Occupy L.A. spokeswoman, they have given their tacit approval to such sentiments—invariably under the rubric of “free speech rights.” This presents a stark contrast to what occurred during the Tea Party demonstrations of 2010, where participants would quickly confront, denounce, and sometimes physically banish from their midst those rare individuals who tried to promote a racist or otherwise objectionable message.
Further, it is reasonable to speculate that the anti-Semitism on display at OWS rallies may well reflect the sentiments of the movement’s key figures. In 2004, for instance, Kalle Lasn wrote a controversial Adbusters article entitled “Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?”—criticizing America’s most influential neoconservatives and noting, derisively, that “half of them are Jewish.” And in September 2011, Lasn praised Palestinian leadership—which had given no indication that it would abandon its longstanding quest to destroy Israel—for “moving beyond the Israel- and U.S.-dominated peace process” and “asking the United Nations to formally recognize Palestine as an independent, sovereign state within its 1967 borders.”
Lasn’s Adbusters magazine has likewise made some extremely harsh assessments of Israel:
- In a June 2009 article/photo montage critiquing Israel’s embargo of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Adbusters likened Gaza to the Warsaw ghetto of the WWII era—suggesting that contemporary Jews’ treatment of the Palestinians resembled the manner in which the Nazis had treated Jews under Hitler.
- In an April 2011 article titled “Revolution in America,” Adbusters derided the United States’ “corporate-backed rulers” for “cynically squandering billions of dollars of taxpayer money each year in gifts to the apartheid state of Israel.”
- In a January 2009 article titled “Enough Boycott Israel,” Adbusters condemned the Jewish state’s “increasingly bloody occupation” and urged “the kind of global [boycott, divestment and sanctions] movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.”
- In a July 2007 article titled “Jazz and the Jihad,” Adbusters impugned “the Ziocons” for allegedly dictating American foreign policy while turning a blind eye to “the colossal war crimes that are daily repeated by Israel in Palestine.”
Lisa Fithian, for her part, spent several weeks in 2003 working with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the Palestinian cities of Jenin and Nablus, where she acted as a human shield seeking to prevent Israel’s demolition of the homes of Palestinian extremists and terrorists. (ISM actively cooperates with such terrorist entities as Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.) At a May 31, 2010 protest in Texas, Fithian publicly accused Israel of “slaughter[ing] Palestinians every single day in Gaza and the Occupied territories,” and called for “an end” to “the U.S. tax dollars that fund that [Israeli] occupation.” During the same event, fellow demonstrators chanted such slogans as “Long live Intifada!” and “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea!”—unambiguous calls for the dissolution of Israel. Fithian is also a supporter of the pro-Hamas Free Gaza Movement and was slated to be a passenger in a June 2011 flotilla to Gaza, but the voyage was ultimately cancelled.
Allies of OWS
Take The Square
A notable ally of OWS is an organization called Take The Square (TTS), which aims “to change an unfair system”—i.e., free-market capitalism and its “corporate rule of our lives”—by implementing “specific and feasible alternatives” that will “improve life on this planet for all its inhabitants,” particularly “the 99%” who “demand [their] share.” In Marxist tradition, TTS proposes “global … solutions” that emphasize “solidarity” among “human beings fighting and acting together regardless of [geographic] borders.”
Another staunch ally of OWS is the Washington, DC-based October 2011 movement (O-2011), which, like Occupy Wall Street, views government rather than the free market as the solution to every conceivable social ill. Indeed, O-2011 calls on the U.S. government to end all American economic policies “which foster a wealth divide”; to “tax the rich and corporations” at especially high rates so as to diminish the “significant disparities of wealth” that exist between the “extremely wealthy” and “the 99%”; to create a single-payer healthcare system while expanding social-welfare programs; to devote large sums of money to “creating [public-sector] jobs” while eschewing “spending cuts”; to “end corporate influence over the political process” by banning corporate campaign contributions and establishing a publicly financed campaign system; and to guarantee everyone “a sustainable living wage” and a “publicly-funded” education from pre-school through college.
ACORN and its Reincarnations
Operatives of the now-defunct community organization ACORN, which reconstituted itself into numerous state and regional groups bearing a variety of different names, have played a major role in organizing the OWS protests nationwide. For instance, the Working Families Party (WFP), a longtime ACORN front, helped mobilize the demonstrations in New York City. WFP organizer Nelini Stamp boasts of her organization’s effort to bring “revolutionary change” to “the capitalist system” that is “not working for any of us.”
Newer ACORN offshoots are likewise deeply involved with OWS. For instance, New York Communities for Change (NYCC)—led by longtime ACORN lobbyist Jon Kest—has helped WFP organize the demonstrations in lower Manhattan. In Pennsylvania, Action United has participated in the “Occupy Pittsburgh” rallies. In Florida, Organize Now takes part in “Occupy Orlando.” The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment helps lead the “Occupy L.A.” protests. And New England United for Justice, headed by former ACORN national president Maude Hurd, has participated in the related “Take Back Boston” demonstrations in Massachusetts.
Fox News reports that NYCC hired approximately 100 former ACORN-affiliated staffers and paid some of them $100 per day to attend and support OWS demonstrations. Further, NYCC recruited dozens of people from New York homeless shelters and paid them $10 per hour to support the protests in various ways, such as by serving as door-to-door canvassers to collect money for the movement—sometimes on false pretenses. According to an inside source, NYCC officials and top ex-ACORN staffers had begun planning events like OWS in February: “What people don’t understand is that ACORN is behind this—and that this, what’s happening now, is all part of the … plans to go after the banks, Chase in particular.”
Former ACORN chief executive Bertha Lewis has close ties to OWS as well. Her new organization, The Black Institute (TBI), dubs its protests “Occupy Black America” and “Occupy The Hood.” TBI and several other ACORN reincarnations together organized a noteworthy event known as “New Bottom Line,” a financial protest aimed at persuading people to move their money out of major banks on November 5, 2011. That auspicious date was selected because it is known in the British Commonwealth as “Guy Fawkes Day,” named in honor of the man who attempted (unsuccessfully) to blow up Parliament and thereby assassinate King James I in 1605. Fawkes has become an icon of the Occupy demonstrations and the “Anonymous” hacker collective, thus accounting for the large number of Guy Fawkes masks (popularized in the movie V for Vendetta) at OWS protests.
Communist Party USA
The Communist Party USA (CPUSA) has also been involved in OWS’s formation and early growth. Working closely with “Occupy Los Angeles,” for instance, are two Southern California communists—veteran Party leader Arturo Cambron and his comrade Mario Brito. In early October 2011, Brito declared that OWS was “an international movement” whose chief objective was to achieve “economic justice” that would eliminate the “income inequality” that “the vast majority of Americans” view as “a major problem.” In an October 15, 2011 address to the nearly 3,000 attendees at an “Occupy Chicago” rally, John Bachtell, a spokesman from the CPUSA’s national board, conveyed “greetings and solidarity from the Communist Party” and received a number of loud ovations from the crowd.
Actively supporting OWS is the infamous Bill Ayers, the unrepentant former Weather Underground terrorist. Describing the “Occupy” movement as a “North American Spring,” akin to the “Arab Spring,” Ayers says: “These kinds of movements expand our consciousness of what’s possible.” On October 19, 2011, Ayers led a “teach-in” for “Occupy Chicago” protesters on the tactics and history of “non-violent direct action.” He also lauded the protesters for their “brilliance”; condemned America’s “violent culture”; and derided the Tea Party movement as a bastion of “jingoism, nativism, racism.”
Ayers’ brother Rick, a radical teacher-education professor based in San Francisco, likewise backs OWS and wants the Occupy movement’s tactics to be “applied to schools.” He wrote in the Huffington Post: “The time has come for action. Take over these schools. Occupy them. Sit in. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week….Instead of taking marching orders from Wall Street, we need to take these schools and make them institutions of liberation.” Ayers recommends, among other things, the incorporation of “critical pedagogy,” an educational philosophy based on Marxist theory, into school curricula.
In October 2011, the left-wing activist group MoveOn.org announced its plan to launch a protest movement of its own to complement “the amazing work being done by brave Occupy Wall Street protesters,” to “end the big banks’ excessive influence,” and “to Make Wall Street Pay” for its transgressions against “economic justice.”
Fenton Communications, a public-relations firm that has promoted and orchestrated a host of left-wing groups and causes, has been actively involved in organizing OWS’s activities. The firm’s founder, David Fenton, is a longtime activist who worked as a photographer for Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground in the 1970s. Fenton later served alongside both Ayers and Barack Obama on the board of the Woods Fund, a Chicago nonprofit that funneled large sums of money to left-wing groups. Today he is a board member of numerous Tides Foundation-supported organizations, while his firm represents more than 30 Tides grantees.
OWS has enjoyed strong support from many labor unions and federations representing millions of public-sector workers, such as the AFL-CIO, the AFSCME, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the United Federation of Teachers. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who helped rescind a founding AFL-CIO rule which banned Communist Party members and loyalists from leadership positions within the Federation, says: “We support the protesters in their determination to hold Wall Street accountable and create good jobs…to call for fundamental change.”
This type of union backing is quite understandable in light of the dramatic leftward political shift which public-sector union leaders have undergone during the past two decades. Ryan Lizza, associate editor of The New Republic, notes for instance that today’s SEIU leaders “tend to be radical, even socialist.” Because public-sector workers get their money not from a free marketplace but from taxes, their unions have a large incentive to advocate on behalf of political leaders and causes that support higher taxes and bigger government, which in turn can bankroll an ever-larger number of public-sector union jobs. Such objectives are entirely consistent with those of OWS.
National Lawyers Guild
Another key OWS ally is the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), from whose ranks emerged some 200 attorneys to serve as volunteer legal observers monitoring OWS events in New York; the Guild’s objective is to find evidence of police wrongdoing which can then be exploited for propaganda purposes. Moreover, the NLG provides legal representation for OWS protesters arrested across the United States, and has set up “Occupy” legal hotlines in at least 19 cities. The significance of all this derives from the NLG’s radical history and deep communist ties.
Hundreds of environmental activists, convinced that capitalism is inherently destructive of the natural world, have likewise joined OWS’s crusade. Among the most prominent is Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, who believes that humanity’s ever-increasing technological and industrial progress corrupts the human spirit while endangering all forms of life on the planet. Demanding that Congress place restrictions on carbon emissions, McKibben identifies the United States as the world’s chief polluter and derides its “materialism” and “hyperindividualism.” In October 2011 he wrote: “For too long, Wall Street has been occupying the offices of our government, and the cloakrooms of our legislatures…. You could even say Wall Street’s been occupying our atmosphere, since any attempt to do anything about climate change always run afoul of the biggest corporations on the planet. So it’s a damned good thing the tables have turned.”
Such sentiments echo those of OWS’s leading lights. Kalle Lasn, for instance, has warned that “overconsumption is in some sense the mother of all our environmental problems,” most notably anthropogenic “climate change.” He derides in particular the automobile—because of its greenhouse-gas emissions—as “arguably the most destructive product we humans have ever produced.” To counteract the ecological damage allegedly caused by such emissions, Lasn recommends “not just a carbon tax, but a global across-the-board pricing system” in which cars would cost “around $100,000” apiece, and “a tankful of gas, $250.” Lisa Fithian, too, has worked for “environmental justice” with such Texas-based groups as the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance and the Save Our Springs Alliance.
In October 2011, OWS organizers invited U.S.-based Muslim groups to join the cause. The first to accept this invitation was the Hamas-linked Council on Islamic-American Relations, whose New York chapter held an October 21 prayer service in Zuccotti Park. At that event, a speaker from the Islamic Leadership Council delivered a sermon on social justice, citing, as a smear against the banking industry, the Prophet Mohammed’s commandment against usury. Members of the Workers World Party, a Marxist-Leninist sect, helped display signs demanding that the U.S. government “Stop Entrapment of Muslims.” And Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab American Association of New York, said: “We as Muslim New Yorkers are here today because we are in solidarity and support of Occupy Wall Street.”
Islamists in the Middle East
In the fall of 2011, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, lauded OWS for having “exposed” the “corrupt foundation” of American society, and gleefully predicted that the movement would “grow so that it will bring down the capitalist system and the West.” The Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces for Culture and Defense Publicity, General Seyed Massoud Jazzayeri, likewise characterized OWS not only as “a revolution and a comprehensive movement against corruption in the U.S.,” but as a force that “will no doubt end in the downfall of the Western capitalist system.” Further, he framed OWS as the beginning of an “American Spring”—akin to the Arab Spring uprisings that had already toppled three longstanding Mideast regimes. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast suggested that OWS signaled the political awakening of the American people, but lamented that U.S. authorities were “intolerant” of its peaceful demonstrations. And a website affiliated with the Islamist terror group Hezbollah portrayed OWS as a movement that was courageously exposing the “corruption, poverty [and] social inequality in the U.S.”
Democratic Party Supporters of OWS:
A number of left-wing Democratic political figures have voiced praise for OWS. To cite just a few:
- President Barack Obama, who had articulated a host of disparaging public references to such villains as the “millionaires and billionaires,” the “corporate jet owners,” and the “fat cat bankers on Wall Street” who allegedly were not paying their “fair share” in taxes, stated that he “understand[s] the frustrations that are being expressed” by OWS.
- United States Senate candidate and former Obama appointee Elizabeth Warren expressed her fervent “support” for OWS and boasted, “I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they [the protesters] do.”
- “God bless them,” former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said of OWS’s “young,” “spontaneous,” and “focused” foot soldiers.
- Former President Bill Clinton called OWS “on balance … a positive thing.”
- Former Vermont governor and DNC chairman Howard Dean said, “I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen…. I’m glad to see all these young people on Wall Street.”
- Praising OWS as “the first step in the right direction,” former vice president Al Gore said enthusiastically: “Count me among those supporting and cheering on the Occupy Wall Street movement.”
- Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison asserted that “Occupy Wall Street’s anger is justified” and its message “is being spread using the best tradition of American populist movements.”
- Onetime senator Russ Feingold lauded OWS for mounting a “long overdue” assault on “corporate power and corporate greed.”
- Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva was “inspired by growing grassroots movements on Wall Street and across the country.”
- Illinois congresswoman Jan Schakowsky cast OWS as an “unstoppable” movement that “has made a real difference” in focusing Americans’ attention on the problem of “inequality.”
- New York city councilman (and former Black Panther) Charles Barron was “very impressed” with OWS, predicting that the movement would “catch on like wildfire” because “conditions are ripe for revolution, for radical change.”
Other Individual Supporters
The list of far-leftists who have stepped forth to support OWS is extremely long. Among the more noteworthy names are: the infamous Marxist and cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal, who says that OWS’s “central focus” is simply “capitalism, greed writ large”; the revolutionary communist and former Obama “green jobs czar” Van Jones, who calls OWS a “beautiful manifestation of moral clarity”; and the billionaire financier George Soros, who says “I can understand [the protesters’] sentiment.”
As for organizational support, OWS is backed by the American Nazi Party, the Communist Party USA, the Democratic Socialists of America, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the International Socialist Organization, the Marxist Student Union, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the socialist Peace and Freedom Party, the Revolutionary Communist Party, and the Socialist Party USA. OWS has neither declined nor repudiated any of these endorsements.
For a list of key individuals, organizations, and governmental entities that have expressed their support for OWS and its agendas, click here.
Allies in the “Nonpartisan” Media
Several individuals working for National Public Radio, NBC News, and the New York Times have been caught quietly promoting the very same OWS movement which those outlets have largely portrayed as a spontaneous uprising, independent of any powerful, organized, or well-financed influences.
For instance, New York Times freelancer Natasha Lennard, who according to Politico.com “played a pivotal role in the media narrative of Occupy Wall Street,” participated in a panel of radicals discussing the theory, strategy and tactics of the OWS protests.
National Public Radio host Lisa Simeone worked as a spokeswoman for “Occupy DC”—a chapter of the OWS-affiliated October 2011 movement—in violation of the network’s ethics rules which forbid employees from “engag[ing] in public relations work, paid or unpaid.” When questioned by reporters about the matter, Simeone said that because she was a “freelancer” for NPR, she was not obligated to abide by the restrictions, adding: “Our main focus is that we are against corporatism and militarism…. [W]e are not going to stop acts of civil disobedience…” Upon learning of Simeone’s involvement with the movement, NPR fired her.
In one of many emails contained on a private listserv which was leaked to BigGovernment.com, MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan advised OWS protesters on how they ought to craft their press statements. “I love what you’re doing,” he said, noting that “we have an opportunity to convert the energy that you have already harnessed … where we can push collectively for a Constitutional Amendment to get the money out [of politics].”
In yet another leaked email, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi transmitted a distilled version of his article, “My Advice to the Wall Street Protesters,” wherein he expressed his “love” and “support” for the movement, and condemned the “unparalleled thievery and corruption” of Wall Street.
Another media figure, the infamous racist and MSNBC host Al Sharpton, made a very public appearance at an OWS rally, where he shouted: “It’s time for us to occupy Wall Street, occupy Washington, occupy Alabama. We’ve come to take our country back to the people.”
Follow The Money
On October 1, 2011, OWS retained the Alliance for Global Justice (AGJ) to serve as its fiscal sponsor i.e., to manage the processing of online donations to the movement. Originally established in 1979 to build support for the communist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, AGJ continues to underwrite and publicize the activities of revolutionary Marxist movements throughout Central America. The organization receives funding from a number of left-wing philanthropies, including George Soros‘s Open Society Institute and the Tides Foundation.
A key source of financial support for OWS is the online funding website Kickstarter. Additional donations are funneled through a site called WePay, and still more money is contributed by visitors to OWS “occupation” sites. By the beginning of November, the movement had raised some $500,000 altogether; one of the more prominent donors was filmmaker Michael Moore, who gave $1,000 (of his $50 million net worth) to the cause.
OWS splits its financial assets between two accounts: one at Amalgamated Bank, which bills itself as “the only 100 percent union-owned bank in the United States,” and the other at the People’s Federal Credit Union. In addition, OWS stores its donated supplies (e.g., blankets, sleeping bags, food, medicine, and toiletries) in a cavernous space provided at no cost by the United Federation of Teachers, which has offices in a building near Zuccotti Park. The OWS publication, The Occupied Wall Street Journal, is supported by the Independent Media Center, which receives funding from the Tides Foundation.
On November 20, 2011, it was reported that Peter Dutro, one of a select few OWS members on the movement’s powerful finance committee (which controlled the $500,000 in donations which OWS had theretofore collected), stayed overnight at the five-star, $700-per-night W New York-Downtown Hotel, even though he resided only a short taxi ride away in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
OWS Chapter Protests U.S. Military Presence in Afghanistan
On October 8, 2011, Occupy Chicago co-sponsored a Midwest Regional March for Peace and Justice, a protest demonstration commemorating the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.â€¨
Deaths at OWS, and the Shutdown of Some Encampments
On November 10, 2011, OWS’s first homicide was recorded, when a 25-year-old protester at Occupy Oakland was fatally shot by a man whom other demonstrators described as a “frequent resident” at the camp. The killing prompted Oakland mayor Jean Quan to direct an open letter to the Occupiers, asking them to leave peacefully on the night of November 10; the protesters initially ignored the request but eventually were evicted by police in riot gear.
The November 10 homicide was one of eight deaths that occurred at OWS encampments between late October and early December of 2011. The others who died were: a 35-year-old military veteran who shot himself to death at Occupy Burlington; a man in his 40s who died from a combination of drug abuse and carbon monoxide inside a tent at Occupy Salt Lake City; a man who died of unknown causes inside his tent at Occupy Bloomington; a 53-year-old man at Occupy New Orleans who died from the effects of prolonged alcohol abuse; a woman in her twenties who died of an apparent drug overdose at Occupy Vancouver; a man in his twenties who was found dead inside a tent at Occupy Oklahoma City; and a young man known to be a drug addict who died at the Occupy Denton encampment on the grounds of the University of North Texas.
For a chronological overview of all the deaths that have occurred at OWS sites, click here.
On November 10, 2011, Portland, Oregon mayor Sam Adams, citing an unacceptable level of lawlessness in and around the OWS encampments in his city, ordered the demonstrators to disperse by 12:01 a.m., November 12. “Crime, especially reported assaults, has increased in the area,” said the mayor. “Occupy has had a considerable time to share its movement’s message with the public but has lost control of the camps it has created.” On November 13, police in riot gear enforced the mayor’s order, arresting some 50 resisters in the process.
Salt Lake City officials likewise asked members of the local Occupy protest group to start packing and leave the park permanently after a man (mentioned above) was found dead inside his tent on November 11, having succumbed to a combination of a drug overdose and carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a space heater in the tent. “We can no longer have individuals camping on our streets,” said Salt Lake police chief Chris Burbank. “We as a city just cannot tolerate this going on.” The following day, police officially terminated overnight-camping privileges for the protesters at Pioneer Park.
In the early morning hours of November 15, 2011, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the NYPD to raid OWS’s Zuccotti Park encampment and evict all the protesters, on grounds that health and safety conditions in the crowded plaza had become “intolerable.” The National Lawyers Guild issued an emergency appeal to block the mayor’s action, but a New York judge upheld the Bloomberg’s decision, saying that the protesters’ First Amendment rights did not entitle them to camp out indefinitely.
“March of the 99 Percent”
On November 17, 2011, OWS held a “March of the 99%,” a nationally coordinated, multi-city day-of-action in conjunction with labor unions and community groups. The unions that participated in this event included the United Federation of Teachers, the SEIU and its affiliate Workers United, the Communications Workers of America, the Transit Workers Union, the United Auto Workers, and the Professional Staff Congress of CUNY. The day’s largest demonstration was an all-day affair in New York City, where some 400 people were arrested. Rallies were also held in Boston, Columbia (South Carolina), St. Louis, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Portland (Oregon).
Pledge to Persevere
After the New York protesters were evicted from Zuccotti Park by Mayor Bloomberg, Kalle Lasn—the individual most responsible for having launched OWS earlier in the year—stated that “Bloomberg’s shock-troop assault has stiffened our resolve and ushered in a new phase of our movement.” Added Lasn:
“The people’s assemblies will continue with or without winter encampments. What will be new is the marked escalation of surprise, playful, precision disruptions—rush-hour flash mobs, bank occupations, ‘occupy squads’ and edgy theatrics…. We will regroup, lick our wounds, brainstorm and network all winter. We will build momentum for a full-spectrum counterattack when the crocuses bloom next spring.”
Ties to the World Social Forum
By the beginning of 2012, the World Social Forum (WSF) had emerged as the brain center of the Occupy movement. In January of that year, some 40,000 people attended WSF’s five-day meeting in Brazil, where Forum organizers called for people worldwide to “take to the streets on June 5” for a global demonstration on behalf of social and environmental justice. Said Chico Whitaker, one of the Forum’s founders: “The political and economic elites are the one percent who control the world and we are the one percent seeking to change it. Where are the [other] 98 percent?”**
Occupy Oakland Protester Kills His Foster Parents
In late January, 2012, a 15-year-old boy who had been spending a considerable amount of time at the Occupy Oakland encampment was accused of strangling his foster parents to death and then hiding their bodies in the back of the family’s PT Cruiser.
Mayhem in Oakland
More than 400 OWS protesters were arrested after a wild night of violence, vandalism, and confrontations with police that occurred on Saturday, January 29, 2012 in Oakland, California.
The violence began after city authorities refused to allow the protesters to make the Kaiser Convention Center their headquarters. Refusing to heed police instructions to disperse from that site, the OWSers began to tear down barricades, destroy fencing, and vandalize construction equipment. Several hundred of them then marched to the Oakland Museum of California, where more arrests were made when yet another police order to disperse was ignored.
After that, an OWS contingent broke into City Hall and cut electrical wires, threw soda machines to the floor, sprayed graffiti on the walls, smashed display cases, and broke windows. Just outside City Hall, they burned an American flag. Meanwhile, another large OWS mob moved on to the local YMCA, where hundreds of arrests occurred.
During the mayhem at each of the foregoing locations, officers were pelted with bottles, metal pipe, rocks, spray cans, improvised explosive devices, and burning flares.
In statement issued after the riots, OWS blamed the police: “Contrary to their own policy, the OPD [Oakland Police Department] gave no option of leaving or instruction on how to depart. These arrests are completely illegal, and this will probably result in another class action lawsuit against the OPD, who have already cost Oakland $58 million in lawsuits over the past 10 years.”
OWS sympathizers elsewhere around the world took to the streets in “solidarity” with those arrested during the Oakland riots. CNN reported: “The mass arrests, described by police as the largest in city history, appear to have injected new life into the Occupy movement as protesters in a number of American and European cities took to the streets Sunday to express their solidarity with the Occupy Oakland group.”
It is estimated that from October 2011 through January 2012, the OWS movement had cost the city of Oakland at least $2 million in cleanup costs, and at least another $2 million in police overtime and other expenses.
Bernardine Dohrn States That the Anti-War Movement Has Found a New Home in the Occupy Movement
In February 2012, former Weather Underground terrorist and OWS supporter Bernardine Dohrn stated that the anti-war movement, which had become largely silent since the election of President Barack Obama, had now become the Occupy movement.
Union Pays People to Protest CPAC Conference
On the weekend of February 10-12, 2012, Local 100 of the AFL-CIO paid a number of its unemployed members in Washington, DC $60 apiece to participate in street protests against the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) which was taking place at that time in the nation’s capital.
Corporate Bailout for OWS
As the national spotlight that had once shined on OWS faded, and as cash donations from progressive donors dried up, the movement’s leaders in early 2012 welcomed a financing boost from the so-called Movement Resource Group (MRG) — a funding venture backed by the left-wing founders of the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream company as well as the former manager of the rock band Nirvana, among others. By late February 2012, MRG had raised some $300,000 and was planning to raise another $1.5 million to revive the OWS movement.
OWS Marks Its 6-Month Anniversary With Violence
On March 17, 2012, OWS activists staged a violent clash with police on the streets of New York City and attempted, unsuccessfully, to re-occupy Zuccotti Park, their original base. Seventy-three people were arrested in the melee. According to the website Buzzfeed: “The movement, left for dead by the press for months, is back in the news and on Twitter today. Protesters have been staging direct actions all winter but none have made headlines outside of advocacy journalism outlets until now.”
Stephen Lerner Gives an Indication of OWS’s Plans for 2012
- force banks to “writ[e] down [mortgage] principal to fair market value” for homeowners with negative equity, thereby reducing average mortgages by hundreds of dollars per month”;
- spearhead a “strike” by a million or more student debtors who, by pledging not to pay their student loans, would “create a collection crisis that could force negotiations about reducing student debt”; and
- dispatch tens of thousands of people (not only from OWS but also from community organizations, unions, and environmental groups) to “show up at the annual shareholder meetings of major corporations.” “Some people will be on the inside with proxies,” wrote Lerner, “and others will be massed in the streets, all delivering the message that it is no longer acceptable for giant, unaccountable corporations to decide the political and economic fate of the country.”
Frances Fox Piven Suggests That OWS Is Now Entering “The Phase Where It Makes Trouble”
“It may well be that the Occupy movement is now in its second phase, in the phase where it makes trouble, in the phase where it threatens to shut down institutions. The Occupy movement has moved into the neighborhoods of our cities, it has moved into the schools…. This spring, we’ll see action against the banks, against the corporations…. It is going to be a spring with lots of protests that take different forms and engage lots of people.”
OWS Begins Its 99% Spring
As of April 24, 2012, OWS activists had already disrupted spring shareholder meetings at EQT Corporation, Carnival Cruise Lines, BNY Mellon, and a Wells Fargo office in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. The latter demonstration, which took place on April 23, saw ten participants get arrested; the protesters refused to leave until Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf agreed to give the “99% Power coalition” an hour of time to present their grievances to top bank officials during a shareholders’ meeting which was scheduled for the following day in San Francisco. Moreover, the Occupiers announced that they had formed a partnership with the radical group ACT UP.
Promoting Violence Against Police, and Rejecting Capitalism
In April 2012, the OccupyMay1st.org website—part of Occupy Los Angeles—posted an image of a unicorn holding a policeman’s head in its mouth while the decapitated officer stood nearby with blood gushing from his now-headless neck. Further, the unicorn’s left hind leg was emblazoned with the acronym “W.S.A.”—an apparent reference to the Workers Solidarity Alliance, a self-described “anti-capitalist” organization that views capitalism as “a system of oppression.”
May Day Rallies
On May 1, 2012, OWS activists across the United States held May Day protests. That day, the Huffington Post reported the following “major developments”:
- In Oakland, the scene of several violent clashes between activists and police in recent months, the situation threatened to boil over again when police fired tear gas, sending hundreds of demonstrators scrambling. Officers also fired “flash-bang” grenades to disperse protesters converging on police as they wrestled people to the ground while trying to make arrests, police said. Nine people were taken into custody. Earlier, some protesters tried to force businesses to shut down for not observing calls for a “general strike.”
- In Seattle, black-clad protesters used sticks to smash small downtown windows and ran through the streets disrupting traffic. Police have made at least six arrests…. Authorities said many of the most violent protesters were trying to hide in the larger crowd by shedding their all-black clothes after they had caused damage with things like rocks, hammers and tire irons.
- In New York, hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters and their supporters spilled out onto Fifth Avenue in a confrontation with police amid citywide May Day protests, while thousands later gathered peacefully in Union Square…. Marchers briefly flooded the avenue and blocked traffic before police in riot gear pushed them back onto the sidewalks. The group chanted: “We are the people. We are united!”
- In San Francisco, about 200 people took over a vacant building that is owned by the local archdiocese and has been targeted for previous protests. Two men on adjacent rooftops lobbed pipes and bricks at a line of police officers who were awaiting permission from the church to clear the building. Police Chief Greg Suhr told reporters he assumed some of the people inside the building were part of a group that vandalized shops, cars and a police station during a pre-May Day demonstration Monday night.
- In Chicago, about 2,000 activists marched through the city to demand immigration reform and greater protections for workers. The demonstration was largely peaceful.
- In Los Angeles, a group that broke off from a downtown rally for immigration reform briefly skirmished with police and left an officer injured, and 10 union demonstrators were arrested for blocking an intersection near Los Angeles International airport.
- In Atlanta, about 100 people rallied outside the state Capitol, where a law targeting illegal immigration was passed last year. They called for equal rights for all workers and an end to local-federal partnerships to enforce immigration law.
OWS Moves Its Base to the Washington Offices of the Institute for Policy Studies
In early May 2012, it was reported that OWS had shifted its main base of operations to three Washington, DC offices belonging to the Institute for Policy Studies. The Service Employees International Union said it would pay the $4,000-per-month rent for those offices for at least the next six months.
OWS Activists Arrested for Terrorist Bomb Plot
In May 2012, five self-proclaimed anarchists from the Occupy Cleveland group—Douglas Wright, Brandon Baxter, Anthony Hayne. Joshua Stafford, and Connor Stevens—were arrested for plotting to blow up a heavily traveled bridge (which carries a four-lane state highway) spanning the Cuyahoga River in Ohio. They planted explosives at the base of the bridge but were unable to detonate them successfully. A Cleveland.com news story revealed the evolving nature of the conspiracy:
“The suspects started by thinking small, with plans to topple the signs of banks from atop downtown Cleveland skyscrapers. The plot included a diversionary tactic of smoke bombs exploded on the Veterans Memorial Bridge….
“Their plots were willy-nilly, ranging from schemes to blow up the Cuyahoga County Justice Center, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the I-480 bridge in Valley View, and a cargo ship before settling on the Ohio 82 bridge, according to federal documents.
“Other potential targets included the abandoned streetcar tunnels beneath downtown Cleveland, a Cuyahoga County Homeland Security operation called the Northeast Ohio Regional Fusion Center, an unidentified Ku Klux Klan location in Ohio, and the new Horseshoe Casino on Public Square. But all were eventually discounted for a variety of reasons.
“The gang’s bible, officials said, was the Anarchist Cookbook, a 1970 how-to book on building bombs using household items and dealing with police during riots.”
Violence in Chicago
On May 19 and 20, 2012, several thousand OWS demonstrators marched through downtown Chicago to protest the start of a two-day NATO summit in that city. May 19 featured a number of tense clashes between police and protesters. May 20 was mostly peaceful, though there were some isolated, violent clashes (again, between police and protesters) which resulted in at least 45 arrests; four police officers were injured in the melee.
According to the Associated Press, one clash began when “dozens of protesters in black clothing surged toward a much smaller group of police, throwing objects at them.” Added AP: “The badly outnumbered officers fought back with truncheons, and people on both sides threw punches. As police reinforcements moved in, the pack of violent protesters fled.”
Occupy Oakland Stages a Counter-Protest at a “Human Exploitation and Trafficking” Conference
On June 13, 2012, members of Occupy Oakland staged a counter-protest at a Human Exploitation and Trafficking (HEAT) conference, a conference calling for an end to those practices. An official statement distributed by the Occupy protesters read, in part:
“The official, police-sanctioned campaign to combat the commercial sex-trafficking of children is nothing more than a patronizing, patriarchal guise that is being used to support intensified repression of sex workers and the further empowerment of police agencies at their expense.
“Ultimately, no form of work is truly consensual given the conditions of work under Capitalism. We all have to sell our labor to survive. But the conditions of sale are not equal for all of us. For some people, sex work is just a better choice, given the poverty of viable alternatives. It is only thanks to the power of religious institutions and their policing of morality that the spotlight gets shone onto those of us who labor physically in the bedroom. We reject any moral policing of our bodies. Clearly, human trafficking is a heinous practice, but the perpetual focus on sex is uncritically sensationalist, and its shock value is exploited by any anti-sex-trafficking groups present at the HEAT conference in pursuit of their own moralizing, often religious, agendas.”
OWS Marks One-Year Anniversary
On September 17, 2012, a number of OWS protesters (estimates ranged from a few hundred to about 2,000) gathered in New York City to mark the one-year anniversary of their movement’s launch. They conducted a variety of direct actions across the city, including a series of separate marches originating from different locations, sit-ins at key intersections, demonstrations of performance art, and the surrounding of such buildings as the Bank of America and the World Financial Center. Some of the protesters donned Che Guevara shirts and carried communist flags while chanting “we are the proletariat.” The day’s events resulted in almost 200 arrests.