A Report from the Frontlines: The Long Road to #OccupyWallStreet and the Origins of the 99% Movement

[Preface by Washington’s Blog: Even though David DeGraw is a guest poster, we had no idea he was so instrumental in organizing the Wall Street protests. We are also not in touch with Anonymous or any of the other groups mentioned, and so we were fascinated to read about some of the history behind the protests. Indeed, even if you do not support the Wall Street protests, this is fascinating from a sociological perspective.]

By David DeGraw, AmpedStatus.com

How Anonymous, AmpedStatus, the NYC General Assembly, US Day of Rage, Adbusters and Thousands of Individual Actions Led to the Occupation of Liberty Park and the Birth of a Movement

As the occupation of Wall Street moves into its third week, there are many questions about the organizers behind the ongoing protests and the origins of the 99% Movement. As one of the many people who actively supported the effort, and helped launch the 99% Movement, I will give my perspective on the events leading up to the occupation of Liberty Park.

As I understand it, the #OccuppyWallStreet 99% Movement is a decentralized non-violent rebellion against economic tyranny. It is a leaderless movement that has been dependent upon tens of thousands of individuals taking it upon themselves to take action and fight back against their own personal financial hardships, and in defense of their family and friends who are desperately struggling to make ends meets.

The road that led to the successful occupation has been a long, hard and winding one. When you go to Liberty Park, into the heart of the occupation, you will see a very diverse group of people with opinions across the entire political spectrum. It is the very essence of a ground-up grassroots decentralized movement. Everyone there has their own individual story on what brought them to take such a strong and inspiring stand in support this action. I urge members of the press and people interested in the movement to begin a dialogue with any one of the people taking part. There are many fascinating stories to be heard and a deeper understanding of what’s happening is impossible without hearing from a plurality of voices.

To give some background information, the following is a timeline of my 19-month long personal experience within the movement:

The Birth of the 99% Movement

On February 15th, 2010, AmpedStatus.com published the first-part of an extensive six-part series that I wrote detailing the financial destruction of the US economy. The report is entitled, “The Economic Elite Vs. The People of the United States.” The first sentence reads:

“It’s time for 99% of Americans to mobilize and aggressively move on common sense political reforms.”

The introduction goes on to say:

“It has now become evident to a critical mass that the Republican and Democratic parties, along with all three branches of our government, have been bought off by a well-organized Economic Elite who are tactically destroying our way of life. The harsh truth is that 99% of the US population no longer has political representation. The US economy, government and tax system are now blatantly rigged against us.

Current statistical societal indicators clearly demonstrate that a strategic attack has been launched and an analysis of current governmental policies prove that conditions for 99% of Americans will continue to deteriorate. The Economic Elite have engineered a financial coup and have brought war to our doorstep… and make no mistake, they have launched a war to eliminate the US middle class.”

The report quickly went viral and many popular websites picked it up and published it. AlterNet.org featured an adapted excerpt from the report with the headline, “The Economic Elite Have Engineered an Extraordinary Coup, Threatening the Very Existence of the Middle Class.” It became one of the most popular reports that they have ever published. In aggregate, across many websites that have publish sections of the report, it has received an estimated five million page views.

Soon after the report was released, AmpedStatus formed the 99% Movement based on a general platform put forth in part-six of the report, entitled “How to Fight Back and Win: Common Ground Issues That Must Be Won.”

As the movement began to build over the course of the next ten months, after a series of TV interviews in which I supported the 99% Movement and called for acts of non-violent civil disobedience, the AmpedStatus.com website was attacked and repeatedly knocked offline. The source of the attacks remains unknown. After publishing investigative reports detailing the fraudulent activities of Wall Street; the destructive impact the financial elite have had upon the American people; revealing direct connections between economic hardships in the US and the uprisings that, at the time, were just beginning to take shape throughout Northern Africa, the Middle East and Europe, it was obvious that we were upsetting many powerful forces.

As AmpedStatus was pushing for a decentralized global rebellion against Wall Street and actively supporting the Egyptian uprising against the IMF and Federal Reserve, the attacks on the site escalated. In what appeared to be a fatal blow, the entire ISP network that the AmpedStatus.com site was hosted on was knocked offline, hundreds of sites were also affected and the AmpedStatus.com web hosting provider said that they would no longer be able to host the site unless it was moved to a service that was significantly more than we were paying or could afford. With a very limited budget, and in complete desperation, AmpedStatus put out a call for help.

Anonymous Rides to the Rescue…

As AmpedStatus.com came under attack, Anonymous was playing a key role in supporting the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. When no one else with the needed technical expertise would help us and it became apparent that we would have to shut down our operation, several Anonymous members stepped up and offered to support and defend AmpedStatus.com from further attacks. They assisted in setting up a new hosting account and helped develop a new Independent social network for the 99% Movement. From that point on, AmpedStatus.com has not once been knocked offline due to an attack.

Once we regained our First Amendment rights and knew that we had backing from Anonymous members, we then defiantly released another extensive report in February, 2011 entitled, “Analysis of the Global Insurrection Against Neo-Liberal Economic Domination and the Coming American Rebellion – We Are Egypt.”

The introduction states:

“If you think what’s happening in Egypt won’t happen within the United States, you’ve been watching too much TV. The statistics speak for themselves.

In previous Revolution Roundups, before we were knocked offline, we featured mass protests by the people of Ireland, Italy, Britain, Austria, Greece, France and Portugal, as the Global Insurrection contagion spread throughout Europe. And now, as we have seen over the past month, North African and Middle Eastern nations have joined the movement as the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco, Gabon, Mauritania, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Palestine, Iraq, Sudan and Algeria have taken to the streets en masse.

The connection between this latest round of uprisings and the prior protests throughout Europe is one the mainstream media is not making. We are witnessing a decentralized global rebellion against Neo-Liberal economic imperialism. While each national uprising has its own internal characteristics, each one, at its core, is about the rising costs of living and lack of financial opportunity and security. Throughout the world the situation is the same: increasing levels of unemployment and poverty, as price inflation on food and basic necessities is soaring.

Whether national populations realize it or not, these uprisings are against systemic global economic policies that are strategically designed to exploit the working class, reduce living standards, increase personal debt and create severe inequalities of wealth. These global uprising, which have only just begun, are the first wave of the inevitable reaction to the implementation of a centralized worldwide Neo-Feudal economic order.

The global banking cartel, centered at the IMF, World Bank and Federal Reserve, have paid off politicians and dictators the world over — from Washington to Greece to Egypt. In country after country, they have looted national economies at the expense of local populations, consolidating wealth in unprecedented fashion…”

Within this report, there was a section calling for an occupation of Wall Street, in what is referred to as “The Empire State Rebellion.”

A sub-group within Anonymous then joined with the AmpedStatus 99% Movement and we began a collaborative effort known as A99.

A broad A99 platform was presented on the AmpedStatus social network. The platform represented a diverse mix of political viewpoints that members felt would properly represent the 99% of the population that has lost political representation. [View original platform here.]

On Mar 12, 2011, Anonymous A99 announced their first operation by posting a video to the AmpedStatus YouTube page. The effort was called “Operation Empire State Rebellion” (#OpESR). The video “OpESR Communication #1” stated the following:

“We are a decentralized non-violent resistance movement, which seeks to restore the rule of law and fight back against the organized criminal class.

One-tenth of one percent of the population has consolidated wealth in unprecedented fashion and launched an all-out economic war against 99.9% of the population.

We are not affiliated with either wing of the two-party oligarchy. We seek an end to the corrupted two-party system by ending the campaign finance and lobbying racket.

Above all, we aim to break up the global banking cartel centered at the Federal Reserve, International Monetary Fund, Bank of International Settlement and World Bank.

We demand that the primary dealers within the Federal Reserve banking system be broken up and held accountable for rigging markets and destroying the global economy, effective immediately.

As a first sign of good faith, we demand Ben Bernanke step down as Federal Reserve chairman.

Until our demands are met and a rule of law is restored, we will engage in a relentless campaign of non-violent, peaceful, civil disobedience.”

Economic news site ZeroHedge quickly picked up the video and featured it on their site with the headline, “Hacker Group Anonymous Brings Peaceful Revolution To America: Will Engage In Civil Disobedience Until Bernanke Steps Down.”

The video then went viral and got over 225,000 views.

Anonymous Calls for a US Day of Rage

On March 23rd, Anonymous issued a press release calling for a “US Day of Rage.” The phrase, “A day of rage,” has been a rallying cry used in uprisings spreading throughout the Middle East. A new USDayofRage.org website was launched and their first press release, again quickly picked up by ZeroHedge, called for a day of mass action and pledged their support of A99′s original general platform. [Full release here.]

Throughout April and May, members of A99 were organizing and debating possible future actions. They decided that Flag Day, June 14th, would be an appropriate time to launch actions. They also set up several new Facebook pages, such as “#OpESR – Operation Empire State Rebellion Amped.”

On June 1st, this Anonymous call to action was published to AmpedStatus:

Acts of Resistance: What Are You Going To Do To Rebel Against Economic Tyranny?

Acts of Resistance: What Are You Going To Do On June 14th to Rebel Against Economic Tyranny?The big banks have sold us out.
Democrats and Republicans have sold us out.
No one is defending our interests.
Our future is going up in flames.

It’s time for us to stand up and defend ourselves.

Trillions of dollars in fraudulent activity by the big banks on Wall Street caused our current economic crisis. Paid off politicians from both parties, along with secret deals made by the Federal Reserve, gave trillions of taxpayer dollars and subsidies to the very people who caused our crisis. After taking our tax dollars, they had the audacity to give themselves all-time recording-breaking bonuses and consolidate wealth in unprecedented fashion within the economic top 0.01% of the population.

While a record number of Americans are currently living in poverty and on food stamps; while millions of American families have been foreclosed upon; while health care, food and gas costs are skyrocketing; while over 200 million Americans are living paycheck to paycheck struggling to make ends meet, the super-wealthy have never had it better. We now have the most severe inequality of wealth in American history. The depravity of the Robber Barons has been outdone.

As their current policies prove, economic central planners have become so arrogant and tyrannical in their shortsighted greed. They think we are an ignorant and apathetic population that they can continue to exploit without fear of rebellion.

We are finally declaring that we have had enough. We will not remain passive while global banking interests destroy our future. We know the systemic causes of our current crisis and we are going to strike at the root.

On this Flag Day, June 14th, Operation Empire State Rebellion (#OpESR) will launch. #OpESR is a decentralized non-violent resistance movement to end the system of political bribery (campaign finance and lobbying) and break up the big banks centered at the Federal Reserve.

To coincide with the launch of this movement, people have begun organizing acts of resistance throughout the US. We are calling upon you to take an action of your own. Whether it’s taking part in a local public protest, withdrawing your money from one of the big six banks, starting a community group or passing out fliers. Anything you can do to rebel against the system of economic tyranny in a non-violent manner is welcome.

As a first step, please join the actions against the banks in one of the cities shown here, or use the ‘schedule an action’ tool to create your own.”

The online attention surrounding this call to action quickly grew. For a roundup of coverage see:

> Economic Rebellion Update – This Is What Decentralized Resistance Looks Like

> Prepare For Revolution: The Empire State Rebellion Begins on June 14th

On June 11th, Anonymous A99 released “OpESR Communication #2: Ctrl+Alt+Bernanke.”

“In this new video release, ‘as a first step,’ Anonymous has called for public protests beginning on June 14th, continuing ‘until Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke steps down.’ To make their case, they have presented a list of recent scandalous Federal Reserve actions.”

Once again, the video was posted to the AmpedStatus YouTube account and ZeroHedge quickly picked it up and featured it. The video instantly went viral attracting over 360,000 views on the AmpedStatus YouTube account alone. It became popular enough to break through and get some coverage from the mainstream corporate media. MSNBC, Time, Bloomberg and Forbes were among many news outlets to cover it.

On June 13th, it was announced that as part this day of action a group of people will occupy Liberty Park, a strategic public space closest to Wall Street and the New York Federal Reserve building. This Anonymous statement was released:

Activists to Occupy Financial District’s Liberty Park Until Demands Are Met – Operation Empire State Rebellion Begins

“On June 14th at 1pm EST, a group of activists will begin occupation of Liberty Park (recently renamed Zuccotti Park) in lower Manhattan’s Financial District, a few blocks from Wall Street (14971 Broadway, 10007). A Google Map featuring the event states the following:

‘This Flag Day, Tuesday June 14th, we will launch a non-violent movement with this list of demands:

* End the campaign finance and lobbying racket
* Break up the Fed & Too Big to Fail banks
* Enforce RICO laws against organized criminal class
* Order Ben Bernanke to step down’

Gary Roland, an organizer of the action, says they will occupy the park ‘indefinitely, to express non-violent dissent to the further consolidation of wealth into the hands of international corporations by the corrupted two-party oligarchy. This is a non-violent action that seeks to express dissent and raise awareness of the failures of our current political discourse, until our demands are satisfied.’”

With only 16 people showing up at Liberty Park, and only four prepared to occupy it, this part of the day’s actions were considered by some to be a disappointing failure. Though this intense form of civil disobedience didn’t gain enough support at that time, the many other actions happening throughout the day were very successful.

Anonymous A99 issued an extensive report detailing the days actions: “OpESR Status Update: Empire State Rebellion Day 1.” In the report, the section on occupying Liberty Park reads:

“The most ambitious ground operation launched on Day 1 was in New York City’s Financial District, just a few blocks from Wall Street, at Liberty Park. The protest only attracted 16 people in total, with only 4 people ready to occupy the park indefinitely. While this operation was a fail due to lack of participants, we want to thank the event organizer Gary Roland and the three other people who were prepared to occupy the park: David DeGraw, Oren Clark and Kevin Dann.

Getting people to stand up in this way requires a very strong commitment that most people have not yet realized will be necessary and in their best interests. As we continue Awareness Operations and build momentum, we will reactivate this part of our Ground Operation at a future date. We have set up a social network group dedicated to planning this operation. If you are ready to peacefully occupy a public place, please join the planning group here.”

On the very same day as the launch of the Empire State Rebellion and the failed Liberty Park action, there was a group of activists assembling down the road from Liberty Park. They were preparing to set up camp in what became known as Bloombergville to protest against New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s budget cuts. Gary Roland, after leaving Liberty Park with a feeling frustration, decided to join the Bloomberg protests.

Enter the New York City General Assembly

During the Bloomberg protests a group of activists, including Gary Roland, formed a People’s General Assembly, which eventually evolved into the New York City General Assembly (NYCGA), to help facilitate an organized non-violent movement. After the two-week long Bloomberg occupation near the city capital building, the NYCGA kept meeting and building toward the next major protest event. The NYCGA would go on to play the most pivotal role on the ground, building a large turnout through old-fashioned grassroots community-based organizing.

As the NYCGA was being formed, Anonymous A99 debated the exact date in which they would return to Liberty Park for another attempt at achieving the occupation of Wall Street. They were committed to a strategy of three-month cycles. Their first communication was issued on March 12th, the second video calling for protests was released 90-days later on June 11th. They debated and it appeared that the next attempted occupation of Liberty Park would occur on September 10th.

Adbusters Makes the Call…

As the debate among Anonymous A99 was happening and a date for occupation was being finalized, Adbusters magazine issued an open call for an occupation of Wall Street on September 17th. Anonymous, A99 OpESR, US Day of Rage and the NYCGA quickly endorsed the action. With the NYCGA focused on community-based organizing, Adbusters, Anonymous, AmpedStatus, A99, US Day of Rage, WagingNonViolence and many other sites actively pushed out the message online urging people to take part in the action. WeAreThe99Percent.com and OccupyWallSt.org were then Independently launched to directly support the action. Indymedia’s Global Revolution media team provided a livestream video feed to cover the event, which then inspired many more people to come and join the occupation once it had begun. It was this serendipitous confluence of decentralized Independent groups and thousands of individuals taking it upon themselves to take action that helped make the successful occupation of Liberty Park possible.

Note: There are definitely other significant groups that played a key role. In such a decentralized movement, it’s hard to keep track of all the efforts being put forth. We will feature other perspectives in the days ahead.

Moving Forward…

Ultimately, all of the groups mentioned throughout this report were just the seeds that helped launch what is now known as the #OccupyWallStreet 99% Movement. As the occupation of Liberty Park continues to grow and enters it’s third week, with no signs of protesters even considering leaving, the people most actively taking part are committed to remaining a decentralized leaderless movement based on the direct democratic process of deciding on future demands and actions through a consensus of those participating. In the spirit of the movement, people acting on their own have begun like-minded actions and occupations throughout the country.

The only unifying call to action seems to be:

“Anything you can do to rebel against the system of economic tyranny in a non-violent manner is welcome.”

As Anonymous A99 wrote in response to questions about their movement:

“We are a DECENTRALIZED non-violent movement. If you are looking to contact one of our leaders, go to the nearest mirror and peer deeply into it. It may take some time, but, eventually, one of our leaders will appear with answers to all of your questions.”

What more can you say?

As I’m typing this, the NYC General Assembly meeting just came to an end, I hear the sound of drums, looks like it’s time for another march. An NYPD officer who supports our efforts just gave me a nod and said, “Hey man, you better get back to the frontlines. The troops are on the move.” It’s another day of battle at Liberty Park.

The occupation of Wall $treet rages on…

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  • Jeff

    “Decentralized.” Key point. But the people need a common plan or at least a common rough-draft of one.

    Centralized government is the problem. The more centralized government is, the more corruption that can be brokered out of a single brokerage house (called the federal government). It is far more efficient to lobby for a majority of federal legislators than it is to lobby for a majority of legislators of each of the 50 states. That’s why the federal government is a corporatist’s wet dream.

    Those calling for a return to Constitutional limits are wisely directed. See tenthamendmentcenter.com for good coverage of the Constitutional issues.

    The “Tenthers” (many of them) are misguided in some respects, in that it seems so many believe the end result is to get all government programs out of people’s lives. Frankly, with such huge wealth disparity, this cannot be done and should not be done. However, where the Tenthers have it right is this: If the federal government operated within its confines as originally intended, it would be far less powerful. Madison is quoted, for example, as saying that the Constitution gives few and limited powers to the federal government, while leaving the states with numerous, indefinite powers. If the power is not there, the lobbyists will not be there. It is that simple.

    Of course, populations have grown, and in the case of many states, giving such broad powers to governments at the state-level would continue to defeat the democratic and truly-representative aims of a government by representation. Better yet would be to conduct most governing at school district levels, leaving only certain powers at the state level (if they are truly of a state-level concern) and other powers at the national level (if they are truly of a national-level concern).

    How to categorize these various levels of power can prove contentious, but this is the obstacle the people need to overcome if they want to minimize corruption within government and have the greatest opportunity to actually influence how their governments exercise control over them. It is much more difficult for lobbyists to corrupt people at say, the school or neighborhood level. There would be way too many of such “localized” governments that corporate America probably simply could not afford it – not to mention that even if lobbying could work within some such local groups, opposing lobbies could counter-act such success within other such local groups, thus, mitigating the top-down plundering effect through competition.

    Start by reading the Constitution, looking at it with eyes of original intent (being sure to look at the “Tenther 101” section of tenthamendmentcenter.com) and then, realizing that the ratification debates and conventions were primarily focused on a demand for assurance that the peoples of the various states would not find themselves overrun by an all-powerful government of monarchical proportions operating upon them from a distance. There was very good reason for that sentiment, namely King George and the British aristocracy. Here we are, 240 years later, with a new “King George” problem and a newer and far more powerful aristocracy.

    There is no need to reinvent the wheel. The blueprint has been there all along. The only major change would be to realize that states’ populations have grown so much that even the states have become too centralized, corrupt and burdensome. A minor modification of the concept of decentralized government can fix that. It’s not a cure-all, but what it would give to the people is a republic – a conglomeration of different laboratories and experiments, where people are free to vote with their feet if their government does not serve their interests. The trick is finding the structure where the walk to greener pastures is not so far away.

  • As much as I have sympathy for the demonstrators in New York and elsewhere … I have no sympathy. Sorry, you don’t get it. You have watched too much television.

    We are having an energy crisis rather than a credit or finance crisis. Our economy is out of (cheap) gas. No cheap gas means jobs are also too expensive. There are no jobs for you, no future, no lives of luxury, despite what (Wall Street) promises on TV.

    I would be pissed off, too but all arguments are academic. Protesting the lack of opportunity is the same as protesting gravity … or, in this case, entropy. No gas means no gas, no matter how much you silly protesters cry.

    What this means is increasing unemployment in both industrial and service areas. All jobs require fuel: ad managers as well as airline pilots. Without cheap fuel, businesses fail taking with them all the jobs. Wall Street jobs are on on the chopping block, too. With less energy costing more there are fewer energy-derivatives in the form of stocks, bonds, options and futures to trade.

    Sorry kids, no cars or ‘progress’ or lives of easy for you. Ditto for all your compatriots around the world. Your parents guzzled all the fuel for these things in their massive, bloated SUVs and giant pickup trucks, their own progress and lives of easy. There is nothing left for you, sorry.

    After you have discovered this the hard way, (hopefully without the all-out thermonuclear war), you have a chance to build a real civilization, you know … art, literature, (real) architecture, seriousness, literature, poetry, delight, craft/skill, mastery, seriousness … okay, you’re already there with the serious part. Time to learn how to do something and make a better world: stone masonry? Finance needs no help to fail. Do you?

    • steev

      Sry man but it is the financial guys making the errors. I live in alberta and believe me there is no shortage of gas or oil. The only reason you see one is that the companies won’t produce unless their margins are over “x” and “x” must increase every year to make the investors happy. I build stuff, its all I want to do, beautiful stuff. Unfortunately the people here are just a little to wrapped up in the money and wouldn’t know architecture, masonry, or art unless their richer boss told em what it was. They pay my bills though and they pay them well. I’m not hard done by, just a little disgusted.

  • QUOTE:
    “The effort was called ‘Operation Empire State Rebellion’ (#OpESR). The video ‘OpESR Communication #1 stated the following: ‘We are a decentralized non-violent resistance movement, which seeks to restore the rule of law….Until our demands are met and a rule of law is restored, we will engage…”

    For the 40 years I too have been working to restore the rule of law. I calculate the way to do it is by the Mahican and Mi’kmaq tribes’ request the U.S. Supreme Court declare unconstitutional the federal imperial statutes the Appropriations Act of 1871 and the War Powers Act of 1973.

    By operation of law alone that will terminate the era of unconstitutional empire 1871-2011 during which the political and judicial branches served the military industrial money complex’s policy of global sovereignty based upon war and contempt for the sovereignty of foreign Nations and Indian tribes.

    Correspondingly it will reinstate constitutional democracy’s policy 1789-1871 of justice, tranquility, defence, welfare and liberty for the People based upon peace through respect for the sovereignty of foreign Nations and Indian tribes. That reinstatement achieves many of the objectives identified between the opening and closing endorsements of the rule of law in OpESR Communication #1.

    I would like you to know more about the Indian case so you can help to get the Judges to answer the question the answering of which implements your objectives in circumstances where no alternative way to achieve them exists.

    The case details are at http://mightisnotright.org/ along with contact information. W

  • My son is one of the millions of people, who were on track to fullfil “The American Dream” as a homeowner and middle-class wage earner with two children in school and two cars in the garage. Nothing special, just a nice life when the 2008 financial meltdown killed his ability to sell clean-water systems to homeowners – retail financing dried up and prolonged unemployment and the loss of all home equity has prevented him from making a living now for 3 long years. His wife works two jobs and is never home. He does not qualify for unemployment, he works almost every day looking for work or working, only to not get paid when the venture fails due to lack of customers and/or financing. In the meantime, there is plenty of money being loaned to the same people who don’t need it – the 1& who are stockpiling cash. #OccupyWallStreet is the only answer and let’s pray we can draft a constitutional amendment and legislation to take back our country. My son is so depressed that he is convinced #OWS is just another money-backed scam to keep the angry voices distracted until they can roll us all into concentration camps or something. It is truely sad because he was working hard but making $93,000 the year before the big banks totally screwed all. (And it wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last time as the banks TBTF are only bigger not smaller.)