Occupy Wall Street: Frequently Asked Questions
These FAQs can help you as you speak with members of the public at the street level, through the press, or
during organizing meetings. None of the below constitute demands. They are merely guidelines for ways to
approach commonly asked questions about Occupied Wall Street.
What is Occupy Wall Street?
Occupy Wall Street is an otherwise unaffiliated group of concerned citizens like you and me, come together
around one organizing principle: We will not remain passive as formerly democratic institutions become the
means of enforcing the will of only 1-2% of the population who control the magnitude of American wealth.
Occupy Wall Street is an exercise in “direct democracy”. We feel we can no longer make our voices heard as
we watch our votes for change usher in the same old power structure time and time again. Since we can no
longer trust our elected representatives to represent us rather than their large donors, we are creating a
microcosm of what democracy really looks like. We do this to inspire one another to speak up. It is a reminder
to our representatives and the moneyed interests that direct them: we the people still know our power.
What do you want: what are you protesting for/against?
We are not merely a protest movement. What we communicate is not just outrage, but a full-on call to action.
Further, we do not have one or two simple demands (though many demand them of us). We are a movement
which does call for accountability, however – accountability to ourselves and to our country.
1. We must be accountable to ourselves. First and foremost, we are calling upon ourselves, and upon one
another, to wake up and employ our power as citizens: to participate rather than observe, to raise our strong
voices together, rather than complaining feebly in isolation. We cannot ‘whine’ about the injustices wreaked
upon us if we have been complacent and silent in the face of these injustices. We must take responsibility for
our own futures – and here at Liberty Plaza, that is exactly what we are doing, by modeling the kind of society
in which everyone has a right to live. Here in Liberty Plaza, having lost our sense that we live in a democracy,
we are reclaiming its practice.
2. Our government must be accountable to us, and corporations must be accountable to the government. We
are saying definitively: We no longer live in a democracy, and we refuse to accept that. We seek an end to the
collusion between corrupt politicians and corporate criminals, as democratic and capitalist institutions have
become conflated. As such we must see major advances in the arena of the relationship between corporations,
and people, on par with the amendments which outlawed slavery and assured civil rights to all people
regardless of race, sex, or class.
We want what everybody wants: the ability to have a home, to make a livelihood, to have a family or a
community, to live free. We all want economic and social justice. Thus, we are calling for accountability to the
99%, and of the 99% – for our most basic rights as citizens: to convene, to express ourselves, and to be heard.
We are unified by our sense of economic injustice, as a result of both our domestic and foreign policies.
Who is involved? From which communities and organizations do we come?
A diverse group of communities and organizations from a surprisingly wide political spectrum have come
together around Occupy Wall Street. We have no leader – we work autonomously, and most of us are
unaffiliated with any particular group. We have come together as concerned individuals who simply want our
collective voice heard – as a movement inspired by, and resembling, the organized spontaneity of social
movements across the Middle East and Europe. However, there is involvement by unions, student groups, and
existing social justice organizations. More of them join us every day.
Importantly: This movement is comprised of thousands of people who have committed themselves to
nonviolence, in contradistinction from ‘the powers that be’. As our tax dollars increasingly serve to reinforce
the State’s monopoly on violence, we are taking back the People’s monopoly – our natural monopoly on
How long do people intend to stay at the plaza?
We will stay until change happens! Until broad swaths of the American population realize that it is we, the
99% alone, who can reclaim society from the domination of the 1%. Democracy has never been a spectator
sport, and Americans have an obligation, particularly if we claim to love our country, to build serious and
meaningful change from the bottom up.
Will I get arrested if I come down to Liberty Plaza?
Citywide, it is legal to march on the sidewalk if you do not excessively block pedestrian traffic. As of 10.20.11,
it is legal to be sleep at Liberty Plaza, and it will always be legal to convene there – this is a privately operated
public space, and our right to convene in public is democratically protected!
During marches and actions, it is unlikely that you will get arrested unless you are prepared to. If you are
unwilling to be arrested, or feel you cannot because you are not a U.S. citizen, or are a minor, there are ways to
protect yourself from arrest, the most important being: remaining non-violent. Check www.nycga.com for
legal information and advice on these topics. As of 10.8.11 ~ 800 people had been arrested; none were charged
with committing a violent act.
How does Occupy Wall Street work?
Liberty Plaza provides an inspiring space for people to meet one another, discuss and organize. Here, we
engage in horizontal democracy. This means every voice is equal and autonomous action is encouraged. This
means we have no leader – we all lead; in fact we are a movement which encourages leadership at every level.
This means we cannot be easily defined by observers, and we cannot be easily hijacked by outside forces. We
try as much as we can to gain consensus because we believe everyone’s experience is equally valid, every
voice and opinion should be heard, and none more than any other. In order to assure that all voices are heard
and to facilitate better communication in a non-hierarchical meeting, we commit to engaging in “meeting
This exercise in participatory democracy is meant to shed today’s political overtones of divisiveness,
disrespect, mistrust, and marginalization. We do this in defiance of an atmosphere of political opportunism in
which many politicians consciously circumvent the best safeguards built into our democratic process.
So rather than a bunch of organizers deciding on demands a year before the protest date, thousands of people
are showing up at Liberty Plaza to say their piece during “General Assembly” meetings, held at the end of each
day. Together we are working out our “Call to Action” in a horizontal, transparent, and democratic way, rather
than top-down, i.e. from people behind the scenes. Unlike at rallies, where protestors convene to listen to
speeches, we directly participate in relating the needs of our movement ourselves. Direct democracy is integral
to the process of articulating what we the 99% are asking for, what we want as a people.
So this leads back to the question: Why do we seem to have not just one, but many demands? We are not
simply asking for an end to the war (we have already done that). We are not simply asking for equal rights for
one group or another (we have already done that). We are not asking for respect for the earth and its remaining
resources (we have already done that). We are not calling for changes to existing labor laws, or trade
agreements (we have already done that). We are not even calling for an overhaul of the Securities and
Exchange Commission or the Federal Reserve, or an end to corporate personhood. We are calling for all these
things and more!
So why do we seem to have not just one, but many demands? Precisely because we are a movement descended
from each and every one of these movements: The abolitionist movement, the workers’ rights movement, the
women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the feminist and queer liberation movements, the
environmental movement. We welcome all who will join in this exercise of participatory democracy, as we
challenge what we know to be the greatest obstacle to the democratic progression of these movements.
Where is Liberty Plaza? Broadway at Liberty Street near Ground Zero.
When are things happening? All the time! But check out General Assembly at 7 PM
What can I expect when I get down there? Something you’ve never experienced before in this way – a real democratic space. Even if you are
not sure you are on-board, come check it out.
Who should I talk to if I want to get involved with a committee or subgroup? Come to the welcome table, run by the Outreach Working Group. There you can sign up to join a Working Group or one of its subgroups, or create a new Thematic group.
There are many ways to show support: Choose your medium and run with it!
Check out this website currently broadcasting from Liberty Plaza:
www.nycga.com (navigate to the calendar for event and meeting details).