February marks the anniversaries of two key developments in the 99% and Occupy Wall Street Movements. In part one, one of the original organizers, David DeGraw talks about money out of politics, Interoccupy, Occupy 2.0, how he deals with ego issues, and more.
On February 15th, 2010, AmpedStatus.com published the first of six articles called
The Economic Elite Vs. the People
of the United States.
After doing extensive research, David DeGraw, had come to the conclusion that “the US economy, government and tax system are now blatantly rigged against us.” The article went into detail about the financial destruction of the U.S. economy while claiming that the “harsh truth is that the 99% of the US population no longer has political representation.”
Amped Status then formed the 99% Movement calling for a non-violent rebellion against Wall Street and support for the uprising in Egypt and in the months following, the site also reported the growing number of protests in Europe. As the articles went viral on a lot of popular websites and the momentum grew, the website began getting attacked and eventually the Internet Service Provider that hosted the site was knocked offline prompting a call for help. After a hacktivist group called Anonymous stepped up to get the website back online, another report was released in February 2011 continuing the story of the growing global uprisings and called for “an Occupation of Wall Street in what was referred to as the Empire State Rebellion.”
Of course the rest is literally more history that continues even as you read this.
The reports were published as a book entitled The Economic Elite Vs. the People of the United States and David is issuing a re-release.
I met David in Los Angeles during the Martin Luther King Day weekend. We later discussed various topics focusing primarily on the movement here and now and looking forward.
Dan Nowman: What do you think the biggest achievement of the Occupy Wall Street Movement is so far?
David DeGraw: Honestly, I think the biggest achievement is just raising awareness. I hate to use this kind of phrasing or term, but it really has been a very successful PR operation. People thought that Americans were way too propagandized and passive to take actions and form a non-violent civil disobedience movement and to basically fight back. Occupy Wall Street has proven that people are saying that enough is enough and people’s opinions across the political spectrum are coming together to find common ground, take on goals and financial interests that have bought control of our government.
Dan Nowman: Occupy Wall Street’s and your focus right now is taking money out of politics. There was the (ending corporate personhood) resolution here in Los Angeles (December 6th) and also in Vermont. What are you working on right now to bring people together to address these issues?
David DeGraw: I think it is important to say that the Occupy Wall Street Movement is much bigger than any one particular issue, but in my own personal experience to take the first major steps to fix the problems that we have would be to get money out of politics via a constitutional amendment. I’m totally aware that it is going to be very difficult to do that, but if you pick an issue, and you want to know why that issue is messed up, not serving the 99 percent of the population, it comes down to campaign finance and lobbying, and the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street. We have a legalized system of bribery where the politician that spends the most money on the campaign wins the election 94 percent of the time. The game has been rigged. 99% of the population has lost political representation because we can’t afford to buy politicians through lobbying to buy legislation, so my focus is really going toward getting money out of politics. I don’t see it as the be all, end all, but I see it’s the first step to creating the much needed structural changes that we need to make.
Dan Nowman: One of the topics that comes up a lot is Occupy 2.0. What is Occupy 2.0 and beyond to you?
David DeGraw: I hear the term Occupy 2.0 all of the time and to different people that means different things. In Occupy 2.0, I’m not talking about any particular thing specifically, but in general just like the overall movement, I see this winter time period going into spring as a coordination time, an organizing time on a national level hopefully building internationally as well. There’s no doubt that we’ll stay decentralized, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have better coordination nationally or even internationally and better organizations overall. It’s really just coordinating all of the different occupy camps and locations. What I try to focus on now other than getting money out of politics is working with people who are trying to organize on a national level in a way that allows people to want to work on the same issues to communicate and coordinate because right now that’s really not happening to a significant level.
Dan Nowman: What are your thoughts on Interoccupy, occupy groups coming together in regions, nationally, etc. to communicate. Has that been successful in your view and how do you see that moving forward?
David DeGraw: I see Interoccupy as a key future element of the movement. What Interoccupy has been able to achieve in such a short time with such limited resources is phenomenal. Coordinating all of the camps, getting them into conference calls, really opening up the lines of communication amongst the camps is so key, so I’m fully supportive of Interoccupy and those efforts. The efforts around having a national GA (General Assembly), that really scares me. In my opinion, that’s way too much centralization. I don’t think that there should be some sort of national body that makes some sort of decree for the movement or anything like that. I’m all for having a national conference or a national summit where people from around the country can go and organize and I’m all for building communications around the nation and even internationally, but when it comes to a national GA making decisions for the movement, I’m definitely against that.
Dan Nowman: The priority in the movement as I see it is about the message and not the messenger. At the same time when the time comes to be the messenger of the message, I don’t want to marginalize the messengers because I don’t want to marginalize the message. What do you do to keep your ego in check?
David DeGraw: It’s an important question. I get some flack all the time. I’ve spent the last three years of my life fighting this battle and along the way I’ve done a ton of writing and interviews over the past few years. Because of my history behind all of this, I get crazy amounts of interview requests and I probably only do maybe 5 % of them at most. You want to build the movement, but at the same time, you go out there and you do all these interviews, you end up looking like you’re taking credit and its’ all about you and its’ difficult. Just in the perception of you doing it, you being out in front to answer questions about the movement. The perception then becomes that you are a spokesperson or that you are a leader and then people in the movement are like “Oh, this guy's doing another interview or what?” People keep talking, who the hell does he think he is? I’ve been fighting 24/7, too, what’s the deal here? I get that, I get why people feel that way. I try to push interviews to other people that are working hard. It’s such a difficult process. It’s a decentralized leaderless resistance, right? Everyone is a leader, yet no one person being a leader. It’s difficult. You just always have to put the integrity of the movement above all else. The bottom line is, and I have to keep hammering the bottom line which is this movement is about millions of people stepping up and fighting back against their own personal financial oppression, against the financial oppression of their family, of the country, and of the global economy. This is a decentralized grassroots bottom up movement. That’s the bottom line. No one person can take credit for any of this stuff. It’s just truly a grassroots movement and that is the message that you need to make clear to everybody. Once you make that message clear to everybody that removes your ego from the equation to the degree that it has enough integrity to support the movement and not be about the person.
IN PART TWO: David talks about horizontal decision-making, perceptions of the movement regarding how to deal with the economic problems, co-option concerns, and shares some reflective final thoughts.
Note: David’s book is currently available online. In addition, please share this article and quote it as you wish, but always remember to maintain the integrity of the movement in what you do. Thank you so much.
We’re all here together NOW!
Love and Peace,
Dan Nowman Niswander
David DeGraw meets other organizers as well as MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan in Pasadena recently.