WASHINGTON -- While an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Occupy Wall Street protesters flooded into Times Square on Saturday, there was still a regular New York general assembly at 7 p.m. During that meeting, according to sources who contacted The Huffington Post, the Zuccotti Park General Assembly -- though at a reduced presence due to the Times Square march -- saw the formation of a new working group.
This “Demands Working Group” then immediately “established a website and fairly educated/articulated list of solutions.” A separate group out of Zuccotti Park has also been working on a list of possible proposals, but a member of the Education and Empowerment Working Group said he suspects the Demands Working Group’s list might become the national platform.
They’ve posted the list online but they’ve also made this announcement under the radar -- a national convention to be held July 4, 2012:
WE, THE NINETY-NINE PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in order to form a more perfect Union, by, for and of the PEOPLE, shall elect and convene a NATIONAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY beginning on July 4, 2012 in the City Of Philadelphia.
Their plan includes to elect delegates by direct vote, one male and one female per each of the 435 Congressional Districts. The office would be open to any United States citizen over the age of 18. The 870 delegates would then compose a petition of grievances that would be non-partisan.
The posted “demands” are only a working list of “suggestions,” however. Number one and two are a ban on private contributions to politicians seeking or holding federal office and instead public financing for campaigns, and a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court.
The list then goes on to suggest single-payer national health care, immediate passage of the DREAM Act, a jobs plan, a deficit reduction plan and recalling military personnel at all non-essential bases.
The movement would also reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, increase regulation and increase taxes by way of eliminating corporate tax loopholes.
The idea of coming up with a list of demands has been controversial among protesters.
David Sauvage, who directs videos for the Occupy Wall Street protests and supports the movement, said he viewed demands as being too similar to talking points.
But Daniel Lerner, a physicist and member of the Demands Working Group, argued to Mother Jones that their demands would have wide appeal.
In their list, however, they close with one last warning: if Congress, the President and the Supreme Court do not act on the settled grievances the movement eventually comes up with, its members are prepared to form a third, independent political party to run in every Congressional seat in 2014 and 2016.
Update at 10:50 a.m.: As mentioned above, the working group's suggestions and website have not been adopted by the movement as a whole, or approved by the NYC General Assembly as a whole. The debate over whether or not to even have "demands" within the Occupy Wall Street movement has continued.
One person involved, Andy Stepanian, told HuffPost that this particular declaration has not been approved by the General Assembly in New York and so it can't be said this reflects the movement's feelings as a whole.
"Everyone is entitled to make their own blog or website to post their opinions about how OWS should operate or what they think the OWS demands should be, this 99% group is no different," Stepanian said in an email. "However, all of OWS's official statements are agreed upon by way of consensus-based general assemblies. This matter was not submitted or agreed upon by the NYC general assembly, and therefore by-passed the process all OWS plans have been made through."
So far, the General Assembly has accepted a "Declaration of the Occupation" back on Sept. 29.
"Demands have come up before," wrote Ryan Hoffman in another email to HuffPost. "They were shot down vociferously under the argument that demands are for terrorists and that is not who we are. From that debate however, another proposal was passed: that we table all talk of demands until future notice! Therefore, any talk about demands, posts of demands, etc. are null and void. We already tabled those discussions using consensus."
Hoffman said the Declaration took a while to edit and revise with everyone putting in their own contributions and ideas before they could arrive at a final product the group agreed on. He explained that the General Assemblies have set up an entire process by which something like these "demands" could be agreed to, but the way this working group bypassed the process has caused some frustration.
"There is a 'demands working group' out there right now," Hoffman said, adding that the way they met in secret with The New York Times infuriated many members of the General Assembly. "There is a lot of internal dissent due to the manner in which this group was created and conducted its meetings."
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