PHILADELPHIA -- A group of protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement plans to elect 876 "delegates" from around the country and hold a national "general assembly" in Philadelphia over the Fourth of July as part of ongoing protests over corporate excess and economic inequality.
The group, dubbed the 99% Declaration Working Group, said Wednesday delegates would be selected during a secure online election in early June from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.
In a nod to their First Amendment rights, delegates will meet in Philadelphia to draft and ratify a "petition for a redress of grievances," convening during the week of July 2 and holding a news conference in front of Independence Hall on the Fourth of July.
Any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is 18 years of age or older may run as a nonpartisan candidate for delegate, according to Michael S. Pollok, an attorney who advised Occupy Wall Street protesters arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge last year and co-founded the working group.
"We feel it's appropriate to go back to what our founding fathers did and have another petition congress," Pollok said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We feel that following the footsteps of our founding fathers is the right way to go."
In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and cited King George III's failure to redress the grievances listed in colonial petitions as a reason to declare independence.
One man and one woman will be elected from each of the 435 congressional voting districts, according to Pollok, and they will meet in Philadelphia to deliberate, draft and ratify a "redress of grievances." One delegate will also be elected to represent each of the U.S. territories.
Organizers won't take a position on what grievances should be included, Pollok said, but they will likely include issues like getting money out of politics, dealing with the foreclosure crisis and helping students handle loan debt.
Details of the conference are still being worked out, Pollok said, but organizers have paid for a venue in Philadelphia. Pollok would not identify the venue, but said it was "a major state-of-the art facility." Pollok said the group planned to pay for the conference through donations.
Once the petition is completed, Pollok said, the protesters will deliver copies to the White House, members of Congress and the Supreme Court. They will demand that Congress takes action in the first 100 days of taking office next year. If sufficient action isn't taken, Pollok said, the delegates will go back to their districts and try to recruit their own candidates for office.
Philadelphia Managing Director Richard Negrin said the city has been in communication with the conference organizers and said the biggest concerns are logistical. The conference is coming at a time when thousands of tourists flock to the City of Brotherly Love for Fourth of July festivities.
"It's mostly a police and traffic control concern," Negrin said. "We think that as the cradle of liberty we have to be careful and hold our constitutional rights especially reverent here. ... We're not going to be heavy handed."
Hundreds of Occupy Philadelphia protesters set up an encampment in a plaza at City Hall in early October in unity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York. The city eventually ordered them to leave so it could break ground on a $50 million renovation project at the plaza and evicted the remaining protesters in late November.