By Anna Johnson

When I read criticism of the Occupy movement I cannot help but have flashbacks to the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers and the deliberative democratic process that underwent the creation of the Constitution. Go ahead, close your eyes and recount whatever picture has been painted for you of that historical time. Ok, now remove the wigs, add some diversity and tents and…. the cries are the same. No taxation without representation! 99% of people in our country are not being fairly taxed, are not represented in the electorate, and have had their liberty and happiness diminished during the Great Recession and they have had enough!

The main criticism of the Occupy movement is that they don’t have ‘demands.’ Critics graze over the obvious demand of the movement, that the distribution of income change to address the greater needs of 99% of our citizens. One of the reasons the movement has lasted this long is because the demands were not set by any one person or organization. It is a broad demand that many people and organizations can get behind. In fact, 99% of people fall within this broad demand.

Critics have also somehow failed to witness the complete democratic process that is utilized to run meetings, manage talk time, mitigate camp responsibilities, and to include every voice when a proposal is presented. The process is as follows: a proposal goes up at the general assembly meetings, groups disband and talk about it, when all are done hashing it out a representative speaks for their group, questions and challenges can be openly addressed and when all have been heard…they vote!

The final hole in this criticism is that Occupy movements do have ‘demands’ they are just called resolutions. These are specific demands and specific actions that have been decided upon democratically and are acted upon together. Look at the 650,000 people who have transferred money to a community bank this month, that’s more than all of last year! There has also been a demand by nurses joined with the occupy movement for a financial transaction tax. If critics really wanted to find out the demands of the people, all they would have to do is go, sit, and listen or log on to any Occupy website and watch the live feed. Democracy does not happen over night, demands cannot be democratically formulated in a matter of days, nor should they be. The critics are criticizing democracy and its virtues.

Maybe we have stepped so far away from the democratic process to actually recognize it when it is happening right on our streets. Public spaces are occupied by concerned citizens, citizens who are upset with the current tax structure and distribution of income and they are being gassed, threatened, and unnecessarily judged for exerting their right as citizens in a supposed democracy. Too many generations of citizens have been oppressed within this economic imbalance that the feeling of harm has become normalized and engrained…until now at least.

A small voice of communal consciousness has crept out of the silence, out of the doubt that we deserve more from our government, to say that this is wrong and something should be done. If the critics of Occupy think that answering how this should be done is not the responsibility of politicians, their advisors, think-tanks, non-profits and the like but rather a group of concerned citizens… so be it. But don’t criticize the process that founded the country you live in. And don’t support the dismissal and silencing of a cry for change by concerned citizens.

 

Anna Johnson is a first year MPP student at the Goldman School of Public Policy.