On October 1, 2011, the New York City Police arrested about 700 protestors on the Brooklyn Bridge. Among these arrestees were about 20 students from a small liberal arts school in upstate New York. A criminal defense attorney who lives and works near the college, was called by the administration of the college to counsel the students pro bono. On October 7th, the attorney visited the college and gave a talk and PowerPoint presentation about how to avoid getting arrested and what to do if you happen to get arrested. He also discussed the students' individual cases and the options they had in court.
After the presentation and discussion, the attorney met with a few students in the college cafe and asked them what they were seeking by protesting. Not knowing much about the #OWS movement the attorney took some notes. After this discussion, the lawyer took the notes he made, did some online research and drafted the 99% Declaration. The declaration was posted on the internet and he requested comments, edits and suggestions. Hundreds and then thousands of emails started to come in.
On October 15, 2011, the group took about 400 copies of the declaration to Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park where they passed out the copies, answered questions and took down emails of people interested in helping implement the plan called for in the document. The students and people who joined at Occupy Wall Street formed the core of the original working group. That evening, the group announced to the New York City General Assembly the formation of the 99% Declaration Working Group. See video: http://youtu.be/Le5YI_QPPKk.
The reception to the idea of an election and National General Assembly was positive and it was the group's intention to return in two weeks and introduce the 99% Declaration to the NYC General Assembly for a consensus opinion. Three days later, however, on October 18, 2011, the Huffington Post and Russell Simmons' Global Grind found the online version of the 99% Declaration that was posted for edits and erroneously reported that the 99% Declaration was an official #OWS document sanctioned by the New York City General Assembly. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/18/occupy-wall-street-planning-convention_n_1018570.html and http://globalgrind.com/news/occupy-wall-street-releases-list-demands-photos
Other media outlets jumped on this story and reported it. http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2011/10/19/‘occupy’-to-hold-national-assembly-in-philadelphia/ and http://nation.foxnews.com/occupy-wall-street/2011/10/19/occupy-may-hold-national-assembly-philadelphia.
These erroneous stories were reported without contacting any member of the working group which at that time numbered around seven people. After the Huffington Post story came out, despite being inaccurate, the web hits on the declaration went from about 3,000 to over 150,000 in a couple of days. The members of the NYCGA were understandably angry.
Meanwhile, the Working Group created three Facebook pages http://www.facebook.com/The99PercentDeclaration with combined memberships that now exceed 4000 people. On November 12, 2011, the Demands Working Group of the NYCGA invited the 99% Working Group to attend a meeting of the Demands Working Group at the 60 Wall Street Atrium. The plan was to discuss a possible merger of the two groups so that their resources could be pooled to come up with a more complete list of grievances. Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg ordered Zuccotti Park cleared the same day of the meeting and the attorney, who specializes in criminal defense, was unable to attend because of commitments he made to help obtain the release of new arrestees.
The 99% Declaration Working Group is now a not-for-profit entity organized under the laws of the State of New York. The group engages in discussions about the movement and the plans to hold an election of 876 delegates in March 2012 and provide a venue for the National General Assembly in July. See https://sites.google.com/site/the99percentdeclaration/home/the-steps-to-non-violent-revolution. The group is raising money to pay for the venue and the costs of the election which will take place online. Voting will also take place at polling stations in all of the 435 voting districts if enough money is raised. Most likely lap tops will be placed in public places in the Congressional districts so people who do not have access to the internet will be able to come and vote in person.
A webpage is being designed where candidates for delegate will be able to register and create a web profile with their picture, bio, and reasons why the voters should elect that person. People will also be able to register to vote and volunteer on various committees. On the election weekend in March, the polls will open and the voters will return to this web page to vote for the candidates they want to speak for the 99% at the National General Assembly. We believe that an election of delegates is vital so that critics of the 99% Movement will be prevented from claiming that the National General Assembly is an oligarchy, elitist or somehow undemocratic. It is anticipated that each of the local General Assemblies in the United States will select people to run for delegate. If this experiment is successful, the foundation will be laid for a World General Assembly to address the concerns and dilemmas facing the earth.
This model of concentrating People power to influence politics rather than concentrating wealth will hopefully result in dramatic positive changes in the United States over the next two years.
The 99% Declaration Working Group has reached out to several thinkers in the movement including Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig. Professor Lessig's work has been an inspiration to the 99% movement and this Working Group. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/11/has-a-harvard-professor-mapped-out-the-next-step-for-occupy-wall-street/247561/.
It cannot be overemphasized that The 99% Declaration Working Group is purely a facilitation group which has two functions: (1) organize a transparent democratic election of the 876 delegates in March and (2) provide a venue for the delegates to meet in July so they may produce a petition for a redress of grievances to be served on the federal government before the 2012 general election in November. We take no position on what should be in the petition for a redress of grievances and the 20+ grievances and solutions in the 99% Declaration are only examples of the types of issues that are of great concern to this group and, we believe, the 99% of Americans.