Category: Activism

Research by and for Occupy Activists Challenges Received Wisdom about the Movement, Urges Alliance with Poor Peoples Movements

Months after the NYPD eviction from Zuccotti Park, NY Occupy activists conducted over 120 political projects allying hundreds of organizations – even as media coverage of the movement declined.

NY Movement Most Often Sought to Expand Public Communication, But Low and Middle Income Allies More Often Fought For Basic Rights and Subsistence

A new study released today ( by and for Occupy activists finds the movement built alliances among newly politically active people and hundreds of diverse organizations in the New York area alone in the first half of 2012. The findings challenge common media narratives that Occupy simply ‘faded away’ after the Nov. 2011 raids at ZuccottiPark and that the movement primarily involved affluent whites.

“The movement was more far reaching than previously documented or as suggested by declining levels of press coverage in 2012,” said James Owens, the study author. The study found Occupy organizing in NYC enabled a pluralistic network of alliances connecting over 200 non-profits, emerging grassroots groups, religious organizations, and incorporated businesses with over 120 Occupy groups. Occupy united allies across social divisions based in identity, professional and non-professional status, and racial and economic background. “The NYC Occupy movement connected people taking political action for the first time to a highly diverse network bridging divides reinforced by ruling elites,” said Owens.

The purposes advanced by NYC Occupy projects also contradict common characterizations that the movement was mostly engaged in prefigurative politics, that is, creating alternative systems of government and distribution. The study found 5 times as many projects sought to reform existing systems than to create alternate systems and less than 2% of projects sought to create or revive deliberative assemblies such as the New York City General Assembly.

The most common purpose pursued by Occupy projects in the sample was to create new means for public political communication. About 43% of projects sought to expand public political communication, with most advancing face-to-face rather than print or online interaction. Occupy activists may have given higher priority to public political communication than issue campaigns or even mass protests, the next most common purposes pursued by 36% of projects.

According to the study, competition over movement purposes may have developed along lines of established social privilege/exclusion. According to the report, “Projects seeking to create spaces of communication and wage issue campaigns for healthcare and financial reform tended to emerge from alliances of wealthier, whiter, professional identified partners.” In contrast, partners from communities of color and low-income struggled for human rights, subsistence issues, and against foreclosures. Mass protests, the study reports, may have emerged from alliances of white, mixed, and non-white low and middle income communities but with little participation from upper-income or professional partners.

The study recommends Occupy activists should rally behind poor people’s struggles against the common opponents of the poor and the relatively affluent: banks, corporations, corrupt officials, oppressive police systems, and the 1%. “If recognized through poverty and mass incarceration, the injustice of the ruling order demands more than a fight for improved financial regulation,” said Owens.

The study itself fulfills a long term goal of The NYC Occupy Project List, a publication (and ancestor of OccupyNetwork) that gathered and shared information to help people participate in and shape the actions of the movement in 2012. The NYC Occupy Project List produced the data used in this study and enjoyed the support and authorization of the OWS TechOps and InfoHub working groups.

For more information contact:

Past issues of The NYC Occupy Project List are available here:
Issue 1, Issue 2Issue 3



Protect OWS from False Allegations of Terrorism

On Monday, December 31st, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post reported that weapons and high explosive powder were found in the home of a Greenwich Village couple. The article also featured an evidence-free assertion that one of the accused is an “Occupy Wall Street activist”.

Take Action Now to Protect OWS from false allegations of terrorism.

As the OWS PR working group emphasized in the immediate aftermath of the story, “There is nothing… to support a link between OWS and the individual arrested.” The NYPD further does not believe that that the accused was active in any political movements, as reported in the New York Times. And when the New York Post reporter, Jamie Schram, was asked by Atiq Zabinski of the OWS Media Working Group to cite his source for the OWS connection, he refused, and abruptly ended the conversation, referring Zabinski to the Post’s legal department.

Occupiers have long been experiencing the tangible impact of hyping falsehoods about Occupy Wall Street, such as how it contributes to real and documented police violence, unconstitutional domestic spying activities, and the marginalization of constituencies and views that deserve respectful treatment by reporters.

The scope of this problem has recently become even more pronounced through the “disclosures that FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”

In response the ‘Your Inbox: Occupied’ team decided to start a petition for concerned OWS activists demanding a retraction and an apology from the New York Post on the same print and Web pages as the original accusation. Since its inception Occupy Wall Street has been firmly committed to non-violence. Yet this is far from the first time that the Post has distorted the facts of a story in order to associate the movement with violence.

Sign the petition today, and then we can go deliver them in person to Rupert Murdoch.

#OccupySandy, technology, and relief

Julio lost his home, and church but not his community.
Julio lost his home, and church but not his community.

Nearly a month ago “Super Storm Sandy” ravaged communities from Cuba to Long Island. The aftermath has seen communities leading the relief and rebuilding effort. One group is said to stand out, a surprise according to the media, #OccupySandy.

While it may seem like #OCCUPYWALLSTREET has “changed,” it hasn’t. Anyone who was present at Liberty Plaza (Zuccotti Park) last year knows that OWS has always been a network with mutual aid at it’s core. Just beyond the characters surrounding the park was a show room floor of how a better world might work. Food for anyone who is hungry, clothing for anyone who is cold, and community open to all.

#OccupySandy is simply the realization of a major aspect of #OCCUPYWALLSTREET, mutual aid.

Some are asking how did a group with no disaster relief experience out perform the Red Cross, NYC disaster response, and FEMA? But this is a much more complex question. Community groups can’t repair subways or bridges while the establishment clearly cannot provide comfort and aid to the people who most need it. The community is like water filling in the cracks in between these massive bureaucracies.

Our response was swift and powerful because we had a strong infrastructure in place. Both human and technological, this post will focus on the latter.


The basic structure of #OccupySandy consists of distributions centrals that take donations and volunteers then send them out to front line locations in affected areas. Here are some Occupy and non-occupy projects currently in use or development.

The InterOccupy team spans the globe and closely collaborates with Occupy Tech Ops and Their system is based on HUBs, each HUB relates to a project within Occupy. As the hurricane made it’s way up the east coast an InterOccupy HUB was created: This provided a platform to organize local Occupy networks together. Currently the HUB acts as a central clearing house of information. Erica Heinz, member of Tech Ops, details the five day redesign of the Occupy Sandy HUB.

Fusion Table

InterOccupy is also managing a Google Fusion table that provides a way to track changes of locations and place them on a map. This map pushes data to Google’s Crisis map.

Volunteer Intake with CiviCRM

InterOccupy (IO) also manages nearly all volunteer intake. Using the OWS CiviCRM IO can create forms and lists of volunteers. Special lists are being put together for rebuilding efforts along with other needs. Mass e-mails are sent to volunteers or segments of that list. This service is provided by MayFirst/People Link

“Social Media”

I’ve come to loathe the term social media. It’s a silly way of saying “the internet”. Though it is good short hand for when you want to say Twitter and Facebook but don’t want to spell them both out.


There is currently a sophisticated operation going on via Facebook. A Facebook group and accompanying chat is used to manage the administration of Occupy Sandy’s Facebook page. With a mix of information and opinion the Facebook page keeps people up-to-date on the dire situation our neighbors are still in while also fielding questions and sharing stories of hope.


Like facebook the main Occupy Sandy twitter account (among many) @occupysandy also spreads the news and answers questions. The account is also used to promote very important information to a feed on the InterOccupy Hub. This allows coordinators to tweet to @occupysandy who can then re-tweet that message on to the home page.

Mobile Applications

When power goes out, so too do cell towers. Connectivity is very difficult in disaster areas which makes technology less effective. Here are some apps that use SMS and mobile networking to provide information and relief.


OccupySMS uses peer to peer matching to connect needs with relief. Using simple SMS gateway provided by Mobile Commons NYC area users can text SANDY to 69866 to post personal needs while people seeking to help can text MUTUAL AID to 69866 and be connected with someone directly. This system allows needs and offers to be crowd managed with little admin overhead.

Contact OccupySMS:

Mobile Disaster Relief App

Said to be created in just five days the Mobile Disaster Relief App provides a powerful iOS (Android coming soon) app to record pictures and audio for first responders and canvassers. It has mapping and peer to peer need/fulfillment. I haven’t personally been able to use this application.

iPhone download

Maps Maps Maps!

At a recent hack-a-thon put on by #HurricaneHackers there was a general sentiment that we sure have made a lot of maps but aren’t connecting the data dots. Most of these tools and ventures aren’t talking to each other, more on that later. Here are some notable maps:

Google Crisis Map

Many of the maps are ending up here. From InterOccupy’s map of relief locations, to Senior Services map, and a Gas map. Here is a great example of centralizing data into a highly useful map.


Another powerful map that covers many relief topics. provides a great user interface and allows for clear and simple peer to peer relief.

Other maps:

The Human Story

When far removed from a disaster it can be easy to lose touch. When we deal with data, points on a map, we can forget that those points of data are all embedded with a human story. The story of tremendous loss, courage, and solidarity.

The People Who Were Killed By Hurricane Sandy

Artur Kasprzak, 28, NYPD officer, drowned after saving his family, South Beach. Lester Kaplan, 73, lawyer, hypothermia, Brigantine, N.J. Edith Wright, 52, teacher’s aide, swept out to sea, Montauk. Read more about this.

Kimberly Smrkovsky, 25
Michael Robson, 13
Herminia St. John, 75
Jessie Streich-Kest, 24 and Jacob Vogelman, 24

Story Line

StoryLine is a collaborative documentary for us to share experiences of Hurricane Sandy and relief efforts. Using any phone or mobile device, you can create a story by calling or sending a text or picture message. StoryLine is a project of and the MIT Center for Civic Media (

CowBird – There are some stories on CowBird too.

Getting things done

Sandy has proven that given access to the right tool people can extremely effective.  There have been a number of tools used and developed around Sandy.  Within #OccupySandy Google’s integrated apps have been put to heavy use. In the first few days Gmail addresses were set up, Google Docs shared, Google Voice, and Google Groups.

While I’d rather see stronger use of Free & Open solutions, Google products do perform quite well and illustrates how strongly integrated tools can increase effectiveness. Being able to share and collaborate on a spreadsheet between two locations is very remarkable.

When we look at the problem that people had to solve after Sandy it’s fairly simple: report needs, fulfill needs, and let others know a need has been fulfilled.

One of the now many spreadsheets used within “the” Occupy Sandy shared Google Drive folder is an unassuming document named OS Requests. This document currently tracks all the requests and dispatches to and from locations on Long Island to Staten Island. It is used between both of Occupy Sandy’s main distribution hubs 520 Clinton and Jacobi Church.

I was asked to come into Occupy Sandy to make a task management system. It became clear that something much more powerful was needed. As it turns out around that same time Mark Prutsalis (@Globaliist) was doing the same thing. Mark is the CEO of Sahana Software Foundation.


Sahana is a disaster relief software that came out of the 2005 Earthquake and Tsunami in Sri Lanka.

Mark and developers Fran (@franboon) are currently working on site to get Sahana configured for Occupy Sandy. Mark wrote a blog post about setting up a kitchen in Bay Ridge where most of Occupy Sandy’s food prep is moving to.

Sahana looks very promising and I will surely write more about it soon. It is currently being adopted by the Occupy Sandy team both here in New York and in New Jersey. Adoption is tough in a decentralized network like Occupy Sandy. Sahana is mostly in use at the higher level dispatch locations rather than “front line” locations.

Each location, from Staten Island to Red Hook to the many locations in the Rockaway are finding their own tech solutions. As we expand Sahana’s use will work to integrate into existing systems rather than trying to replace them.

I was also able to catch a bit of a lesson on a FEMA system being put in place for VOADs or Voluntary Organizations Active in a Disaster. I will share more on that soon as well.

Get Involved

If you are interested in working on these technologies I highly suggest attending the #NYTechResponds Sandy Benefit Weekend: Hackathon & Relief Agency Conference. December 1st and 2nd.

If you would like to get directly involved with Occupy Sandy Tech work please contact me at

Calling all iPhone/Android users at May Day

May Day, May Day!

We are recruiting an army of citizen reporters to post anonymous status updates during May Day that’ll be projected on screens in Bryant Park and other public locations.  You can also post private updates for Tech Ops and other organizing groups.  All messages are secure.

If you are attending May Day events in New York or other cities (rallies, teach-ins, pickets, parties, etc.), we want to hear from you:

  1. Download the Vibe app for iPhone and Android on (Link will become available midnight Friday 4/27).  There’s no registration or login.
  2. Post a status update every 30-60 minutes during May Day:
  • a) Use single hashtag #MayDay in your messages and they’ll be projected on the public screens.
  • b) Use double hashtag ##_______ in your messages and they’ll be secret – only visible to those who know its ## name.  The particular double ## tags for Tech Ops and other May Day organizers will be given out to people on the street on May Day (or ask your particular working group).


Reportback: The 99%Spring Training for Trainers and the Plot to Coopt #Occupy

This past weekend I attended the Training for Trainers (T4T) of the 99% Spring. This is being organized by a very large and powerful coalition in which MoveOn is one of the larger partners, as is the AFL-CIO. The 99% Spring action plan is fairly straightforward: train 100,000 people in non-violent direct action (NVDA).

On the one hand, this is obviously a progressive agenda that most occupiers would agree with. On the other, occupiers have struggled with the fear of cooptation to an exhausting degree. I’ve participated in online and in person conversations about the 99%Spring, and the critiques fall into three main arguments:

  1. MoveOn and the DC based labor movement bureaucracy can’t be trusted as they are committed to working within the system and for Democratic candidates.
  2. The 99%Spring uses occupy inspired themes and memes (“the 99%”) but without doing the hard work of actually working with Occupy Wall Street.
  3. The overall effort seems utterly disconnected from the nationwide May First plans that many (most?) occupiers are actively working towards, which are also referenced with “spring” language.
  4. This isn’t it’s own thing, but rather me making fun of how the nervous nellies respond to larger forces in the political world: “Halp! We’re being coopted! The Democratic Party is both capable and interested in implementing a well thought out plan to make us serve their interests!

Speaking as an occupier most active in the Tech Ops Working Group of the NYC General Assembly, my first response to the 99%Spring was envy. Why aren’t we initiating, leading or participating in this kind of serious coalition work? But that’s unfair. We are working on May First actions, which in New York include a march carried out together with labor and the immigrants’ rights movements. What we aren’t doing is training 100,000 activists and organizers in nonviolent direct action. So why not welcome an effort that is doing that?

The T4T Training
I’m just back from two days of training for trainers, and this is my verdict: the Training for Trainers was fantastic. Hundreds of people in attended the same training as me in New York, and thousands more took part across the country.

The folks attending the training represented a cross section of our country’s progressive, 99% movement. I met community organizers, peace activists, union members, occupiers, and many more. The group was inter-generational, racially diverse, gender balanced, and included folks from all NYC boroughs, Long Island, CT, NJ, and upstate. My impression is that most are experienced organizers, but from many different traditions and organizational homes.

The curriculum had three parts:

  1. The first is your basic Marshall Ganz story of self/us. This is training delivered for years now at countless political and organizational homes, including my old synagogue. For those who don’t know, Ganz started his career at the United Farm Workers, working with Cesar Chavez.
  2. The second is your basic nonviolent direct action training, with roots in Gene Sharp, Training for Change, and the Direct Action Network that emerged post-Seattle in the anti-globalization movement. It wasn’t out of step with anything that say, Starhawk or Lisa Fithian or the Ruckus society would have done.
  3. The third part was the story of the 1% vs. the 99%. It’s basic training in understanding the economic crisis and our collective crisis as a country. This is more or less the kind of training being used by unions and community organizing groups around the country for the last 2-3 years.

There was zero, none, nada discussion of the Obama campaign, electoral politics, the Democratic Party, or MoveOn. To sum up then, the critiques against the 99% Spring are false. Those who lobbed uninformed critiques are now in a position of having to apologize and take back their words or lose credibility. They ‘proved’ that MoveOn provided  support for an amazing, collaborative effort resting on teachings used widely inside the Occupy movement.

The Larger Context
Questions might still be asked about the ultimate purpose of MoveOn, unions, and the long list of community organizing groups that make up the 99%Spring effort. One of the most important is: Where is this coming from? What might it be going?

The information I have is based in part on conversations with folks who know better than me. Sorry about no sources, but here goes:

  • Liz Butler of the Movement Strategy Center is one of the prime movers and shakers of this effort. (And the New Organizing Institute.)
  • The overall strategy seems to be similar or based on what Stephen Lerner (formerly of SEIU) was articulating in a series of talks about “creating a crisis for the rich.” In a nutshell, it proposes mass direct action aimed broadly at the 1% in order to force them to make concessions.
  • When we talk about ‘demands’ or ‘goals’ there are laundry lists galore. Winning strikes, raising taxes, winning elections, targeting specific corporations, etc. But behind all those disparate goals lies a framework: increasing the share of wealth that flows to the 99% and reducing the portion controlled by the 1%. That’s the prize. And large parts of the power structure (i.e., Democrats and even some corporations) think it’s a good thing too.
  • Getting MoveOn to be part of this coalition isn’t as simple as it looks. MoveOn is large enough to do whatever it wants without local partners, and for a long time that’s what it did. But the last few years have seen greater efforts to partner, with Van Jones’ Rebuild the Dream representing a real break with past practice. But the 99% Spring is an example of a large powerful organization placing resources in the service of a fairly radical agenda and allowing others to take the lead.
  • Like who? Like Domestic Workers United, a labor rights organization representing working class women of color. One of their staff members, Harmony Goldberg, was a lead trainer this weekend. If you think Goldberg is a MoveOn/DemParty dupe, please shoot yourself right now. Whew! You’re still here! Thank god.

Where Does That Leave Us?
Based on my experiences this weekend, all I can say is – sign up for the trainings to take place on April 9-16. Help organize more trainings. Invite as many occupiers to attend as possible. Consider the advantage of influencing all those moderate, not radical enough people likely to attend and how our superior political praxis will surely attract them to let go of their electoral illusions.

And then, after considering such a vision, let it go, because it’s bullshit. The training is quite good. Go because it’s great to be on the same page for a moment with eager, enthusiastic 99 percenters who want to make this great land of ours a better one. Drop your defenses (if you have any) and rest assured no one is talking about elections. Let’s focus on the original OWS vision: mass, creative, effective direct action against the banks, Wall Streeters and political forces that drove our economy off a cliff and want to charge us for getting back on the precipice again.

Sign up already.

#LetFreedomSpring this Saturday

NYPD Commish Ray Kelly Must Resign!

Photo of OWS protest

Police brutality against Union Square protestors is part of a strategy to beat us away from the spotlight. What general winter failed to do, Bloomberg and Kelly hope to accomplish with billy clubs and pepper spray.

Join us on Saturday. Join us as we fight for our rights and our lives.

Our answer cannot be spoken of in soft and polite tones; it must be roared: Hello no, we won’t go! Police Commissioner Ray Kelly must resign, the NYPD must stop using violence as a first and only recourse to nonviolent protest, and all those concerned with an out of control, spying and lying police high command must work together to make it happen.

We’ll be gathering at noon at Liberty Square (Zuccotti Park) and marching from there. Our response to NYPD police brutality and mass arrests will be peaceful; our best defence is a large turnout.

You can help:

  • Tweet with the hashtag #letfreedomspring
  • Share this event on Facebook
  • Plan to attend with friends, family, coworkers and classmates
  • Forward this email to your lists
  • Upload photos and vidoes after the march and tag them on social media

Questions? At the rally we’ll update everyone about the latest – the successful Million Hoodies March, our increases presence at Union Square Park, Plans for a 99% Spring, the May First actions, and how to find your place in the movement, if you haven’t already.

For more information about other events planned for Saturday (and every other day) please visit the events section of our site.

–the OWS newsletter team*

* For more information about the OWS newsletter team, click here.

Rapid Media Upload Session

Sunday March 18th 12pm
PACE Student Union

Tech Ops is putting together a media server to host citizen journalist media. You often hear “The whole world is watching” chanted at actions, we aim to make sure that the whole world can watch the content you produce. If you have video, audio, or photos of OWS actions please come visit us at PACE today. We will be collecting digital files for archival and publishing. Continue reading

Jeff Rae? No Way!

Jeff Rae? No Way!
Graphic by Jack Gold

The Manhattan District Attorney (Cyrus Vance) has subpoenaed the Twitter account of Occupy activist Jeff Rae. This comes not long after Malcolm Harris received one as well. Yesterday, this news hit the blogosphere with a bang as BoingBoing spread the word, and the New York Times reported on complaints by many other Occupy activists regarding heavy handed NYPD surveillance.

Any single incident of apparent overreach might not have provoked a response; but in the aggregate, we are concluding that the NYPD, aided and abetted by the Manhattan DA, is engaged in actions designed to chill free speech by intimidating activists. As the long winter slowly turns to the upcoming American Spring, we have to fight back.

Take action now by telling District Attorney Cyrus Vance what you think of his wasteful and unnecessary fishing expedition. We’re asking all supporters of the 99% to show solidarity with Jeff Rae, a union staff member and occupier from Washington DC. Vance is engaged in a political witch hunt on behalf of the 1%. Join us in applying some political pressure against the Manhattan DA’s office.

Note: our current action page is here: Please use the shortlink, or the link to this post, and not the URL of the action page itself – as that may change. Thank you for helping to spread the word.

Proposal to Denounce Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)

Passed consensus by the Technology Operations Group 2/8/2012

We propose that the New York City General Assembly take a public stand against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)*.

ACTA is an international agreement between the United States**, the European Union, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Australia, Mexico, Morocco, Singapore and most of the developed countries of the world with virtually no input from the public. It bypasses the laws of participating nations and applies to countries that were never involved in the negotiations. ACTA negotiations have taken place behind closed doors, without disclosure of the details***.

Certain provisions of ACTA are as restrictive or worse than anything contained in Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), proposed by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and extends beyond the United States, into most of the developed countries of the world and the undeveloped countries by proxy.

We should all be very worried about the implications of ACTA and other trade agreements on the global economy, the ripple effects of which would reach all of us regardless of geographical location.

  • ACTA impacts, directly and indirectly, the health, wellbeing and welfare of the poor residing in all developed and undeveloped Countries.
  • ACTA threatens the manufacturing and distribution of generic drugs, farms and farmers and food independence in developed and undeveloped Countries by enforcing seed patents.
  • ACTA threatens our very rights to privacy, our civil liberties, worldwide innovation and the free flow of information on the Internet by forcing ISP’s across the globe to act as Internet police.
  • ACTA all but outlaws the use of copyrighted audio samples in new musical works and live performances.
  • ACTA was not passed in congress and is, therefore, unconstitutional****.

*Final, legally verified Agreement:

**Although the process was begun by the Bush administration, it was ratified October 1, 2011 under the Obama administration, under a procedure that bypassed the need for Senate confirmation.

***Information on ACTA remained secret until a discussion released by Wikileaks on May 8, 2008, and leaked copies of documents continued to be the only source of information.

****Ron Wyden issued a statement that if the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) ratifies ACTA without Congress’ consent, it may be circumventing Congress’s Constitutional authority to regulate international commerce and protect intellectual property.

More Information

» English
» Español

Other Organizations Opposed to ACTA

Friendly Amendments Integrated into Proposal

  • Add language that states since the Senate did not approve the agreement, it is clearly unconstitutional
  • Add list of all the other folks that have come out against ACTA, like Free Network Foundation
  • Fix grammar


Internet censorship is going to a vote in the Senate on January 24th (known as PIPA in the Senate and SOPA in the House). While Senators are in their home states for the January recess, we need to flood their public meetings and offices with our concerns about the bill. Learn More

Read Tech’s statement against SOPA which was consented upon by the NYC General Assembly.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Consider joining a meetup to stop SOPA/PIPA

Learn what you can do here in the New York area after the jump. Continue reading