From Boston with the “99 Percent”

The “99 Percent” movement arising across the United States represents the first major public manifestation of disgust and fury at the rampant greed that has concentrated the nation’s wealth with the top “One Percent.” Economic journalist Mark Provost reports on his experience at one front in Boston.

By Mark Provost

The $64 trillion dollar question, “When will Americans hit the streets like people in other countries?” has been answered.  In the last several days, occupations have spread from Wall Street to more than 70 cities across America. 

The “99 Percent” are rising to voice their grievances against an economic and political system which has disenfranchised them for too long.  We share painful stories and common concerns, and seek profound changes to how this nation is governed, and for whom it is governed.

 I drove from New Hampshire on Friday afternoon and arrived in Beantown to kickoff Occupy Boston. Dewey Square, the site of the occupation in the heart of the financial district, was easy to find thanks to police and media helicopters hovering overhead. 

But rush hour traffic and Boston’s circuitous one-way streets channeled me far from the site, and into an expensive garage.   

I asked a well-dressed young man exiting work for directions to the park.  He didn’t know the location, and I didn’t tell him why I was going (fearing he may intentionally misdirect me). Unfortunately, my cover was blown when “Brian” innocently asked a coworker for the whereabouts.

The coworker smiled and pointed me in the right direction, but not before he offered his opinion about the protest, “I am a capitalist.  I work for an investment bank but I don’t agree with American-style capitalism.”  Without pause, he refined his thoughts, “I am a socialist.”

I was running late, so I simply nodded.  He repeated this heresy, and wished me luck.

Earlier on Friday, a huge demonstration organized by “Right the City” protested in front of Bank of America and demanded a moratorium on foreclosures.  The march ended at Dewey Square, where many stayed around to help launch the occupation. 

Gatherers mostly engaged in small groups without direction, waiting for something to happen.  I met three young men from Stoneham, one of whom just lost his job as an eyeglass technician. Luckily, his friend, a marine biologist who owes $60,000 in student loans, just landed a job. 

 “We switched places,” they realized, and gave each other a high five. 

After an hour, the confusion subsided when the group began using the famed “peoples’ microphone.’”  When anyone calls for a “mic check,” the whole group repeats their words in short sentences.

For large meetings like a General Assembly, the peoples’ mic is supplemented with a six-point hand signal system which allows one to visibly express their position on a speaker’s opinion or vote, without disturbing the group’s discussion.

We organized into seven separate teams: tactical, direct action, legal aid, food and medical, media, local outreach, and creative artists.  Dewey Square was transformed into a rain-soaked and muddy experiment in direct democracy.

Despite the bad weather, our ranks swelled to nearly 1,000 people.  Ages ranged from seven to 77, men and women, middle-class mothers and homeless recovering alcoholics, carpenters and Ivy League attorneys, gay and straight, Christians and Muslims, bisexual and transgender, anti-war activists and Marine Corps veterans, African Americans and immigrants, Arabs and Jews, Asians and Latinos, unemployed and overworked. 

The group fosters an inclusive, transparent, innovative, and democratic process, a testament of their vision.  The late Howard Zinn believed successful social movements cultivate both democratic means and democratic objectives.  One reinforces the other.

This is a leaderless movement without a central ideology.  We are bound only by the understanding that we are part of the 99 percent of Americans getting shafted by the wealthiest 1 percent. 

Around 11:00 p.m., after a hot meal and General Assembly, roughly 400 occupants hit the streets and chanted our galvanizing message: “We are the 99 Percent! We are the 99 Percent!  You are the 99 Percent!” 

Countless cars honked in support, and faces lit up even more as passersby cheered (and a couple jeered). Some joined the march, while others grabbed smart phones and cameras to record the rebirth of America, in the city that started it all more than 200 years ago.

The 99 Percent movement has been ignored and derided in the mainstream press, yet the overwhelming response from the people of Boston is revitalizing.  If you join the movement or want to march with us, you will not be stigmatized.  On the contrary, your dedication will be praised, honored, and thanked by fellow citizens. 

The march returned to Dewey Square significantly larger than when it departed, we did not pick up stragglers, we invited curious citizens and fellow patriots. Political truth exerts a gravitational pull on the body. 

Suddenly, and without any prior debate or plan, we sprinted across State Street and charged the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. “We are the 99 Percent, You are the 99 Percent” (pointing to the phalanx of police officers lining the building). 

The echoes rumbled off the thick glass walls and stone firmament.  The scene was tense, but officers remained disciplined while demonstrators played music, sang and danced. 

Unlike other cities such as New York and San Francisco, the BPD has made no attempt to corral us, has not tried to block or channel our marches, has not tried to disperse us, and has entered the encampment once due to medical emergency. 

So far, hats off to the BPD.  By respecting our right to protest, it makes it easier for us to protect their right to collectively bargain.

By 1:00 a.m., it was pouring rain and I told my new friend Murph that I would drive him home to Watertown in exchange for his help finding my vehicle.  I returned to New Hampshire, caught five hours of sleep, filled my car with supplies, and headed back to the occupation.

Thus far, the media have ignored the scale and scope of the 99 Percent movement. A spontaneous, continental uprising against extreme economic and political inequity is apparently not newsworthy.

 Many pundits claim the protests lack coherence or demands, asking themselves (rather than asking us), “Why are they protesting?”

 Each one of us knows why we are here; we share stories and listen to new ideas and strategies.  We are a multitude,already planning actions in 46 states, for a multitude of reasons.  One by one, we will shatter the silence which has devoured this nation.

The relevant question: Will you join and contribute to the awakening?

Mark Provost is an economic journalist focused on U.S. income and wealth inequality. He lives in Manchester, New Hampshire. He can be reached at [email protected]

10 comments for “From Boston with the “99 Percent”

  1. John Steinsvold
    October 7, 2011 at 16:02

    An Alternative to Capitalism (if the people knew about it, they would demand it)

    Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: “There is no alternative”. She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

    I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: “Home of the Brave?” which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

    John Steinsvold

    Perhaps in time the so-called dark ages will be thought of as including our own.
    –Georg C. Lichtenberg

  2. jan walling
    October 6, 2011 at 15:14

    I am 80 now, when I was 40 I worked a regular job and 2 PART-TIME jobs. It was getting me down so I offered one of my part-time jobs to some people living off the government…They laughed at me, saying “i DON’T HAVE TO WORK. THE GOVERNMENT PAYS ME FOR FREE! I have disliked ALL government free programs ever since. It was bad then, sadly it’s WORSE now. If the government is paying them, then the government should PUT THEM TO WORK DOING SOMETHING, ANYTHING!!!They shouldn’t be able to just sit, drink and have more babies an d get PAID FOR IT.

  3. brian
    October 6, 2011 at 04:28

    99% of losers?
    I’d watch your mouth if I were you…

  4. dave
    October 6, 2011 at 03:16

    99% of losers but the good thing is that in reality they are more like 0.99% that know how to make noise. GO TO WORK

  5. Cris
    October 5, 2011 at 18:08

    To claim that the individuals invloved in these assemblies represent 99% of Americans is an audacious claim. I get that it makes for good messaging, but it’s not true.

    I am not in the top 1% net worth/net income ranks of Americans, and you do not represent me. I make a modest living because I contribute modestly. Take the wealthiest man in the world – can anyone argue that no one individual is more directly responsible for the advances made in the last 30 as a result of Bill Gates’ contributions through Microsoft? Wal-Mart employs 2 million people – should Sam Walton (now his heirs as was his choice) not reap the benefits of creating 2 million jobs?

    The term “wealth inequality” cracks me up… it only focuses on the output: wealth. What about the input? Because Bill Gates found a way to put such powerful technology in the hands of the masses we Facebook, blogs, spreadsheets (we might have all these things otherwise, but I’m not playing what-ifs). I don’t see the inequality between a paralegal making $40k/year and the CEO of Wal-Mart make $whatever-million/year. They’re compensated for what they provide. For every claim of “wealth inequality”, I would counter there is a “contribution inequality”.

    • October 5, 2011 at 18:31

      Interesting that you should choose Bill Gates as an example. Bill Gates’ father was head of Planned Parenthood (founded by eugenicist Margaret Sanger) and his mother was on the board of United Way, which gave public contributions to Planned Parenthood. Bill Gates is also a big fan of the Rockefeller Foundation. The Rockefeller Foundation was established as a PR front for John D. Rockefeller after his national reputation was tarnished by the famous Ludlow Massacre.

      These foundations set up by the wealthy elites are used to further their social agendas tax free by proxy. An example would be to read the Rockefeller Foundation white papers on vaccines to depopulate certain ethnic groups, like Africans. Google search: Bill Gates vaccines depopulation.

      “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. If it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members…” Margaret Sanger

    • Less Than 1%
      October 5, 2011 at 19:29

      Just to be clear, Bill Gates virtually stole DOS from Digital Equipment and the concept for Windows was developed by the Palo Alto Research Center, a division of XEROX and was perfected by Apple. The advances of the last 30 years would surely have taken place with, or without Bill Gates. He merely “capitalized” on the inventions of others.

      • David LaViolette
        October 5, 2011 at 23:57

        Let’s not fight about smaller things right now. We have a media and lesser media giving credence to unintelligible mobs gathering in a few large cities that just don’t think life is fair.
        Welcome to the last 10,000 year’s of civilization. They deserve no more then a look of disgust from everybody trying to get a job, those with a job, and those, paying employees for the work that they do, to keep a job. Ninty-nine percent should stand for those who disagree with their absurd assumptions.

        We are not a people that deserves something for being born. We are a people that deserves something for trying to make this country the best, rich or poor. It gives us the tools to achieve, when other countries discourage freedom, it is the ultimate symbol of free thought and free will.

  6. October 5, 2011 at 18:02

    The first? As if the Tea Party does not exist. Here’s a little hint at left/right paradigm politics for you. The left vs. right are like the Packers vs. Vikings. They are both owned by the NFL franchise. The Democrat and Republican parties are bought and paid for by the international Federal Reserve bankster cabal, including the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Dutch and British Royals, etc., whose fortunes are safely exempt from taxes offshore.

    Occupy Wall Street is simply the Marxist left version of the Tea Party; Occidental Al Gore’s hope to it. The union bosses will soon have us all believe that higher taxes are the answer. Global warming fear mongers will push for their carbon taxes to save the planet so Occidental Al can make a fortune trading carbon credits.

    “Tea baggers” know that eliminating the Federal Reserve and restoring the Republic is the only way to rid ourselves of crony capitalism and tax hungry politicians. I have pointed out to others before that a portion of the Tea Party has been usurped by neocons to discredit the movement. Occupy Wall Street is already under siege from without and within. The closer they get to closing down the elite’s system of control, the more they will see the enemies we are all up against. Many will be from their own ranks. Wall Street funded the Bolshevik Revolution! Look it up! It’s all part of their matrix of control. You cannot serve both God and Mammon.

  7. chmoore
    October 4, 2011 at 20:34

    Out here in the ‘Big Orange’, City Council members visited and cheered on ‘Occupy L.A.’, setup on the City Hall lawn.

    Councilman Rosendahl said he hopes to introduce a Council resolution in support.

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