Accountability Proposal

Posted by & filed under Assemblies, Past Proposals.

Occupy Wall Street is founded upon the Principles of Solidarity, which states the following:

“On September 17, 2011, people from all across the United States of America and the world came to protest the blatant injustices of our times perpetuated by the economic and political elites.  On the 17th we as individuals rose up against political disenfranchisement and social and economic injustice.  We spoke out, resisted, and successfully occupied Wall Street.  Today, we proudly remain in Liberty Square constituting ourselves as autonomous political beings engaged in non-violent civil disobedience and building solidarity based on mutual respect, acceptance, and love.  It is from these reclaimed grounds that we say to all Americans and to the world, Enough!  How many crises does it take?  We are the 99% and we have moved to reclaim our mortgaged future.  Through a direct democratic process, we have come together as individuals and crafted these principles of solidarity, which are points of unity that include but are not limited to:

  • Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy;
  • Exercising personal and collective responsibility;
  • Recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions;
  • Empowering one another against all forms of oppression;
  • Redefining how labor is valued;
  • The sanctity of individual privacy;
  • The belief that education is human right; and
  • Endeavoring to practice and support wide application of open source.

We are daring to imagine a new socio-political and economic alternative that offers greater possibility of equality.  We are consolidating the other proposed principles of solidarity, after which demands will follow.”

Additionally, we also follow the Statement of Autonomy, which states the following:

“Occupy Wall Street is a people’s movement. It is party-less, leaderless, by the people and for the people. It is not a business, a political party, an advertising campaign or a brand.  It is not for sale.

We welcome all, who, in good faith, petition for a redress of grievances through non-violence.  We provide a forum for peaceful assembly of individuals to engage in participatory as opposed to partisan debate and democracy.  We welcome dissent.

Any statement or declaration not released through the General Assembly and made public online at www.nycga.net should be considered independent of Occupy Wall Street.

We wish to clarify that Occupy Wall Street is not and never has been affiliated with any established political party, candidate or organization.  Our only affiliation is with the people.

The people who are working together to create this movement are its sole and mutual caretakers.  If you have chosen to devote resources to building this movement, especially your time and labor, then it is yours.

Any organization is welcome to support us with the knowledge that doing so will mean questioning your own institutional frameworks of work and hierarchy and integrating our principles into your modes of action.

SPEAK WITH US, NOT FOR US.

Occupy Wall Street values collective resources, dignity, integrity and autonomy above money.  We have not made endorsements.  All donations are accepted anonymously and are transparently allocated via consensus by the General Assembly or the Operational Spokes Council.

We acknowledge the existence of professional activists who work to make our world a better place.  If you are representing, or being compensated by an independent source while participating in our process, please disclose your affiliation at the outset.  Those seeking to capitalize on this movement or undermine it by appropriating its message or symbols are not a part of Occupy Wall Street.

We stand in solidarity.  We are Occupy Wall Street.”

These principles are difficult to uphold.  Sometimes, they may even seem contradictory – how can we behave transparently if we insist on individual privacy?  We are stumbling upon vagueness and apparent contradiction, from the root of the only two documents we presently hold as our statements of values and methods.  It does not help that the Principles of Solidarity state only how one should act, but not what should happen should one fail to uphold these lofty principles.

In fundamental concept, the Statement of Autonomy makes it clear in the end: that which is not a part of Occupy Wall Street excludes itself by its own actions, and it is in the best interests of the Occupy Wall Street movement to note that those whose actions and behaviors do not follow appropriate standards stand apart from the movement by their own actions and their own choices.

Inclusion does not mean the failure to ever exclude – that is simply exclusion by a different metric: “How long someone can put up with this bullshit,” “who has the loudest voice,” “who is the most violent or has the most credible threat.” Having drawn the line between the 99% and the 1%, we fear to ever exclude someone from our all-inclusive movement.  However, to say an individual deemed within the 99% can never be excluded is to say that the 99% is the 1%, for we hold no one accountable for their actions.

A process is being formed to help with this.  We are working on defining “what we will abide by” and “how we will treat each other” via the forthcoming Community Agreement and Code of Conduct, documents that are as-yet works in progress seeking further development or consensus.  We are defining “how we keep things within the boundaries of what we have agreed upon,” via de-escalation tactics designed both for physical and for social situations.  And we are creating a way to resolve our differences or earn forgiveness for our transgressions against each other, defining “how we get along with each other after things have gone less than smoothly” via a Grievance Circle that focuses upon repairing harm and restoring fairness within the community in a restorative-justice process that seeks to educate and heal rather than apply punitive judgments to serve as negative values in some complicated game-theory system of the world that is the modern criminal-justice system.

But it would be a misnomer to state that every problem one might bring forward in the grievance process will be able to be answered with both individuals still within the Movement.  It is a failure of imagination and a failure of judgment to say that there will never be a transgression so grave that we as an assembled body might have to sever connection with an individual or group within the Movement, and it is this continued failure that sees us tolerate the intolerable and play the game of exclusion by attitude rather than principle.

It is a simple principle.  If you come to our events or our meetings, use our websites or phone systems: it doesn’t matter who you are, by the act of involvement, you agree to follow our community standards.  If you leave the relationship, you don’t have to follow our standards – Occupy Wall Street community standards are held between members of the Occupy Wall Street community, they do not follow you home and decree how you treat anyone outside of the Movement when you do not represent the Movement.

The General Assembly should stand empowered to sever ties with those who do not follow the Principles of Solidarity, the Statement of Autonomy, or other standards of behavior that have been agreed upon. If we leave the relationship with you, you also don’t have to follow our standards. It stays that way as long as we’re not involved in each other’s business. If we get involved with companies, they have to follow our standards, too. Our standards apply to OWS as a whole and also to all our working groups, caucuses, and other component bodies acting on our behalf or in our name.

Continued participation in Occupy Wall Street, as a movement, confers benefits.  An individual whom the General Assembly proposes to exclude from the Movement via direct and transparent participatory democracy, based on their adherence to the standards of conduct that define a member as part of OWS, thus loses access to these benefits.  They include, but are not limited to:

  • The ability to attend General Assembly, Spokes Council, or other forms of decision-making bodies and be placed on stack;
  • The ability to access Occupy Wall Street funds and resources, such as metrocards, housing access, *@nycga.net email accounts, food, clothing, and similar supplies;
  • The ability to join Working Groups or Caucuses, and participate in OWS discussions;
  • Access to bail funds for any arrests they may be subject to at Occupy Wall Street marches or events;
  • And the ability to state to the outside world, and those within the Occupy Wall Street movement, “I am a member of Occupy Wall Street.”

An individual whom the General Assembly consenses is ‘not a member of Occupy Wall Street,’ should not be seen to be a member of the Occupy Wall Street movement by its membership as a whole, or attain any of the benefits conferred by membership.  We of course wish to repair and embrace rather than give up on and exclude – anyone can have a bad day, after all, and an individual act of violence may have several root causes not seen immediately.  We have stated that we wish to exercise personal and collective responsibility, and this cannot be done by avoiding difficult problems just because there is no fast and clean solution.  The problems we face make the Movement stronger, and better-equipped to change the world.

This is the standard that any such proposal the General Assembly brings forward should seek to meet, before excluding anyone: be it for failure to uphold the Principles of Solidarity, or failure act in keeping with the Statement of Autonomy, or the failure to abide by any other community agreement or code of conduct as yet forthcoming, efforts must be made to heal the breach and repair the harm if such repair is possible.  Refusing to repair this failing to the community as a whole by the airing of grievances and making of amends via the transformative justice process of the Grievance Circle, when it is in place, shall be recognized strictly in proportion to the offense to our standards and our ideals – no one shall be asked to leave the Movement for tripping and falling on someone, then calling it ‘assault,’ for these are the tactics already being used against us and we shall not use them against ourselves.

Actions taken by an individual shall be seen to be against the Movement as a whole only if they are grievous in nature, or systemically repetitive.  The line in the sand between the individual and the Occupy Wall Street movement is drawn by that individual themselves, by their failure to abide by our standards of behavior or community agreements which have achieved consensus in the General Assembly, and a proposal to the General Assembly to formally recognize that an individual stands outside of Occupy Wall Street by their own choice and their own actions should abide by that decision on their part and ratify it lest the individual continue to harm those within the Movement or the Movement as a whole via their actions.

AN EXAMPLE –

Johnny the Homicidal Protestor says he is part of the 99%, and a good member of Occupy Wall Street.

Johnny the Homicidal Protestor doesn’t show up to GA’s, communicate via NYCGA.net or participate in any working groups either face-to-face or electronically.

Johnny the Homicidal Protestor only communicates with Occupy Wall Street via, you guessed it, homicide – Johnny is the sole member of the “Killing The 1% One By One” Working Group, or as some might call it, ‘Really-Goddamn-Direct-Action’.  He kills Wall Street investment bankers and carves “The 99% Are Coming For You! #OWS” onto their bodies, because much like Twitter, you can only use so many characters before you run out of room.

Johnny the Homicidal Protestor is not following the Principles of Solidarity, and Occupy Wall Street should recognize formally (and quickly!) that Johnny’s autonomous actions exclude him from OWS by his own actions and his own choices.

The question before the General Assembly in this proposal is not “where does this line exist,” but quite simply “does this line exist.”  Individual proposals brought before the General Assembly against an individual whose actions and behaviors may be seen to be against the body of Occupy Wall Street as a whole will establish in each case where ‘the line’ is, and whether it has been crossed, as well as whether efforts have been put into place by the movement as a whole to repair the connection between the individual and the group via the restorative justice process (at this time, still forthcoming).

11 Responses to “Accountability Proposal”

  1. Yoni Miller

    Meh, I’m sure Johnny wouldn’t hurt flies, which is all what matters to me. I think he should be given the bail funds, and our respect…we’re inclusive

  2. Ravi Ahmad

    I think the last part of the proposal should be what is read at GA tonight. Cuz that’s the heart of it and the legalese is really annoying and suspicion generating. Also, as with Aaron’s reading of Emma Goldman, I think we should have a series of readings and discussions of our foundational documents next week. Who’s in?

    • Dallas

      Sounds awesome. I’m down. Over the weekend, please? I’d like to see those of us still lucky enough to be employed get involved in this too.

  3. Darrell Prince

    I would add to this, the development of a record. An Identity, and a history with the organization. You cannot have accountability, or exclude people from something if you don’t know who is in. We need a comprehensive electronic internal record of who is who. This isn’t simply for retribution purposes; au contraire, to know is to love, and how many people do we know here?
    We need internal development of bylaws.

    • Dallas

      @alg0rhythm True!

      I’ve been thinking in terms of background checks, but after reading this it occurs to me that with the exceptions of fraud, violent crime (including and especially sexually predatory crimes), I don’t really care who or what anyone was before OWS.

      I care a lot about what and who they are now in OWS though.

    • Urbaned

      I’d like to lighten it up a bit and have user-profile pages, kind of like here on buddypress, but maybe with some other information, such as a personal blog, what I’ve done around the community, gifts wanted/gifts given (Pemabank), favorite videos, etc. Oops, it’s starting to sound like facebook, sorry.

  4. Darrell Prince

    Maybe in addition to this, add a what I did for OWS this week, to be turned in each week.. Monday attended tech ops meeting, emailed for more word press and network adminstrators, Tuesday wrote unfreeze financial reform proposals.

  5. Urbaned

    Please change this phrase: “If we get involved with companies,:” “if we get involved with companies, government entities, candidates, non-profits, and the like,”

    thanks