Statement of Autonomy


Passed by the General Assembly at Occupy Wall Street. November 10, 2011
and passed revision by the General Assembly at Occupy Wall Street, March 3, 2012

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 democracy.  We welcome dissent.

Any statement or declaration not released through the General Assembly and made public online at 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.


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.

76 Responses to “Statement of Autonomy”

  1. Mandy

    What about the labor unions that allow the movement to use their halls. Isn’t the movement affiliated with them?

    • John McAndrew

      I’d say that, while they may have affinities, the above statement is clear: labor unions don’t drive the movement. If anything, e movement has the potential to drive unions as much as driving government or business. OWS is no more a tool of unions because of the use of their halls than they are a tool of Apple or Google because of their use of the Internet.

      • Neal Smith

        There is a difference between being affiliated with a group and being allied with them. It’s a good thing, I think, to be allied with organizations that share common goals.

    • Ryan Hoffman

      To echo what John said, we can show solidarity and support. Affiliation implies something deeper.

    • michael mcdonald

      We of Occupy Elmira Corning are a small group. Most of us work or have kids or both. A local labor union has offered us thier Hall to meet. Both sides have been clear that there is no affiliation. They express admiration that We have been able to change the conversations Americans are having in 2 1/2 months, something they’ve been trying to do for almost a hundred years. And for what it’s worth, none of us locally have any experience organizing events. Many of them do. I was advised by them to give a heads up to city officials as to our intent to march. The City appreciated this. So, as we learn from our comrades in Tahrir square, we learn from our comrades in America. #Solidarity.

    • KK

      I don’t like how you’re comparing working class organizations to ‘things’ like macs and google. For the record our paper is funded by SEIU. I’ve never understood this apathy to the unions. If this was just towards the leadership that would be one thing. Unions support has been decisive time and again. It’s troubling we use language like “they” and compare them to objects to be used. This movement is for the 99% not the petite bourgeois indivudalism of a few organizers.

      • KK

        Oh and the Almagated Bank branch that was closed down and donated to Occupy Wall Street…it was donated by a Union.

  2. Teri Pettit

    Can the web site team provide some clarity about what is meant by the statement “all donations are … transparently allocated via consensus by the General Assembly…”?

    In particular, how does someone wishing to make a donation but without the time to watch the live streams or recordings of the General Assemblies find out how the donations are being allocated? Is there a web site where the allocations are summarized? How much transparency does the accounting process have?

    • Ryan Hoffman

      Finance releases a weekly report that shows where all the money is being allocated. You can also check their blog that Drew posted. If you cannot locate either of those, you can always check the minutes to find out where we are sending money.

    • Monica McLaughlin

      There is zero transparency of financial information at OWS. I have been trying for weeks to see some documentation of proof that the funds are there and what they are being used for. The Finance (Accounting) WG has begun to produce lists of donations and expenditures, but it is anyone’s guess how accurate these lists are. Some big ticket items (like $1300 for the OWS trademark application) and dollar amounts of cash donations are glaringly absent.

  3. Owen

    Bravo for this over due statement. I only have a very slight concern as to:

    ” 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.”

    As finance is set up, and this is defacto, isn’t it an endorsement by the GA of The Alliance for Global Justice, as they are the “fiscal sponsors” bearing non profit 501c3 status?

    According to the Finance working group’s report

    donations are processed through Allied Bank and the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union. (I applaud the finance group for their readiness of having this transparent up on the Internet!) but again does this constitute an endorsement or is this simply a business transaction that has no other implications? I do not want to nit pick about this. Perhaps legal should review this if they haven’t already? What is clear is the relationship as explained by The Alliance for Global Justice. (see)
    Perhaps further definition as per notions of endorsement, particularly when it relates to fiscal relationships, could be further addressed within the text of the Statement of Autonomy?

    Otherwise, thank you all for writing such a simple and timely document.

    • Ryan Hoffman

      Those are valid concerns, although I think the point of this document was to specifically attack such relationships. Yes, we have fiscal sponsorship, but it does not bind us to the Alliance for Global Justice. I went through a similar thing in setting up my theater company. You can have an umbrella for fiscal sponsorship and yet still remain autonomous. Even the Public Theater Company has a fiscal sponsor and they are enormous, and still autonomous. Is there any way you can make the next meeting on Tuesday?

  4. Iden

    So what does this mean though with respect to the relationship between the many other autonomous Occupys inspired by OWS? Is there none? Is that part of the point? I realize this is directed in another line than the interrelationship between Occupys but sooner rather than later this question is coming up.

    • kludge

      chiming in from occupied vermont: the relationship i have with ows in new york is one of affinity and solidarity. we are in no way bound together except insofar as we feel and act as if we are. period.

  5. Rae

    I would say, as an indirect member of another OWS-inspired Occupy (based solely on my location – I can’t be physically at OWS and so I try to engage locally as well), that any other Occupy can be a part of the spirit of the movement if it chooses to be, however anything that calls itself “Occupy ____” can’t necessarily be said to be in the same spirit. Also, I think each occupation eventually generates its own slant differing from OWS because each city and its struggles are slightly different.

    Also, any Occupy can ratify its own declaration, if it so chooses. Or, it could choose to ratify OWS’s declaration. It all depends on what each piece of the movement wants to do.

    So, in a long-winded sort of way, I would say that each Occupy is autonomous from OWS and responsible for its own momentum, message, and actions. Many state clearly that they stand in solidarity (and in most, if not all, were formed in solidarity) with OWS. I think that gets at the heart of the fact that they are still their own group and can, of course, at any point choose to diverge from OWS.

    I think the term “the 99% movement” is a better term for the overall movement because I think it gets more at the heart of the symbol – everyone is welcome to join the conversation. You don’t necessarily need a public occupation to join the conversation, and now we see the movement moving in a new direction anyway as many occupations are being evicted.

    But, as the new mantra goes: you cannot evict an idea whose time has come.
    And I think that idea is the core of all this. If you join with sincerity in that idea and that conversation, you are a part of it. If you don’t, then you aren’t. And no label can join in a conversation, only the individuals. So, I would say: individuals from anywhere and any group can be a part of OWS, but no label they create can become OWS.

    Does this make some sense? I feel I rambled some in there. Sorry, if it’s unclear.

  6. waggoner41

    There has been a bogus list of demands posted on anOWS web site along with a disclaimer that the list is bogus.
    I am having discussion with others who now believe that the list of demands is valid and I need this information to rebut their comments.
    Can anyone provide the URL for the list and disclaimer?

    Thanks for your help,

  7. Joanne Owens

    Do you have a mission statement or a document which states the concerns of #OWS. Just want something to shut the pundits up. Don’t want to hear that they don’t know what #OWS wants. DAH!! I know I want our government to be of the people, for the people and by the people (which does include the 1% on a reasonable basis). They made their millions of the backs of the 99% so it’s only fair that the wealth SHOULD more than trickle down. Open those flood gates!

  8. Patrick Pinkerton

    We acknowledge the existence of professional activists….Those seeking to capitalize on this movement or undermine it by appropriating its message or symbols are not a part of Occupy.

    We must be aware of the professional activist. They are more often after their own agendas. I trust only those who have Occupied space rather than the comfortable attempting to assuage their own guilt. Occupy Now!

    • Glenn Occupy Everywhere Myron

      So you don’t trust those who are physically unable, for one reason or another (such as illness or some sort of disability, or inability to afford transportation to the nearest encampment) to Occupy at an encampment? What about parents who have to continue working their job(s) as well as being at home to care for their children? What about people who’s age and or health preclude them from camping out in the rain or snow? What about people who live in towns without an encampment, towns where the impracticality of setting up an encampment precludes doing so (seriously, if there are only going to be less than 5 people total camping out, it is pretty much pointless, let alone someplace where a potential Occupier would be the ONLY one there)?

      Of course, what about those professional activists who show their conviction and fortitude by camping out? You going to trust them just because they Occupied someplace?

      I believe that excluding people from the Movement because they are either unable to physically Occupy, or because they are a union organizer or a professional activist can only hurt the Movement. It divides us, which is exactly what the 1% wants to do.

      And yes, I have Occupied. I spent several weeks away from my hometown of Saginaw to Occupy Lansing Michigan, and I took advantage of the free trip to DC that the SEIU arranged this past week for their “Take Back Our Capitol” event. I spent 20 some hours this past week marching and demonstrating in the rain this week, and the primary reason I didn’t camp out at either of the encampments in DC was because of health concerns (I have serious respiratory problems that were acting up all week, and the damp and chill air only made it worse). I expect to be camping with the Occupy Flint (Michigan) group at some point later this month, and hope to camp again come springtime somewhere here in Michigan (with my health, I cannot afford to camp out through much of the winter).

    • Cleo

      What is a “professional activist”? Is it someone who goes to demonstrations? The word “professional” usually implies that the person is being paid. I am not sure that is what is meant here by “professional.” But I think it is important to allow people to stand in solidarity, and spread the message, using their art or their ideas or whatever statement they are capable of. All spaces need to be “occupied.” Individual occupations can take place anywhere from a city plaza to a lobby of a business, etc. I think the point is to create the reality that no matter where anyone goes that space is occupied with the message of change.

  9. Matt Sharp

    How bout instead of a statement of autonomy, we get a statement of purpose. I am 110% for the return to democracy from the financial, corporate oligarchy springing up around us but in order for the lack of hierarchy within OWS to have any influence, the work a day citizen with no idea what a derivative, MBS, or fractional reserve banking is must understand the purpose. Popular uprisings need popular support and the pawns in their cubicles are just as necessary if not moreso than the free spirits.

    Barnhardt Capital Management shut its doors due to the MF Global fiasco. This is an adaptation from their statement:
    Until the government of the United States has been sufficiently reformed and repopulated so as to engender total and complete confidence in the government, its adherence to and enforcement of the rule of law, and in its competent and just regulatory oversight of any markets that may reform. So long as the government remains criminal, it would serve no purpose whatsoever to attempt to rebuild the future, because in a lawless environment, the same thievery and fraud would simply happen again, and the criminals would go unpunished, sheltered by the criminal oligarchy.

    It’s a start…

  10. Dan Chilton

    Matt-Statement of purpose?
    IMO- there are many, and a diversity with respect to defining them and achieving them. We have been ‘trained’ to accept unified simplified, packaged and dumbed down messages for branding and products. As a horizontal democratic movement participation in the process is required.
    I believe there is room for a multiplicity of purposes, and diversity of perspectives about them and their importance.
    OWS is ‘leaderless’, which makes us all ‘leaders’ in a way.
    To borrow from an expression, a little , “I asked why doesn’t sombody… then I realized I am somebody.”
    What is your statement of purpose?
    I’ve been trying to write my personal list of top 10 priorities needed in this country. I’m trying to formulate it with objective fact, and compelling human values.
    Its been interesting and engaging as a process. I try to share ideas as I go along, but I’m not done. It is a process and it involves participation, listening and self reflection.
    Jump in. Share your thoughts, your time labor and presence.
    If I havent given you any answers, then here are two questions:
    What do you think OWS’s purpose is? and
    What do you want it to be?
    I hope that helps.

    • Aaron

      When I was organizing a project to collect donations and money that we were delivering to OWS from Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vt, I also had to explore what the OWS or more specifically the “We are the 99 percent” meant to me. It was an adventure to gather up the facts (CBO report, news articles, Occupy Dallas statement of November 30th) but it helped me convey that message to others.

      A thing that also helped was posting the photo to the tumblr website ( as a way of making it a bit more personal. We had over 100 people from our school allow us to take take their pictures that we combined into a photo collage. It was pretty cool.

    • Wolf Braun

      Agreement needs to be reached about the PURPOSE of the movement – if support for the movement is to be consolidated and if real progress is to be made.

      I’ve no doubt that the purpose relates to the loss of democratic control over our governments – which have become preoccupied with imposing POLICY agendas rather than with upholding fundamental PRINCIPLES ..

      What is more, if the serious failings of government institutions were to be fixed .. then the problems with Wall Street and related groups would inevitably be brought under control.

      Focusing on Wall Street without looking at the deeper failures in government that allowed Wall Street to go so badly wrong would be a mistake, because it would not fix the underlying problems.

      The preoccupation of those in government with IMPOSING partisan policy agendas has led to the most vital institutions of government act in ways that are in direct opposition to the fundamental purpose OF GOVERNMENT:

      That fundamental purpose OF GOVERNMENT relates to PRINCIPLES rather than POLICIES ..

      .. and THE core purpose of government is connected very directly with upholding the principle of fundamental justice.

      That principle dictates that no person or institution will act in any way that violates the fundamental rights and just interests of ANY other person.

      That is, the core purpose OF GOVERNMENT is to uphold the principles of fundamental justice – equally and for every single citizen.

      I believe that the widespread support for the OWS movement comes from a feeling among many that the movement is seeking some fundamental change in the way in which our society “works” ..

      .. so as to restore the principle of fundamental justice to its proper place as THE PRINCIPLE that guides and controls our society .. and to get government to do its essential job in upholding that principle .. as the institution with the duty to uphold that PRINCIPLE .. and to prevent the doing of harm by any person or party in our society.

      Effectively, the movement draws its support from the perception that it is more concerned with correcting the deeper failings in government that allowed Wall Street to go so seriously wrong in the first place, than with the failings in Wall Street itself.

      .. Put another way, support for the OWS movement arises from the fact that many believe or hope that it is directed by a commitment to restore the principle of fundamental justice to a proper place in our society ..

      .. and that the movement, in seeking to move towards that principle, is dedicated to bringing about essential changes in the most critical institutions in our society that have a duty to uphold that principle .. the institutions of government – which have increasingly strayed from THEIR most essential purpose:

      .. of protecting the rights and just interests of every citizen against the self-serving desires of those who want to bias the rules of society so as to create privileges for themselves.

      In effect, I believe that the OWS movement gets its support from the fact that the movement is seen:

      .. to stand behind the PRINCIPLE that governments must protect the rights and just interests of every citizen against the potential for abuse by any other citizen..

      .. and to undo any POLICY, programme or regulation that would compels any citizen to provide unjust privileges or benefits to any other.

      More narrowly, the OWS movement gets its support from the sense that it is attempting to take back democratic control of the vital institutions of government.

      That is, the movement draws a great deal of its support from the perception that it is concerned with the fact that those who occupy positions of public trust have lost their legitimacy ..

      .. by abusing the immense powers of the public offices that they hold so as to impose partisan POLICY agendas that grant privileges to the members of certain sub-groups in society …

      .. through the imposition of statutes, regulations and practices that grant privileges to some, at the expense of the rights of others..

      And the hope that lies behind the support for the movement comes from the perception that it is intent on trying to find ways to ensure that governments take all necessary steps to uphold the PRINCIPLE of fundamental justice equally and for all.

      That said, the embryonic support for the OWS movement comes from a sense that the PURPOSE OF THE MOVEMENT is to take back control of our government and its institutions ..

      .. so that governments begin to do their most essential job – begin to live up to THEIR actual purpose – of PROTECTING the rights of each and every citizen.

      So, if the PURPOSE OF THE MOVEMENT was to be articulated along the lines of taking back control of OUR governments from those who have perverted institutions that are essential to the operation of a sound and civil society, that would attract much deeper and wider support ..

      .. enough support, one might hope, that it would create sufficient pressure to force those who occupy positions of public trust within the vital institutions of government .. to act in accordance with the actual purpose of their positions within the overall purpose of government – and so move towards restoring the legitimacy of governments:

      .. by putting PRINCIPLE ahead of POLICY;

      .. and by protecting the rights and just interests of every citizen.

      If the PURPOSE OF THE MOVEMENT was to be concisely articulated – along the lines of the above – I believe that that would serve to consolidate support for the movement – and enhance the role of the movement as an effective agent of essential change.

      Once a clear statement of PURPOSE is articulated it would then be possible to move on to discussing policies and prescriptions for achieving that PURPOSE.

      Without the clear statement of of such a uniting PURPOSE, it would be impossible to evaluate any of the many policies and prescriptions that might be proposed by those who are associated with the movement . or who might want to use the movement to their own ends.

      It is necessary to articulate the PURPOSE.

  11. Cruz

    LeaderFULL, not leaderless. We are a group of 310 million LEADERS, we are not and should not be leaderless.

    not only should we welcome dissent, we should ENCOURAGE it!!!!!

  12. Patricia L

    All donations are accepted anonymously and are transparently allocated via consensus by the General Assembly or the Operational Spokes Council.