It’s that time again and it hardly seems possible a year has gone by since Occupy set fire to the cause of the 99 percent, bringing greater attention to the kinds of disparity foisted on Americans by the greed of big banks and corporations. Occupy’s birthday is September 17 and it will be commemorated in New York City as well as globally. Locally, the action begins Saturday the 15th, with a mass gathering in Washington Square Park. Once again, people will converge on the streets to demand accountability and transparency because it’s even more evident today than it was a year ago that greed and corruption in business and politics have to end.
Many in the Occupy movement and many Americans in general feel big money is usurping politicians and destroying American democracy. They feel it’s big money, not public interest manipulating elections and politicians. Not everyone, however, is willing to sit back and watch it happen. Certainly not Guido Girgenti, east coast coordinator for 99Rise, who, last Tuesday night addressed an assembly of about 30 people, including several members of Occupy Bergen County and Bergen Grassroots, on the subject of 99Rise and our jilted economy, at The Ethical Culture Society in Teaneck.
99Rise, which was launched by the Center for the Working Poor in Los Angeles as well as other civil disobedience groups, is dedicated to putting an end to the corruption caused by "dark "or corporate money that rules elections. According to Girgenti,“in order for things to be fair, the top one percent needs to have 3,000 percent less power.”
The public also has to be made more aware and legislation has to go into effect. 99Rise is currently circulating an online petition to end dark money on its website: http://www.99rise.org. The public not only needs to become informed, it needs to become an ally by participating in movements and supporting legislation to end the problem, and by offering donations.
There has to be mass nonviolent action, said the Brooklyn-based Girgenti. “We have to reduce the influence that corporations has over the political process because they make so much money out of subsidies that they are not going to stop doing it on their own.” Girgenti gave some eye-popping statistics: “For every $1 that fossil fuel companies give, they get $5,900 in return; for every $1 that big pharmacies give, they get $77,500 in return.” Along with that, white males dominate politics and Congress, where, “if things continue going as they are, there will not be gender parity for another 500 years.”
Interestingly, studies indicate that there is a “bipartisan consensus concerning the issue of taking politics out of government.” When it comes to this issue, the parties are united.
On September 28, members of 99Rise and other groups will assemble in front of J.P. Morgan Chase Bank on Wall Street with the aim of engaging in mass nonviolent disobedience. Many who will be there, including Girgenti, do not intend to back down until they get disclosures of corporate money sources from the bank, even if authorities try to force them to go away. The 99Risers are prepared to go to jail.
99Rise believes in mass action, but it is also working on a constitutional amendment that will end corruption, so politicians can go back to supporting the American people and not their corporate sponsors.
In order to shift public opinion, 99Rise has to create active allies, said Girlenti. This means getting people to vote and give money to those causes and candidates that truly support the needs of people and democracy. “Fair elections supported by the American public need to become part of the American bedrock,” he said. Right now, “bankers can buy democracy while citizens demanding disclosure are put in jail.” Once people see how the system really works, Girgenti believes they will "come off the sidelines” and into the movement.