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Occupy Wall Street Is Not a Spectator Sport: 5 Ways the 99 Percent Can Contribute to the Movement Right Now

How can the rest of the 99 percent demonstrate our outrage? Here are five things we can do, without parking a tent in the street.

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3. Terminate Your Bank Accounts in Public

If you’re going to withdraw your accounts from the major banks, then do it with gusto. At the very least we should try to use our new social media to pick a common time and location to close out our accounts together. We could even have a card-burning event in plain view. (Unlike burning your draft card in the old days, it’s perfectly legal to burn your credit card…outdoors, that is.) 

4. Start a “99 Percent Club”

Americans lead the world in setting up new civic organizations. How about launching “99 Percent clubs” in your neighborhood and town? For starters, your club could brainstorm public actions to demonstrate anger at Wall Street. A silent vigil every Friday afternoon at one of the local banks would be a good start. (“Honk if you feel ripped off by Wall Street!")

Each group could develop imaginative actions that could grow in size, and that could gain the attention of the local media. Our social media could easily spread the best actions to other groups. And once you do get the ball rolling, build up your events by talking with your neighbors. I don’t think many doors will slam in your face. Instead, you’ll probably find a lot of angry people looking for ways to contribute.  

5. Convince Yourself That You Can Make a Difference

Perhaps the most important act of defiance starts in our heads. We need to believe that real change is possible and that each of us can contribute. We’ve got to get over the idea that someone else – a political knight in shining armor -- is going to do it for us. We have to face up to the fact that very few politicians have the guts to challenge Wall Street. So it’s on us. This doesn’t mean that each of us has to be a superhero and lock ourselves to the gates of Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan Chase. But each of us needs to do something concrete. At the very least we need to show up from time to time at our local Occupy Wall Street site.  

Why would that matter? Because the currency of a populist movement is feet on the street. We need to publicly display our support in any way we can. As long as there is something called free will, each of us has the opportunity to go somewhere and publicly show that we are part of the irate 99 percent. We need to publicly display our anger at rule by a faction of the 1 percent.  

Add to this list: Those of us trying to build up a new populist movement don’t have the answers. Our most useful role is to provide information, make the frameworks clear and push the discussion. The really good ideas seem like they magically appear. In fact, they are produced by the clash and exchange of ideas involving tens of thousands of people. We all need to dream them up, share them and bat them around until something clicks.   

All we know for sure is that something is clicking right now. We have America’s attention….for now. And if we want this moment to last and develop, then each of us needs to add to this list. What can we do to show our support for the 99 percent? What can we do to protest against rule by financial elites? How do we build up this fledgling movement?  

It’s your turn. Let ‘er rip!

Les Leopold is the executive director of the Labor Institute and Public Health Institute in New York, and author of The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It (Chelsea Green, 2009).

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