On July 4, Philadelphia will see not one, but two conventions to address grievances with the government.
The 99% Declaration group and the Occupy movement are both planning national conventions this summer, but the groups differ in their philosophies toward governmental change.
The 99% Declaration, or 99D, is hosting a conference called “Continental Congress 2.0” in Philadelphia beginning on July 2. One man and woman will be elected from each Congressional district to attend the event. The 878 representatives will be elected through an online ballot open from June 1 to 3.
Each delegation will submit a list of grievances, which will be voted on from July 2 to 4. The petition of grievances will be finalized by July 4.
“The idea is to get the list down to about ten key grievances and give it to Congress, the president and the Supreme Court,” founder of 99D Michael Pollock said.
“We’re kind of like an offshoot of the Occupy movement,” said Robert Manning, 99D member and convention co-organizer. “We’re not representing ourselves as the Occupy movement.”
After a vote, the agreed-upon petition will be read on the steps of Independence Hall. 99D has already received a parade permit from Mayor Michael Nutter, Pollock said.
However, the Occupy movement does not endorse 99D and is displeased that the group did not consult them in the planning of the convention.
“Our movement thrives on transparency and horizontalism, and [99D’s] meetings take place in a hierarchical structure behind closed doors,” Occupy member and organizer Larry Swetman said. He added that delegate candidates for the 99D conference are required to put in a Social Security number, which excludes parts of the population. According to the 99D website, delegates must be citizens or permanent residents.
Occupy is planning its own five-day National Gathering in Philadelphia culminating on July 4, according to Swetman.
The Philadelphia General Assembly passed a proposal on January 7 to form the first National Working Group to plan the convention and has reached out to Occupy groups in other cities.
“We’ve never attempted to all get in one place at once,” Swetman said. He added that through regional Occupy gatherings, they realized that their strength comes from the collective number.
He said the goal of the National Gathering is “to craft a vision for the future.”
Swetman added that no Occupy general assembly has reacted negatively to the idea yet.
“If I had my way, every inch of asphalt in Philadelphia would be covered because so many people attend,” he said.
Manning said 99D had reached out to the Occupy movement in Zuccotti Park for collaboration, but the movement refused to endorse 99D and Continental Congress 2.0.
A representative from 99D attended an Occupy Philadelphia General Assembly, according to an Occupy press release, but because of “outrage at the group’s behavior,” they voted unanimously not to support them.
The press release cited concerns about eligibility to be a delegate candidate, having closed meetings with the Philadelphia City Council before coming to the Occupy Philadelphia General Assembly, and association with former Goldman Sachs executives.
The two groups have very different methods to achieve their goals. Occupy intensely disagrees with 99D on the basis of representative democracy versus direct democracy.
“We’re trying to include the 99 percent and they’re trying to include a few hundred people,” Swetman said.
Meanwhile, 99D finds issue with Occupy’s philosophy of governance by direct democracy ineffective and unfair.
“If for some reason you aren’t able to go to a local meeting, you’re just not heard,” Pollock said. “To us that’s not democratic, it’s survival of the fittest.”
Direct democracy works on a local level but not on a national level, Pollock added. He disagreed with the idea of the general populace directly deciding issues of foreign policy that affected the whole country.
“[Occupy] thinks we’re just part of a broken system,” he said.
“I personally think [Continental Congress 2.0] is going to fail miserably,” Swetman said.
As of Mar. 26, 99D needs about 500 more candidates to run for a delegate position, according to Pollock. Whether or not there are delegates from every state, Continental Congress 2.0 will still run as planned.
Manning hopes Continental Congress 2.0 will go viral, adding that he is working on creating a video to get the word out.
The National Gathering does not need a set number of general assemblies to ratify its proclamation because it is non-hierarchical, according to Swetman.
“The initiative comes from the ground up,” he said, “Not top down.”
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