Wall Street has long been the home of the biggest threat to American Democracy. Now it has become home to what may be our best hope for rescuing it. For everyone who loves this country, for everyone whose heart is breaking for the growing ranks of the poor, for everyone who is seething at the unopposed demolition of America’s working and middle class: the time has come to get off the fence. A new generation has gone to the scene of the crimes committed against our future. The time has come for all people of good will to give our full-throated backing to the young people of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The young heroes on Wall Street today baffle the world because they have issued no demands. The villains of Wall Street had their demands — insisting upon a massive bailout for themselves in 2008, while they pocketed million dollar bonuses. The Wall Street protesters are not seeking a bailout for themselves; they are working to bail out democracy. The American experiment in self-governance is at a moment of crisis. The political system thus far has proven itself incapable of responding to a once in a lifetime economic calamity. With income inequality and unemployment at the highest rates since the Great Depression, it’s no wonder that almost 80 percent of the country thinks we’re on the wrong track. But the crisis of American Democracy did not start with the financial collapse. For at least 30 years, the system has been rigged by the wealthy and privileged to acquire more wealth and privilege. At this point, 400 families control more wealth than 180 million Americans. This great wealth divergence has resulted in an unjust and dangerous concentration of economic and political power in the hands of the few. It has pushed millions — especially the rising generation and communities of color — into the shadows of our society. The middle class continues to shrink, and the ranks of the poor have swelled. The political elite has failed to take the necessary steps to provide opportunity to the majority of Americans. A movement was born after Madison, Wisconsin, to oppose these injustices. It has now spread to every Congressional District. We call ourselves the American Dream Movement. We engaged 130,000 people to crowd-source our own jobs agenda — the Contract for the American Dream . In August, tens of thousands demonstrated for jobs in rallies across the nation. Next week in DC, we host our first national gathering: the Take Back The American Dream conference . The Occupation of Wall Street — and the occupations throughout the country — are expressions of the same spirit and dynamic. And these particular demonstrations, perhaps uniquely, contain the spark to grow into a movement that can be transformative. They are the first, small step in the creation of a movement that can restore American Democracy, and renew the American Dream. The hundreds of young people from all five boroughs that camp out every night, in the heart of the financial district, in the rain and the cold, at risk of arrest, are providing the inspiration to draw more and more out of the shadows and into the bright light of the public square. The occupation grows larger and more diverse every day. Young people, the majority of whom are under 25 and have never before engaged in activism, are managing the arduous task of a consensus rules meeting with no sound system. The nightly general assemblies are attracting crowds in the thousands to stand amongst a group of their peers and debate our path forward as a people. The occupation is a revival of a proud tradition of authentic, people-powered movements that have been dormant — and that we need now more than ever. It is building into the kind of massive public demonstrations — like those in Egypt, Madison, and Santiago — that can shake the foundation of a system of power that has lost sight of the public good. Now is our time to choose. Will we keep rewarding those whose financial manipulations have brought us to ruin? Or will we stand with those whose democratic innovations are breathing life into our finest ideals? Both groups are within blocks of each other in downtown Manhattan. For the past 30 years, the country has stood behind the titans on Wall Street and their values. We listened when they said that their banks were too big too fail. Today, there is only one thing that’s too big to fail: the dreams of this new generation, finding its voice in Liberty Park. All of America should now stand with them. Authored by Van Jones, President of Rebuild The Dream , and Max Berger, a youth organizer with the American Dream Movement.
As I stood in the courtyard of Jackson State Prison in Georgia yesterday holding a prayer vigil for Troy Anthony Davis, I, like so many others held out hope for some sort of miracle. In the exact location where I joined Troyâ€™s mother in 2008 when we received such a miracle 90 minutes before his scheduled execution, perhaps I was too optimistic in believing that similar action could take place and justice would prevail. Check out the rest of our Troy Davis coverage here Top 5 Most Wrongful Executions Ever Despite the fact that there was a last minute delay in Troyâ€™s execution last night that sent jubilation throughout the crowd, all of us collectively watched as he was eventually put to death. This time, even with an expansive global movement to save his life, the miracle unfortunately never arrived. Ever since I was first introduced to the Troy Davis case several years ago, I have been perplexed as to how a man was convicted based solely on eyewitness statements and without any physical evidence. No weapon, no DNA and no proof other than the fact that some people stated he committed the alleged crime. But what makes Troyâ€™s case an utter travesty in our legal system is the fact that 7 out of these 9 witnesses have since recanted their testimony and many said that they were coerced or pressured into pointing the finger at Troy. And yet, he was still executed last night. One of the two remaining witnesses who did not recant his/her testimony was a man by the name of Sylvester â€˜Reddâ€™ Coles â€” another suspect in this case. And yet, Troy was still executed last night. A female witness even stated that she was threatened by Coles if she came forward, and yet Troy was still executed last night. Everyone from former President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu to former prison wardens and conservatives who are pro-death penalty pushed for a stay in this manâ€™s death penalty, and yet Troy was still executed last night. I will be traveling to Washington, D.C. to meet with the Justice Department to push for a federal law that prohibits any state from prosecuting a capital case based solely on eyewitness testimony. Nowhere in America should an individual be executed again without any concrete physical evidence. And at this time, as we mourn the loss of Troy, we must continue to move as well â€” to mourn without moving only compounds this most egregious injustice. Although it may be very difficult, especially for those that knew Troy and those that fought on his behalf for years, we all must push forward and ensure that his death was not in vain. A federal law is absolutely necessary, and whether one is pro-death penalty or anti-death penalty like myself, we need to set the bar to where concrete evidence must be required before taking a personâ€™s life. For those of us who were pushing for a stay in Troyâ€™s execution, do not let anyone paint you as against the family of the slain police officer in this case, Mark MacPhail â€” for that is the furthest thing from the truth. Our deepest sympathies go out to the MacPhail family, and because they too deserve justice, a re-examination of this case was essential in order to truly determine who was culpable. Thatâ€™s all Troy Davis asked for; a chance to halt his execution and receive a fair day in court. But tragically, that opportunity was diminished last night. As I left Georgia yesterday to return to NY, I was consumed in the irony that so many heads of state were gathered at the UN and heard the U.S. stress the importance of human rights while we simultaneously executed this man. What did they think as they turned on the news, read the papers and watched how we behaved? In order to preach and advocate for rule of law and civil/human rights, we must first rectify our own miscarriages of justice at home. Troy Davis died at the age of 42, after spending 22 years behind bars. As we know all too well, those with money and the ability to hire high-powered attorneys receive the best defense and fighting chance in court. Imagine if one day you woke up and someone accused you of murder and you were then sentenced to death for it. Thatâ€™s pretty much what happened to Troy. Based solely on eyewitness testimony that is almost unanimously recanted, a manâ€™s life was cut short last night. If laws are designed to protect us and establish a humane society, we must rectify them so that this sort of injustice never happens again. Mourn we must, but we must continue to move. Carry on the fighting spirit of Troy Davis who till his last breath, proclaimed his innocence.