Founded in 2011, Take The Square (TTS) describes itself as a nonviolent organization seeking “to change an unfair system” – i.e., free-market capitalism – by implementing “specific and feasible alternatives” that will “improve life on this planet for all its inhabitants.” Proposing “global … solutions” for “global problems,” TTS emphasizes “solidarity” among “human beings fighting and acting together regardless of [geographic] borders” and unbeholden to the interests of any particular nation. As of September 2011, TTS had chapters in Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Take The Square characterizes its members and supporters as “indignant citizens who have had enough” of “being commodities for politicians and bankers to deal in.” Complaining that a mere 1 percent of America’s population holds a vast majority of the country’s wealth, TTS’s U.S. chapter members affirm: “We are the 99% and we demand our share!” In a bid to “challenge Wall Street’s influence and corporate rule of our lives,” TTS rejects the notion that ordinary citizens “should have to pay the costs of the [economic] crisis” that struck the United States in 2008, while the “instigators” of that crisis “continue to post record profits.”
Wholly opposed to the role of money in U.S. politics, TTS has also called for the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision of 2010 – which nullified a provision of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act barring corporations and unions from paying for political ads made independently of candidate campaigns – to be overturned.
TTS originally grew out of a Spanish protest movement whose signature event was a May 15, 2011 demonstration (popularly known as “M15”) – organized by Democracia Real Ya (Real Democracy Now) – where tens of thousands of marchers assembled in Madrid to protest their country’s newly enacted economic reforms which included a hike in the retirement age from 65 to 67; cutbacks to government-funded social-welfare programs; reforms to a collective-bargaining system which had traditionally ensured annual pay raises across all sectors and industries; and labor-law changes designed to make it easier for employers to fire workers. The Spanish government enacted each of these reforms out of desperation, as the country’s foundering economy was plagued by a 21.3 percent unemployment rate. From observing the M15 demonstrators who flooded the streets and plazas of Madrid, TTS derived “the idea of camping in the square as a way of demonstrating against a dominant and oppressive system [led] by a political class working for banks and big corporations.”
TTS’s United States chapter – based in New York City – was a key organizer of a September 17, 2011 “Day of Rage” protest targeting Wall Street, the hub of Manhattan’s financial district. The group billed this event as an opportunity for people to “take to the streets and squares of their communities as a unified expression of resistance” against “social, environmental and economic [in]justice.” Calling on Americans everywhere to fight “market dictatorship,” TTS promoted the September 17 gathering by issuing such rallying cries as: “People of the world rise up”; “Take to the streets”; and “We are legion.” Other noteworthy organizers of the day’s events, which drew approximately 1,000 participants, included the Adbusters Media Foundation, Anonymous, NYC General Assembly, Occupy Wall Street, and USDayOfRage.
According to journalist Aaron Klein, the September 17 protests apparently represented “the culmination” of a campaign by Wade Rathke, founder of ACORN and president of an SEIU local in New Orleans, who in March 2011 had issued a call for “days of rage in ten cities around JP Morgan Chase.” Rathke’s efforts were supported by Stephen Lerner, an SEIU board member and radical-left organizer who candidly aims to “destabilize the folks that are in power and start to rebuild a movement”; “bring down the stock market”; “bring down [the] bonuses” of executives in the financial sector; and “interfere with their ability to … be rich.”
On October 1, 2011, a horde of the Wall Street demonstrators shut down traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge for two-and-a-half hours, a move that resulted in some 700 arrests. Among the high-profile personalities who had already made personal appearances in support of the demonstrators were Charles Barron, filmmaker Michael Moore (who spoke at the September 17 New York rally), Frances Fox Piven, Charles Rangel, Susan Sarandon, Russell Simmons, and Cornel West.[
Professing to “reac[h] decisions openly, democratically and horizontally,” TTS has “no leaders or hierarchy” in charge of its operations. Its organizing efforts rely heavily on the use of Internet social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, which enable its members and supporters “to reach all the nooks and crannies in cyberspace.”