Initial motives for the Occupy movement were "protest corporate influence on democracy, address a growing disparity in wealth, and the absence of legal repercussions behind the recent global financial crisis".
The movement from the start was deeply democratic, with the slogan "We're the 99%".
(So: 1) lack of democracy; 2) declining standards of living, 3) government in cahoots with finance capital, at the expense of the majority of the people - these were the intial basic grievances of the protesters).
"Busineness Insider" explains the problem as the victory of the capital over labor:
"The problem in a nutshell is this: Inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation's history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high. In other words, in the never-ending tug-of-war between "labor" and "capital," there has rarely—if ever—been a time when "capital" was so clearly winning."
Read more of the story for social statistics about the U.S.
The movement originally started on Internet: "Adbusters co-founder Kalle Lasn registered the OccupyWallStreet.org web address on 9 June, (2011)". "It was originally launched as a Tumblr blog page in late August 2011".
Through its lack of clear goals, or vaguely formulated goals, the movement shows that it is led by the petty bourgeoisie. " According to Bloomberg Businessweek, protesters wanted more and better jobs, more equal distribution of income, bank reform, and a reduction of the influence of corporations on politics. The movement has also been described as broadly anticapitalist".
The movement was definitely socialist, or social-democratic, in nature. E.g. "The Occupy Antwerp (Antwerpen) movement prepared for a first gathering on Saturday 22 October at the Groenplaats, next to the cathedral. About 150-200 people attended a speakers corner. The small socialist party (PVDA) was present and served free soup as well as propaganda for their miljonairs tax (www.miljonairstaks.be, Dutch)."
On Oct. 10 and 11, the polling firm Penn, Schoen & Berland interviewed nearly 200 protesters. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, 98% would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and 31% would support violence to advance their agenda. Most are employed; 15% are unemployed.
When asked, "What frustrates you the most about the political process in the United States", 30% said, "Influence of corporate/moneyed/special interests." Only 6% said "Income inequality" and 3% said, "Our democratic/capitalist system." When asked, "What would you like to see the Occupy Wall Street movement achieve", 35% said "Influence the Democratic Party the way the Tea Party has influenced the GOP" and 11% said, "Break the two-party duopoly." Only 4% said "Radical redistribution of wealth." This shows that majority of Americans were not yet ready for revolution.It was a middle and working class movement. Both petty bourgeoisie and different workers and unemployed, students, participated.
It should be noted that "Black block" was blocked from participating the "Occupy". This shows government hand in manipulating the outcome of the movement.
"The movement has been described as having an "overriding commitment" to Participatory democracy. Much of the movement's democratic process occurs in "working groups," where any protester is able to have their say. Important decisions are often made at General assemblies, which can themselves be informed by the findings of multiple working groups. Decisions are made using the consensus model of participatory democracy. This often features the use of hand signals to increase participation and operating with discussion facilitators rather than leaders... At the assemblies, working group proposals are made to meeting participants, who comment upon them using a process called a stack; a queue of speakers that anyone can join. In New York City, Occupy Wall Street uses what is called a progressive stack, in which people from marginalized groups are sometimes allowed to speak before people from dominant groups, with facilitators, or stack-keepers, urging speakers to "step forward, or step back" based on which group they belong to, meaning that women and minorities get to go to the front of the line, while white males must often wait for a turn to speak".
"General assemblies (GA) are the primary decision making bodies of the global Occupy Movement which arose in 2011. Open to all who wish to take part, general assemblies allow for an inclusive form of direct democracy. Such assemblies aim to establish a consensus among all participants.
Assemblies are primarily voice based with different speakers addressing the crowd in turn. The specific forms adopted by the occupy assemblies vary across the world. Most assemblies have facilitators to keep order and ensure that if possible everyone gets to have their say. The larger assemblies often restrict the speakers just to spokespeople who represent smaller working groups, however each individual is still able to provide feedback, if only by means of hand signals...
Another organisational feature form many larger general assemblies is to limit speaking mainly just to representatives of smaller working groups. This means that each individual gets a chance to speak and ask questions at work group level, while at assembly level the discussions are kept at a manageable length."
"Many of the movements decisions are taken by "working groups" composed of whoever wants to turn up, with more important decisions taken at "General assemblies"
Some sites such as New York and London have begun to use a "spokes system", with major issues first discussed at working group level where all individual protesters are allowed their say, and then at the general assembly where a designated spokesperson summarises the views of each group". This is a combination of direct democracy with representative.
"“Protesters are circulating a proposal to streamline the process with something called a Spokes Council. Under that model, the various working groups would nominate representatives to participate in the General Assembly on their behalf. The spokesperson would rotate, and during the General Assembly they would periodically conferring with their respective working groups, which would be seated behind them. The idea has already been blocked once in the General Assembly, but is set to come up again” (Source )
The NYCGA is the governing body of New York City’s Occupy Wall Street; it meets every evening at 7 pm, where all the committees come and discuss their thoughts and needs. It is open to all who want to attend, and anyone can speak. And while there is no named leader, some of the members do routinely moderate the general assembly meetings.
New York City requires a permit to use "amplified sound", including electric bullhorns. This was a conscious attempt to shut them up, which the Wall Street didn't address publicly. Since Occupy Wall Street does not have such a permit, the protesters created the "Human Microphone" in which a speaker pauses while the nearby members of the audience repeats the phrase (somewhat) in unison. The effect has been called "comic or exhilarating—often all at once." Some feel this provided a further unifying effect for the crowd.
Majority of the movement was young: "about 64% of respondents are younger than 34... About 8% have, at best, a high school degree. And just about a quarter (26.7%) are enrolled in school. Only about 10% are full-time students... Half of the respondents are already employed full-time, and an additional 20% work part-time. Just 13.1% are unemployed--not a whole lot more than the national average... just 27.3% of respondents call themselves Democrats (and 2.4% are Republican). And the rest, 70% call themselves independents... Twenty-nine percent of respondents are regular Twitter users. But 66% are Facebook regulars. The biggest online community, however, is YouTube, with about 74% being regular users." (Source ) So, YouTube and Facebook are the biggest organizational tools.
The movement initially started as non-revolutionary, with commitment to "non-violence". Violence as a right has been reserved only to the ruling classes, e.g. when assaulting and dispersing the protesters.
Occupy movement today uses a lot of "revolutionary" rhetoric, without a single story being about a revolution. It's a reformist movement.
However, there was a revolutionary tendency within the movement:
“In Rome masked and hooded militants wearing makeshift body armor, in black bloc fashion, infiltrated the protests centered in St John Lateran square and committed numerous violent acts, throwing Molotov cocktails and other homemade explosives, burning and blowing up cars, burning buildings, and smashing up property such as ATMs and shop windows. The Roman Catholic church Santi Marcellino e Pietro al Laterano received extensive damage, including a statue of the Virgin Mary being thrown into the street and destroyed”.