It’s a tactic that puts supporters of Occupy Wall Street beyond the reach of pepper spray, and it spreads far and wide in a public and private way the message of crippling financial disparity that’s at the heart of the movement. It’s a literal take on the medium being the message. A project called Occupy George is turning your dollar bills into informational protest placards.
The group is stamping bills with pie charts, proportional graphs, etc, that suggest the way wealth has become concentrated in the United States over the past few decades. The bills point to a reality where power, like money, moves increasingly away from the majority of people to the few who can afford the exorbitant sums that are now merely the going rate for doing business in Washington. The project makes the point that your dollar bills, like your power, flow in one direction: away from you and toward the few.
“Money talks, but not loud enough for the 99 percent,” the OccupyGeorge artists write to introduce the project. “By circulating dollar bills stamped with fact-based infographics, Occupy George informs the public of America’s daunting economic disparity one bill at a time. Because money knowledge is power.”
Some of the messages inscribed through graphics onto the bills:
“Just 400 Americans control as much wealth as the bottom half of the entire country.”
“The income growth disparity in America is wider than it was pre-Great Depression.”
“In America, the average CEO earns 185 times more than the average worker.”
“The richest 1% of Americans control over 1/3 of the wealth, leaving the bottom 80% with less than 1/5.”
“Unless things change, it’s safe to assume that our money will ultimately end up in the hands of the one percent.”
Occupy George has made templates of its designs available to be downloaded for home printers.
Protesting through currency is not a new tactic. Most famously, perhaps, gay rights activists in the early 2000s affixed pink stickers to or marked up bills with pink marker to suggest to merchants how much of their income was coming from gay people or gay rights supporters.
Is this graffiti technically legal? As long as the currency remains useable or “reissue-able” one transaction after another.
“The intent,” as Occupy George puts it, “is not to render any money unfit to be reissued, and in fact the hope is that all stamped money will circulate as much as possible…”