Two ad executives out of San Francisco, Andy and Ivan, wanted to get the message of Occupy Wall Street off of just signs and megaphones. (They’ve omitted their last names from public discussion because of the potential ties to illegality surrounding the movement.) What would be the biggest statement, the most symbolic way to express despair at the disparity between the 1% on top and the 99% on the streets? Andy and Ivan figured our currency would be an appropriate, ironic platform on which to display financial statistics about the distribution of wealth in the country. The methodology? Printing infographics onto dollar bills, bringing good old George Washington back into the forefront of political revolution.
Occupy George aims to circulate these bills through the economy, friends and Occupy Wall Street protests throughout the country as a metaphor for the unattainable currency of the rich versus the common currency of the 99%. Their efforts have brought infographics to the forefront of the news at a time when IGs are becoming ever more popular. People who didn’t even reside in the United States were e-mailing the pair, wanting to purchase the stamps. (Andy and Ivan won’t sell them, presumably because the whole movement is about monetary concerns anyway.) But now they’re asking for the public’s help in spreading the message.
“What started out in a one-bedroom apartment quickly spread, reaching millions of people not just at home but overseas,” they wrote in the Huffington Post. “Suddenly, two guys who wouldn’t categorize themselves as radical activists had somehow thrown themselves into the middle of a dialogue about the future of this country.”
As quickly as they became overwhelmed with support and media attention, the tide of the news has begun to carry Occupy George back out to sea. Ivan and Andy want the messages put forth by Occupy Wall Street to function like open-source networking–requiring collaboration and not placing privilege on any one group over anyone else. Whether through the distribution of Occupy George’s infographics, which are available online at no cost (with printing instructions), or other artistic modes of expression, they want to see the movement continue.
So, if you’re a participant in Occupy Wall Street–or maybe a quiet sideline supporter–you might be curious if Occupy George is legal. (By the same token, you might not care at all, but just in case you do…) There can be some fuzziness in the understanding of United States law regarding the destruction of American symbols like flags and currency. Some Occupy Wall Street protesters have been ripping, burning and otherwise desecrating American flags. That’s no longer illegal (but many feel strongly that it’s immoral). What about Occupy George? Is covering United States currency in images and ink illegal?
Title 18, Section 333 of the United States Code, reads,
“[W]hoever mutilates, cuts, disfigures, perforates, unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, Federal Reserve Bank, or Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued, shall be fined not more than $100 or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.”
Okay, that sounds a little intimidating, but look at the language: “with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued.” The Occupy George movement is pushing for the distribution of these bills–how would the data contained in the infographics be spread in physical form if the money weren’t recirculated? As long as the money isn’t damaged to the point of uselessness, Occupy George is perfectly legal.
Printing on or stamping dollar bills isn’t anything new–remember the “Where’s George” experiment? It’s another creative example of employing national currency for experimentation within our legal rights. While Where’s George didn’t have anything to do with infographics, it did inspire some,and there’s plenty of available statistics about it.
If you’re feeling uninspired or too small to invoke a change in something you feel passionately about, Ivan and Andy want to remind you that you can make anything possible.
“We’re just two semi-delusional dudes that followed through on a nutty idea.”0