Coming soon? An Occupy Wall Street debit card

Coming soon? An Occupy Wall Street debit card

To mark the second anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement last month, an assortment of protests, marches and rallies were held, to support or oppose mostly predictable causes.

At the same time, a far more surprising undertaking began with far less fanfare: creating a prepaid Occupy debit card.

The idea, led by a group that includes a Cornell law professor, a former director of Deutsche Bank and a former British diplomat, is meant to serve people who do not have bank accounts, but it also aims to make Occupy a recognized financial services brand.

On Sept. 17, the day of the anniversary, the group, known as the Occupy Money Cooperative, began raising money to pay for initial operating expenses. The group’s Web site invites visitors to “join the revolution,” suggesting that using the card might represent a “protest with every purchase.” That language evokes the spirit of the sprawling encampment of tents and tarps that briefly took over Zuccotti Park in 2011, and several people who were familiar figures there have endorsed the mission of the card, which its founders have described as “low-cost, transparent, high-quality financial services to the 99 percent.”

But not everyone associated with the Occupy movement likes the idea; the notion of the Occupy name emblazoned on a financial product, even one made by people with some connection to the movement, has prompted questions about who controls the name and message.

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“Too much blood, sweat and tears have been going into Occupy to have that turned into a piece of plastic,” said Bill Dobbs, a longtime Occupy participant. “This is a very odd fit, and for the project’s sake and Occupy’s sake, they ought to go on separate paths.”

From its beginning, Occupy’s participants were protective of the group’s name and image, rejecting association with political parties. Protesters invaded the set of a “Law & Order: S.V.U.” episode that was based on the movement, and lashed out at Jay-Z when he sold Occupy-themed T-shirts.

The idea for a debit card sprouted more than a year ago, said Carne Ross, a cooperative member who resigned from the British foreign service in 2004 to protest the Iraq war. Mr. Ross was also a member of the alternative banking working group established by Occupy’s General Assembly.

“There is no profit here,” said Mr. Ross, adding that once the cooperative raised about $ 900,000, it would make the cards available to anyone who signed up on the group’s Web site. “The only revenue we want is to make the thing sustainable and eventually expand our range of services.”

(Read more: Two-year-old Occupy Wall Street has ‘lost momentum’)

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