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Inside ‘Occupy Wall Street': Zuccotti Park, The Protesters’ New Home And HQ

CBS 2, WCBS 880 Send Reporters To See What's It's Like Living In This 'City'
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Zuccotti Park

As CBS 2 and WCBS 880 found out recently, the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters came to Zuccotti Park prepared and ready for the long haul. (Photo: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — More than 100 “Occupy Wall Street” protesters won’t be going home Thursday night. They’ll be spending the night in what’s become a make-shift city.

CBS 2’s Ann Mercogliano spent Wednesday night with the protesters, for an inside look.

It was 11 p.m. Wednesday inside Zuccotti Park — a block from ground zero. It has become the rallying point for the protest movement. Fueled by frustration with bank bailouts and the state of the economy, the protests are now happening across the country, but it all started in Zuccotti back on Sept. 17. Many people have been camped out ever since and they’ve created a city within a city.

Mercogliano’s mission was to stay here all night and figure out how these protestors are surviving day in and day out.

She first found what’s known as the “comfort station” — boxes of donated warm clothes, shoes and blankets. As temperatures drop during the night, sweatshirts started to come in handy.

There’s also a makeshift kitchen. Doug Tarnopol said he left his wife at home and drove in from Rhode Island to be a part of the demonstration. The 41-year-old was in charge of dinner Wednesday night.

“I rented a car, filled it up with a bunch of supplies, came down, brought it in,” Tarnopol said.

In the village, there is a food stand, a place to charge laptops and cell phones, and even a barber — Larry Left of Staten Island.

“I had to leave my job because I couldn’t afford to pay my rent. So, I started coming here, offering people haircuts at least, to keep myself occupied,” he told WCBS 880 reporter Marla Diamond, who spent some time in the park on Thursday.

WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond In Lower Manhattan

Plus, there’s a rabbi — 85-year-old Meir Havazelet, a professor emeritus at Yeshiva University.

“My students, I see them with no jobs. It breaks my heart. We say in America, ‘I know your pain.’ Where do you know my pain if you don’t know about all these people?” he said.

Tarnopol, like nearly everyone else in the park, said he wants to send the government a message.

“It’s a matter of the system that we have. Not to be grandiose, but it clearly isn’t working very well,” Tarnopol said.

“At first I didn’t believe that it was ever going to get this big, but it’s just the beginning of something bigger,” Christopher Guerra of Newark told WCBS 880’s Diamond.

It was peaceful Wednesday night, but last weekend the NYPD arrested more than 700 protesters crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Many critics of the protests said they don’t understand why they’re here or what their end game is? Mercogliano decided to ask.

So what are these people trying to accomplish by sleeping in a park?

“To let everyone realize that things aren’t working as they are,” one person said.

“It’s hard to disagree with what we’re calling for. We’re just calling for equality and unity between everyone,” another said.

“I love my children and my demand is for a better future,” another said.

Instead of sleeping, Mercogliano met people trying to shake off stress.

“We have a lot of sound restrictions, so this is one thing we can do that doesn’t bother the community,” said one woman, who was using a Hula-Hoop.

For those who do catch some rest, they use sleeping bags on the ground or benches — even bubble wrap keeps them warm.

Then, when the sun finally came up, Mercogliano watched without the comforts of home, of course, protesters get up and get ready to rally all over again.

“We’re going to keep building, keep growing, keep reaching out and more people will keep coming,” one protester said.

And on Thursday morning, starting with bagels and juice from, well, somewhere they tried to do just that. Local businesses are also providing food like pizza for the protesters and places for them to wash up.

The “Occupy Wall Street” protest isn’t going away, according to protester Brendan Burke of Brooklyn.

“We’re just trying to hold on to finesse this thing to get to a real message,” he said.

“I think we’re starting to make plans for winter. I mean, I think it’s going to be a long-term protest,” said Aaron Griffith, in the city from West Virginia.

Meanwhile, local residents are getting fed up with the garbage, noise, and police barricades.

“The protests are becoming intolerable to the people who live and work in the Wall Street area. We are not billionaires, we did not sign the bailouts, or commit any of the wrongs the various protestors want to right,” said a lawyer and mother of a 2-year-old who lives and works in Lower Manhattan. “I may have had some sympathy for the protestors, but that is completely gone as a result of the constant marches, late-night noise and interruptions to my family’s daily life.”

One resident suggested at a community board meeting Wednesday night that they move to Greenwich, Conn., where many who work on Wall Street live.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

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