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'

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.

  • Doug Tarnopol

    Third try here: hoping this one actually posts.

    USArmy, et al.

    If that was directed at me — I’m the guy in the baseball hat and green T-shirt in the clip — a couple of things:

    1. I have a job. I’m an instructional designer and private tutor for SAT, ACT, GRE. I’ve published testprep books, worked for Kaplan and other companies. I’ve been on my own since 2003. An LLC. You know, a small-business owner. I make plenty.

    2. I have an undergrad degree from Cornell — History, magna cum laude — and a Masters from Penn — history and sociology of science. Just in case you google, I got them under my given name, Douglas Paul Keen, not my married name, which is Douglas Paul Tarnopol. (Changed the name to honor Holocaust dead by taking an “ethnically appropriate” name.)

    3. Freedom of assembly and the right to petition your government for redress of grievances is hardly “un-American.”

    4. There are plenty of vets down at Liberty Plaza. If you’re local, why not go down and check it out for yourself?

    Best, Dug

  • Edgar N Valderrama

    I think you need to know the definition of what you rant against:

    socialism..a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

    We might not like socialism, but it doesn’t sound any worse than having the top 400 families in possession of 80% of the wealth.
    What part of it do you object to, or are you engaging in a brainwashed knee jerk reaction? (that’s a real, not a rhetorical question)

  • Edgar N Valderrama

    If objecting to letting the top 1% that specialize in accumulating capital suck the life blood out of the rest of us defines the bogey word “Socialist,” I guess I must be one without knowing it.

  • Dale Auburn

    I want to learn how to become a PROFESSIONAL ACTIVIST so I can get a high-paying job as a protester complaining about unemployment.

  • Ron Paul 2012 supporter!

    Many people were laid off from the same businesses that received those huge bailouts from the government. CEO’s Received HUGE bonuses during and after the crash. Unemployment is as high as during the great depression. (if numbers were calculated in the same fashion which includes under employment and those who have given up looking.) Look beyond the politics. This is going to get much worse before it gets better.

    • Edgar N Valderrama

      I think we are wasting our breath on these “lick the hand that robs you” defenders of the Status Quo.”

  • nancy sterman

    I am a part of the movement. I have a Masters Degree in Secondary Education and over ten years of teaching experience with excellent references. I was laid off at the end of the school year and have been looking for a new job for the last five months. Would you like to hire me to teach you about hyperbole? Oh no, wait you don’t know what that means. So instead of basking in your arrogant ignorance – why don’t you try some tolerance.

  • Zcar

    ROTFLMAO….So the Wall Street Occupiers are now officially a ‘Communist’ movement now?

    Obama Pal Bill Ayers Releases “Collective Statement” Of Occupy Wall Street Protesters…Bill Ayers

    What follows is the first official, collective statement of the protesters in Zuccotti Park:

    As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

    • USArmyCombatMedic

      You are a moron. Why don’t you get a job. Illegal immigrants manage to have jobs. Are you less off than a person who just crossed into this country, doesn’t speak the language, and is not even “legally” allowed to work? Face it: YOU DON’T WANT TO WORK. You want those who have worked their whole lives to pay for your entitlements. Yes, the banks are screwing us. But they are a business, making business decisions for their shareholders. Maybe if you had a job, you too could become one of these shareholders. Maybe if you went to school, obtaining a job would be easier.

      I’m so sick of this “occupy” crap. You are a lazy worthless citizen. You may be a citizen of the US, but you shouldn’t even be allowed to call yourself an American.

      • Edgar N Valderrama

        P.S. I suppose you think being in the Army is the same as “work?”
        No doubt you got a lot of exercise during basic, but I bet you’ve got a cushy job now…

      • Edgar N Valderrama WWII combat INFANTRY

        I guess being a medic desensitized you.
        What’s with this “work ethic?” You must subscribe to the “work ennobles” routine. Personally I’d rather be a banker as I believe work mostly takes up valuable time that could be used enjoying oneself. Let the machines do the work. If you admit banks are screwing us and believe they have a right to, what’s wrong with fighting back? Are you a wuss or just a brainwashed conformist? Why do you lick the hand that robs you? You must love war because you defend those that sent you there. (assuming you ever left the States)
        I only mention my WWII experience because you seem to base your identity on being or having been an army medic.
        Let’s see if this comment doesn’t disappear as the last one I tried to submit did…

      • Edgar N Valderrama WWII combat INFANTRY

        I”ll try to control my revulsion at your unfair diatribe against sincere people that are suffering and care about what’s going on.
        1. “..get a job” and make more money for the top 400? Working for someone else is akin to slavery. What’s so admirable about being a wage slave? (you must be a good career soldier who loves to take orders from brain retarded officers)
        2. “making business decisions for (themselves and incidentally) their shareholders. Exactly. Their efforts are to maximize profits and screw the rest of it. (other people, environment, etc.)
        3. I guess I’ll have to mention being a WWII combat infantry vet because of your trying to prop yourself up with your stretcher bearing credentials.
        4. I realize today’s army has to purge all human decency out of its members to embolden them to go shit on the rest of the world, but you don’ need be so obvious about it.
        5. As Einstein (ever hear of him?) said of the military: (paraphrasing – you know what that means?) “God wasted their big brains when all they needed was a backbone”)
        6. I could go on, but that was enough to calm me down.

  • Cause Du Jour

    more iike a bowel movement….

  • Justin Time

    A protest movement lol. It’s a socialist movement.

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