December 1st, 2011
10:03 AM ET

Exclusive: Inside the offices of Occupy Wall Street

A block away from the New York Stock Exchange, a few dozen Occupy Wall Street organizers show up to work every day at an office building in the heart of Manhattan's Financial District. The movement may have lost its public face a handful of protesters appear at Zuccotti Park on any given morning but the folks who sit at desks inside the office said Occupy is still very much alive despite the recent evictions of encampments across the country.

CNN was granted exclusive access to the office where signs with critical information and phone numbers hang on the walls alongside artwork featuring slogans familiar to the movement. Groups of people cram into the small conference rooms for strategy sessions.

Posters featuring Occupy slogans hang on the office walls.

The office space appears to be the movement’s nerve center. But the volunteers who plan future actions, network with other Occupy protests and deal with logistical issues insisted the location is not Occupy Wall Street’s headquarters.

“This is just an office space that a handful of people have tried to make a resource for the Occupy Wall Street movement,” said Han Shan, a member of Occupy Wall Street’s press relations and direct-action working groups. “Everybody is looking around trying to figure out where the heck the headquarters is, and the truth of the matter is this movement is bigger than any piece of geography, than any piece of real estate, than any square block.”

Click the audio player to hear more on this CNN Radio report:

 “This is one of our offices, it’s not a headquarters,” said Megan Hayes, a volunteer who said she puts in about 50 hours each week at the office space and other locations where Occupy Wall Street has set up shop.

“It’s nice at times to not have the rain over your head, especially when you’re trying to type on your computer,” Hayes said, “but we would still get the same amount of work done with or without this office space.”

Still, the effort critical to maintaining the movement’s momentum gets done in the cubicles and conference rooms at the office every day. The finance committee manages expenses and donations. A communications group disseminates information agreed upon by consensus. The housing group makes sleeping arrangements for protesters who had nowhere to go after police raided their encampment in Zuccotti Park.

“People recognized that there was a need for some sort of space to get work done that requires Internet, that requires electricity, that requires security and safety, that requires indoor space,” Shan said.

Occupy organizers said no one at the office receives pay for his or her work. It’s an all volunteer staff. They began using the office space a few weeks before police removed their encampment.

The office receives donations of clothing, blankets for those braving the cold weather.

“We found a donor who was generous enough to pay the rent,” Shan said.

The donor has chosen to remain anonymous.

“I think it’s been a really useful and important space. … It’s really just another place where people can come and get work done.”

Another place where decisions are being made is a short walk from the New York Stock Exchange, the public atrium at 60 Wall St. The privately owned public space is on the ground floor of the building that houses Deutsche Bank, one of the institutions that Occupy Wall Street has targeted.

“This is actually one of our central meeting areas,” Occupy activist Haywood Carey said. “Every evening we see hundreds of folks coming in here from dozens and dozens of different groups coming to work together collaboratively to help advance the movement.”

Brett Goldberg participates in the facilitation group’s meeting at the atrium.

“Our role is to just keep the conversation going, to make sure that the process that we’ve all agreed to follow for proposals is adhered to, but also to ensure that all voices are heard," he said.

Occupy supporters meet to discuss plans to help the movement push forward.

Next to his meeting a few dozen people were taking part in the direct-action group’s session. They were planning Occupy demonstrations that would take place outside a meeting of defense contractors and at a Democratic Party fundraiser in New York attended by President Barack Obama.

Despite the strategizing under way in the Occupy Wall Street office space, no one in the movement can say where it will be in six months.

As for a clear set of goals, Goldberg said, “It would be wonderful if the media stopped looking for demands because I think you will be unsatisfied."

He added, "Many of us in the movement don’t want a list of demands because that is empowering someone else to create a change for us.”

Goldberg said he and the others are creating change from the bottom up in their leaderless movement.

“It’s the core of who we are, which is a decentralized, people-driven process," Carey added.

At the Occupy Wall Street office, Drew Hornbein worked on his laptop getting the message out. He joined the movement before there was an occupation to speak of, taking part in the planning for the initial protest in August. Those early meetings were held at Tompkins Square Park in New York’s East Village. The park has long been associated with anti-establishment movements.

“I thought we were going to go down, sleep on the street for a few days, have our …  maybe Page 2 in the paper and then the police were going to send us home,” Hornbein said.

In those early days, he said he never thought of the possibility of Occupy protests occurring around the world.

“It’s just beyond anything that I could have ever imagined," he said.

He, too, can’t say where the Occupy movement is going. He said he just wants more people to get involved.

“It may be foggy, and you may not know where it’s heading, and it may have false starts and abrupt endings, and be weird and different and look and smell strange,” Hornbein said. “But it’s better than just continuing along thinking that something’s going to happen.”

CNNMoney’s Poppy Harlow and Alex Nelson contributed to this report.

soundoff (812 Responses)
  1. Uniquitous

    So, what we are seeing is a group of really upset people begin to get organized. Now things will get interesting. To all the nay sayers of OWS, I am not there, but I stand with them. I am a white male republican in corporate America. I stand with them against the fleecing of Americans so the elite can bend the rules further in their favor. Its not right, and it must change.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      I can agree with that.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Miss Such-and-Such

      Me too, except that I'm a white female and not a Republican.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • malibu123

      And that change will happen how? By screaming "We are the 99%"? OWS has no real plan, no avenue to affect any true change, it's all just media hype and window dressing.....zero substance.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      I haven't been a fan of OWS because of the lack of organization. If they can change that, they will have my support.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really

      Ya we are all mad, but what solutions or good ideas have they provided? none. All those clothes and blankets they have, why not do at least some good and give that to homeless who are in dire need of those clothes during this winter season.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • MTATL67

      I was part of Occupy Atlanta. I would leave work at 7P/8P and would stay until about 2A and came back the next day after work. What surprised me the most was how many were professionals that came after work and college students that came after class. In talking with them the every participates said they are going to vote and will be thinking about what the Republican candidates and other Americans have said and what the Republican Mayors have done when they go into the polling booths. I know the image of the bloody Veteran and the face of the elderly woman that was maced and the cops on Berkley without hesitation and almost glee macing people at point blank range will always stick with me.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • hope

      I think many of us stand with them, in our hearts... come Spring, they'll be stronger than ever!

      December 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • The People

      I agree. If we can provide constructive guidance and direction – we can all move forward together! Start with a mission! Like...Let's identify the 5 most significant priorities our representatives MUST address in the next term, and then move to elect at least a few business minded people that will commit to THOSE 5 goals.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. LMEBlog

    I love how that sign says "No arrest, peaceful protest." What part of peaceful is the behavior observed here? Doesn't this show OWS' true destructive behavior? http://loudmouthelephant.blogspot.com/2011/11/destruction-not-democracy.html

    December 1, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • LMEBlog

      Come on all you OWS folks... someone please explain how that destructive behavior IS what democracy looks like.

      -www.loudmouthelephant.com

      Twitter: @lmelephantblog

      December 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Nobody cares about your blog get over it.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • LMEBlog

      And you can say that all you want... like a typical liberal, you fail to answer the question you were asked...

      December 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Peaceful means non-violent you ninny. Non-violent protest is perfectly ok in this police state of ours, right?

      December 1, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • LMEBlog

      Sam, did you watch the video? Was that behavior non-violent? Want to try again? Care to leave that opinion on the blog?

      December 1, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Actually i did answer your question uts at the bottom of your other comment. But i will put it in here too.

      Excuse me sense.... Lets see how about stop having corporations buy their own little politician so they can have better tax breaks or pay no taxes at all. Ex: GM... Doing that takes power away from the people. Oh here is a good one lets not label a corporation as having the same rights as an american citizen. Corporations have no morals. How about not bailing out banks and corporations with tax payers money. We are in a capitalist system so let them die and have new ones spring up.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      *it's

      December 1, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Small Business

    I guess CNN doesn't want to post what I have to say. I've got the freedom of speech, but no one will listen. 1% at work.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mance Lotter

      that's right, you've got a right to speak but not a right to be heard.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Small Business

      booo cnn, you post this one but not the others, shame on you.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Small Business

      @ Mance
      thanks for listening ;)

      December 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Private businesses are not obligated to satisfy your freedom of speech. If you want to spread a message, pay for it like everyone else has to. Or facebook it and get a following. Whining about CNN's moderation skills (or lack of) is not productive. It just makes you seem jaded.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • rm

      If you're Small Business, you're not part of the 1%. Big business makes the rules and those rules generally don't bennefit small businesses, which along with the middle class, are therefore shrinking. So I assume you've been posting support for OWS.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. palintwit

    Oddly enough, Sarah Palin hasn't commented publicly about this. And I know that in trailer parks all over the country, teabaggers are wandering around like lost little zombies, waiting for guidance from their queen Sarah.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete the Ninja

      Actually, i think the teabaggers are working... those jerks.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BC

    Occupy wall street....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz wake me when its over.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mance Lotter

    to OWS, a question:

    you believe much of the woe in the world is caused by the 1%, why not the 1.5% or 3% or 30%. Are you telling me that if the top 1% make more than $550,000 per year, I'm a good guy if I only make $499,999 and a bad guy if I make $550,001?

    December 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Do you use corruption to get that money?

      December 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Small Business

      Its what the bad people do with their big bucks. Moron

      December 1, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mance Lotter

      @ justin – if by 'corruption' you mean hard work and dedication, yes

      @ small business – but if you've labeled the 1% as bad, you are saying they are ALL bad.

      in either case, no one can ever tell me. justin is saying it's HOW they got the money and small business is saying it's WHAT they do with the money...come on guys – at least get on the same clueless page.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete the Ninja

      I think that by you asking them to explain why they are doing this or to show any evidence of reason you are defeating their basic purpose. Reason has no purpose here. People out screaming about 'their' tax dollars being wasted, but they aren't working, which means technically its my tax dollars. i hope they aren't getting any government assistance (subsidized stafford loans come to mind) because that is my tax money, too. And why are they out there occupying Solyndra?? Is it because they stole money under the guise of green energy, so its ok...

      December 1, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete the Ninja

      sorry, NOT occupying solyndra...

      December 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • rm

      Mance, "the 1%" is figurative or representation – not necessarily literal. If you stole bonues and golden parachutes from a bank that was bailed out by tax payers you're probably a "1%er." If you got your money honestly, you probably are not a "1%er."

      December 1, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bobby

    These folks think they are special. They are different than those that go out and work. Someone is just going to come down from the heavens and annoint them with money. Results so far? Well, they have paid a bunch of fines to local governments for breaking the law and they have provided us with some comedy.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • rm

      They're not looking for "annointed money" – they're looking to stop being robbed by a corrupt systems wherein Wall Street buys out their government.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Peikovianii

    OWS is CNN's breakthrough in the Reality TV market. What happens when total losers think they are revolutionaries and they live together? Tonight on CNN.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      You don't make any since

      December 1, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peikovianii

      Since when?

      December 1, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Btom

      Oh, but the teaparty was any different? Please explain how so.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peikovianii

      Rallies in support of political candidates, advocacy for balanced budgets, going home afterwards instead of sleeping wherever you stood, these are all part of American political life. You may insist there should be no candidates, overspending, and sleeping in a ditch, but that doesn't qualify as opposition. That qualifies as a case for intervention, from friends, relatives, charities, clergy or in some cases a cult de-programmer.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peikovianii

      There is something too precious about being above the law in order to respect... what? What exactly? Socialists want to redistribute the goods, anarchists want to burn down the goods, neither side of OWS understands the innovation and capital reinvestment required to produce the goods. Capitalism: men produce, and hire other men. Socialism: other men seize production, as if this could be managed by just anyone. Anarchism: war of all-against-all, further degeneration in consciousness and productivity. OWS: drum circle. Bums in the park: too drunk to drum.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Btom

      Too bad the same people that was doing the over spending, is the same people that is in relation with their party. Now really what has changed, they still have not gotten what they want or the pretense of what they want. Maybe it will get close to what they say, who knows.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Really

    Why don't you guys donate all those clothes and blankets to homeless people and other people in dire need of warm clothes through out this winter season? Other than protesting and causing our government to spend even more money that they don't have on keeping you guys under control and cleaning up after you guys. What ideas or solutions have you brought the major problems out country is facing?

    December 1, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      They do.... I also saw on some streams of OWS. That some protesters actually let them stay a night at there house and use a shower to feel like a human again.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. champcantwin

    I'm shocked that no one has commented on the fact that in the photo the ^ should be flipped... idiot occupiers...

    December 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      "The Occupied Office" that actually sounds about right. So im not sure what you mean by it should be flipped. I think you might need to go back to school.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Lol we can tell you didn't learn anything in english class.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. BC

    "Many of us in the movement don’t want a list of demands because that is empowering someone else to create a change for us.”

    Thats because they have no demands! Most of them when asked dont even know why they are there. They just want something for nothing.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Umm i think they do have demands buddy have you even read any of the signs that they have been holding up?

      December 1, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Don from Houston

    I think a lot more people support the movement than meets the eye. I think the folks on Wall Street fear this. They should be afraid, very afraid.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      I agree.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ranger14

    Did anybody read the article CNN posted yesterday of how so many of the Wall Street firms commit the same crimes again and again while the SEC either looks the other way or slaps them on the wrists? We finally have a movement that is trying to do more than sit around and grouse and they are being lambasted by so many of you. Are you all really happy with the marriage between Wall Street and Washington? If you don't like the OWS crowd start your own movement, Just do SOMETHING else than sitting on you A*# in the grandstands complaining about people who are making an effort!

    December 1, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. LMEBlog

    Justin... first, it's "you don't make any sense... not since..."

    Secondly, like a liberal, you made some claims here and you haven't backed them. Two of them are "how do you plan to get rid of corruption..." and "do you use corruption to get that money?"

    So here is your challenge... give me proof, evidence, anything of this "corruption" you talk about. Or will you continue to stand there chanting and ranting about something you can't back. Isn't that the definition of ignorance?

    http://www.loudmouthelephant.com

    December 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Excuse me sense.... Lets see how about stop having corporations buy their own little politician so they can have better tax breaks or pay no taxes at all. Ex: GM... Doing that takes power away from the people. Oh here is a good one lets not label a corporation as having the same rights as an american citizen. Corporations have no morals. How about not bailing out banks and corporations with tax payers money. We are in a capitalist system so let them die and have new ones spring up.

      December 1, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • LMEBlog

      PROOF? Do you have any? You name drop GM... What did GM do? Please give REAL examples.

      http://www.loudmouthelephant.com

      December 1, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Johny Charles

    Wow, CNN had an exclusive access to its own operation, shocking! Your bias is not clear at all.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
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