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. yankee

    CNN is the same thing

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

    This is not a news story.
    If it were a story there would not be unnamed sources or donors.
    File a law suit or FOIA. Get subpoenas and schedule depositions. Thats how you weed out who is who. Make it public and let the public make up their own minds. Give us just the FACTS.

    December 1, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. vinny

    these people need to find something better to do with their time, as the vast majority of americans do not want to hear from them anymore. Capitalism wins, socialism loses. Let them move to Greece

    December 1, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Caron

      Vinny. You are missing the boat. You will be a slave of the multinational corporations and they will ultimately suck you dry, because you are already brainwashed by them. The independent, thinking man is with the Occupy movement; a movement for the indivudual; for real freedom for control and enslavement by those in power. A you, fool, think that's the government. Its the corporations, stupid.

      December 1, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Caron

      Amendment to my previous post: "freedom FROM control and enslavement . . . "

      December 1, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dano

      Caron, you are missing the boat. Corporations are at the mercy of the market. If the governments get total control they are at the mercy of no one, and will run amok. Look at what happened in Russia after World War II, that's just one example. Don't think something like that can't happen again, and people like you are feeding the frenzy.

      December 1, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • yago

      besides OWS, besides Capitalism vs Communism, Corruption has no Ideologies. And what we are living today is a complete take over of the Gov, by the Corporations. How? Corruption. Legally or not, Corruption is over flooding Capitol Hill, we want to see it or not. You (figurative) have the choice to see or not, and act or not about it. But truth is the truth, and the Corruption will end with what you (no figurative) know as Capitalism or Democracy.

      December 2, 2011 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
  4. Richard

    hahahahahahahahah... this post almost made me cry i was laughing so hard!!!!!

    December 1, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. sonic10158

    We the 99%? Judging by polls, you are the 30%

    December 1, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Peikovianii

    Hey, those are the CNN offices! The uniform is the same, they just have reversable jackets.

    December 1, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Nip

    Unfortunately, a leaderless grass-roots movement may end up wasting more money than the corporations they have come out against.

    December 1, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. love


    December 1, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous 0407


      December 2, 2011 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous 0407


      December 2, 2011 at 2:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. Bob

    Occu-crap's useful idiots are being funded in part by the ultimate Wall Street insider George Soros.
    They are poodles for Obama's Wall Street crony capitalists like Jon Corzine.

    December 1, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      You are a useful idiot, too/

      December 1, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike K

    There have been a number of stories in the rightwing press, and ignored by the liberal media, that OW is funded by what usedto be known as ACORN (remember them?). Now we hear about anonymous donors...

    December 1, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. soul


    December 2, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  12. pvolkov

    I am glad to see safe places for Occupiers to meet and plan strategy. I have suggested this and would be happy to donate for the upkeep if you ask. I am shocked at the ugly comments coming in – wonder what right wing mentality is involved. The ignorance of what the Occupation movement is about is mind boggling. I hope decent responses will come in to balance the trashy responses I have been reading.

    December 2, 2011 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  13. Leela713

    Whether or not you agree with OWS, I don't understand why there is so much hatred toward them. We all agree there is a problem. They are trying one way to fix it. When we cannot make a change through voting (since both parties seem incapable of fixing the economy), what other course is left to us? Protesting is the option that is given to us through our Bill of Rights, and they have every right to exercise it. Saying things like "get a job" is simplistic and unrealistic. Many people have been trying to get a job for weeks, months, years, and cannot. Thes people are not making up a problem. They are just trying to work outside the system for solutions, and I can't say I blame them, for the system seems to be more corrupt and ineffective than ever. So disagree if you want to, but show some respect for your fellow Americans.

    December 2, 2011 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. dudley0415

    Looks just like Mom and Dad's basement.

    December 2, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. Renelda Moorehead

    I love The OWS RESOLVE. I am impressed with their focus even if it is a little blurry. They are pointed in the best
    direction. ONWARD!!! EXCELSIOR!!!

    December 2, 2011 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
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