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. RJ888

    $7.77 Trillion in secret bailouts to the major banks in the US and Europe in 2008 and these people have nothing to complain about!? Are you kidding me!? The rest of the Sheeple in America need to wake up!

    December 1, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • davec

      Well, they're either part of the solution or part of the problem........ Chinese tents and Honda generator sales are up........

      December 1, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Since they have no list of demands, how can you say the recent bank bailouts are even on their radar screens? It's hard to push change if no one identifies what we need to change "to."

      December 1, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • ncwriter

      If they're secret, how do you know abot them?

      December 1, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Boskoo

      The elite Occutards have nice warm offices and expensive restaurant food, while the rank and file freeze and starve. Sounds just like Cuban Communism, or Russian, or Chinese. More elites, just with different names.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • RJ888

      Well if your research on Occupy stops at main-stream media pages... then yes, they have no clear demands. But if you would take some time outside of the MSM, then you would find very concise demands (some of which I do not agree with). It doesn't matter if you hate the movement or love the movement, complacency has overcome our nation and it is time for everyone to wake up!

      December 1, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • RJ888

      @ncwriter: this is how i know: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUpXDZFtEHw

      December 1, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  2. davec

    What goes on in the tents stays in the tents........

    December 1, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rod C. Venger

      AIDS knows no boundaries, idiot.

      December 1, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  3. Rudy Gonzales

    To every OWS participant – Carpe Diem

    December 1, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Limbs

    Every damm one of you are f¤cking idiots , nothing to do but bag bag bag

    December 1, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Seth

      That'd be me. Let's talk! What's on your mind other than explicatives?

      December 1, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    Whaty the fook is bag bag bag mean?

    December 1, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • CommonSense

      whine, moan, complain, etc, about others doing something.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dennis

    Isn't this Occupy thing over yet?

    December 1, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dot

      Probably not for a long time. I hope they continue. They give us things to think about and decide if we still want to do things the way we always have. We ge t so busy in our lives that sometimes we need to stop and think before it is too late.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  7. Tom

    We have already seen great results the OCCUPY movement has wrought, such as the stock market soaring in self-defense–even to the extent of the world's large banks loosening up credit. Be not deceived, the 1% will never admit it, but they are taking notice of OCCUPY. The bank transfer movement is having a great effect, as average people have transferred billions from big banks to credit unions (who actually PAY INTEREST). Yea, due to OCCUPY, life is looking much better for the little guy!!! GO OCCUPY!!!!!

    December 1, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • ncwriter

      Occupy who? What bank transfer program? Are you trying to crash my bank?

      December 1, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • BillV

      The stock market soaring because of Occupy? Now I've heard it all. You don't think that maybe it was the record sales reported by corporations from Black Friday and Cyber Monday that prodded the market?

      December 1, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Maryann

      @ncwriter – You do a good job of appearing uninformed and ignorant. Congratulations.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      I'm pretty sure less babies are starving because of OWS too...your little "protests" are having exactly ZERO impact on the market...oh, and even IF it were, wouldn't you be AGAINST that?...

      December 1, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Daveil

      Whatever you're smoking that gives you your fantasy world must be good stuff!

      December 1, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. D

    Watch "Inside Job" and join us.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. banasy©

    This is a partial list of CHANGES OWS wants.
    OWS is not about demands, it's about change.
    Get informed before spewing asinine opinions!

    1) End corporate influence over Washington
    2) Reinstate banking regulations repealed by the Republican written Gramm/Leech/Bliley bill
    3) End corporate tax cuts and loopholes.

    http://www.nycga.net/resources/declaration/

    None of these things are very hard to grasp.
    It continually amazes me that this information is out there, but people would just rather jeer.

    Perhaps the spokesman said what he did about the press and the demands because they're tired of the press never listening to what the fook they are trying to SAY!

    December 1, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • ncwriter

      So what does "corporate influence over washington" mean? If you want to end corporate influence, make the federal government irrelevent to corporations. The reason they get involved is self defence. If Washington quits jerking the chain, business will quit caring.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      How 'bout showing us the EXHAUSTIVE list? Then it will be apparent what your handlers REALLY want...

      December 1, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • buffalobills

      You are aware that the USA has the lowest corporate tax rates in the industrialized world right? You're also aware that increasing corporate taxes drives corporations away from the USA right? You're also aware that driving corporations from the USA means you're driving jobs from the USA right?

      Tell me why you want corporate tax cuts again??

      December 1, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • reb

      banasy©, In regards to your #2, you should tell the whole truth. Who signed the bill into law? Was is Bush? No, wait a minute, it was William Clinton. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s106-900#votes

      Admittedly, there are issues when one focuses only on profit at the expense of their fellow citizen, Yet, the general tenor of the OWS movement appears to be one of "let me have my way," instead of really trying to foster constructive change. This "let me have my way" mentality appears to be a common theme for OWS, corporations and the politicians in Washington.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    The goal of OWS is clear to me, and I do not like it.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Daveil

    Given the number of comments here, I'd say Occupy's 15 minutes of fame is over and they are now recognized as completely irrelevant other than to the sanitation workers who have to clean up after them.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • ezrider78

      amen!

      December 1, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Seth

      I think protests trump blog comments...

      December 1, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Masav

    Looking out to match these two quotations. May be Shan and Carey have an explanation for this.
    “We found a donor who was generous enough to pay the rent,” Shan said.

    The donor has chosen to remain anonymous.

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

    December 1, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. mayfiat

    such old news. we need to figure out how to lower taxes and energize job growth for everyone. obamas gotta go..period.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Maryann

      You kill me with the 'Obama's gotta go' crap. You really think it makes a bit of difference who the president is?

      Grow up!

      December 1, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • calinfidel

      Untrue

      December 1, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  14. LetsGetReal

    There are legitimate concerns that have been raised by this "movement". There need to be long-term attention to these issues and plans to fix them. No amount of ranting from egotistical hipster ne'er-do-wells will actually accomplish anything.

    It will take leadership to advance an agenda to these goals.

    I fear that the ideas raised will be lost as those who will abandon the movement once it becomes "uncool" and "unhip". Their will be complaints (perhaps paranoid) of the movement being "co-opted" and members "losing their way" as they return to something new that gives their life meaning. Thus leaving the issue unresolved. I hope this will not be the case.

    It will become clear that leadership is needed as well as working with, and perhaps within, the government is necessary to actually accomplish anything.

    Personally, my sympathy with these OWS counsels is wearing a bit thin. Without concrete accomplishments to while things is akin to a great big circle-jerk. I hope the issues are not abandoned once there collective hipster loads have been shot.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. mayfiat

    oh and btw, occupy needs to go too. those groups are making our cities and parks unsafe for families and they are unamerican.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Maryann

      Our founding fathers would have thrown you out of the colonies for a comment like that.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • MikeD

      Just by using the term "unamerican", you sir are an idiot. How is one "unamerican"? Because they don't agree with you? Last I remember, the only requirement for being American is being a citizen of America.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
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