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. searchingForAnAtheistExtremist

    Dems and repubs have used up their last chance. The rule of the so called 2 parties has come to an end. Rocky Anderson 2012

    December 1, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Barry G.

      You made a good point, but I don't think the two parties in power will ever allow things to change. They've got too good of a thing going and won't allow anyone to tamper with their gravy-train.

      Besides the wealthy individuals who run this country wouldn't allow any such changes, either.

      In ancient Rome there were about thirty wealthy families that ran the empire, and no one dared to interfere with their plans. History, of course, repeats itself, and, as you can imagine, there are the same "thirty wealthy families" that run America.

      If anyone opposes them, they risk the same consequences that individuals risked in Ancient Rome, if they interfered.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. Bill, Bloomington Il

    Well Jim, let me educate you. Liberals do not need ideas. This is evident by the current president winning in 08 without ideas other than hope and change. If you asked what are we changing, you would be labeled as a racist. Liberals only want change and the reason a good portion of the occupiers are umemployed are employers want ideas and not complainers. All the tax cut ideas and tax increase ideas need to be scrapped. Just buy products made in the US (if they can still be found) and we would be ok. My father said this back in the 70s and of course I didnt listen.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob71

      And the only ideas that conservatives bring to the table are tried and true from the 1800's. Boy I bet we can have a great discussion with a start like that.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Mance Lotter

      yeah Rob, ideas like "cut spending" to reduce deficits is so 19th century, don't you know, the only way to get out of debt is to spend more money?!!

      December 1, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. mayfiat

    well on that note, Im going back to work

    December 1, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. ti-grr

    Corporate Nazism on display in LA. Hitler would be proud of Mayors and cops of LA, NYC, Seattle, Davis, Oakland, Porland. Ironically­, it took two Jewish men – Bloomberg and Justice Smallman to try to close Zucccotti Park. (Bloomie's girlfriend is Head of Board for Zuccotti Park, Cuomo and Att General needs to investigat­e. )

    Only Albany police had the common sense to defy their bought and owned Mayor.
    Cops need to realize that Old Nazi excuse: "I was just following orders." ain't gonna hold up in court.
    Maybe these Mayors WANT to bankrupt their cities with lawsuits..­. part of the Bushs Cheney cripple America until they accept our NWO agends. Gotta wonder about that. And the fact Bushs bought 100,000 acres in immunity-z­oned Paraguay to escape to.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Mance Lotter

      really? where you come from buzz words like "nazism" and "bought and owned" still hold attention? you know who is proud of LA, NYC et al...working, responsible, and thinking people

      December 1, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • exodus

      Working responsible and thinking people? LMAO! The Dems and Repubs make policies that cripple people and support big money but what do people like you do? You bag on the people protesting it and listen to the BS propaganda spread by the people they protest. About the last thing Id characterize people like you would be "responsible and thinking" since you are obviously neither.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mance Lotter

    OWS gets better and better seriously is my comic relief. they make george bush seem like albert einstein.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Gary G.

      Keep laughing...

      December 1, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Barry G.

    Why don't we tax members of Congress, to make up the budget deficit?

    After all our members of Congress receive a generous paycheck and lifetime pension, and many of them use their positions to become extremely wealthy.

    And as if this is not enough, many leave office and work for lobbing firms, where they make upwards of $1,000,000 to $2,000,000, annually.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. Barry G.

    Here's an idea: Why don't we tax members of Congress, to make up the budget deficit?

    After all our members of Congress receive a generous paycheck and lifetime pension, and many of them use their positions to become extremely wealthy.

    And as if this is not enough, many leave office and work for lobbing firms, where they make upwards of $1,000,000 to $2,000,000, annually.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. Toledo Jackson the 5th

    The office smells like marijuana from here.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  9. Peikovianii

    When OWS closes down, that will be a massage parlor. Keeps the tradition alive.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Seth

      meaning what?

      December 1, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mb2010a

    OWS has offices???

    December 1, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Seth

      yep, there's a whole article about it!

      December 1, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Elaine DuPlessis

    Occupy enthusiasts are missing their true calling. Every one of them should be occupying Washington D.C. That is where all the problems in this country are originating. Better yet, the 99% should be voting every elected official out of office and getting some real new ideas in there. Even if you don't have a job you can still vote.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Barry G.

      You made a good point, but isn’t there a saying about all politics being local politics.

      Besides there is much local political wrangling that occurs, which has a profound effect upon the citizens of the country.

      The answer is: Hold our politicians accountable (watch them like hawks) on the national and local levels.

      Of course they won't like this, for they prefer to engage in their activities in secret.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. nc anon

    Occupiers: you're angry. We get it. You've made some salient points and—regardless of whether or not we agree with you—you've made us all think. I'll give you that. Unfortunately you're now losing your credibility and sympathy. Time to pack it in, don't ya think? And get back to work, back to looking for work, back to school, something? You live in the best country on earth. These are hard times, yes, but everyone needs to be part of the solution. You're sorta just becoming part of the problem at this point. Good luck.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  13. ireuel

    The donor has chosen to remain anonymous. Let me guess it starts with a S and ends with a S

    December 1, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Mance Lotter

      and even if it's not, i guarantee he or she is in the 1% – but it's okay if OWS takes money from them, just no one else can.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mance Lotter

    they removed all restrooms from the offices, they said "the carpet is good enough". however, they are not quite sure how to handle the garbage piling up in the office since they don't know how to do any work and the city isn't doing it for them.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. Peikovianii

    Did the Freikorps have offices? Did the Sturmabteilung (Brown Shirts) have offices? No! After they broke shop keepers windows, they went back to the bar.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22