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. David

    I'd laugh if that happened to you.

    December 1, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      No matter what I would be working it will not happen to me. I have taken care of my self for 32 years I dont need you or the gavernment to take care of me. If I did not work for it I do not want it. You and give give is the bigest joke always thinking that the world owes you something for breathing air. Get a job!

      December 1, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • travis

      You say "get a job" ... I say hire me PLEASE!!!!
      also they don't want government hand outs, and the are angry that wall street got goverenment handouts.

      December 1, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Who would hire one of you maggot infested morons?? Tatoos all over, rings in your nose, eyebrows, lips, pants hanging down so the crack of your A** showing.

      December 1, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • NunYa93

      Make a job like your pioneer fathers did, that's what I do.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      PLEASE enlighten us. What is it the OWS people want? I've been watching this on the national news for MONTHS and I have no idea whatsoever what their objectives are. If you have no goal, how can you ever possibly reach it?

      December 2, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      So why aren't they protesting Obama?

      December 11, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Caron

      Your stupidity is showing. No one in the Occupy movement is demanding ANYTHING for free. No one is demanding any handouts. Who is telling you that they are? Have you even bothered to inform yourself by talking to the protesters? Sounds to me like you been filled with a bunch of propaganda and you have bought it hook, line, and sinker.

      December 1, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • noone

      hey, Caron, the 'list of demands' published by OWS has a few interesting points:
      "demand 4: Free college education"

      So you already lost credibility in your argument.....

      December 2, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • boomshaka

      Free state run education... It's beginning to sound a lot like socialism...

      December 2, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • boomshaka

      Most of America isn't happy w the way the govt is run or wall street is handled etc. But let's be honest if a bunch of kids who have never really had to face life on there own and some angry out of work hippies get out in the street and start calling for a revolution, the rest of us (the so called 99% just went gonna take it seriously. Your group is upset yes, we all are but your attacking the wrong issues and the wrong people and all you have for your efforts is a gross display of extreem ignorance. Thank you for making us laugh its the least u could do.

      December 2, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • boomshaka

      No demands huh that's odd other people in your group are making demands maybe no one takes u seriously because u have no clear goal. U have the no clear goal cause u have no leadership. This is also y ur group will unfortunately accomplish nothing. To the rest of us your just complaining, well budy if all ur going to do is whine then get in line and get out of my way cause ur blocking the door to my office

      December 2, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      No matter what I would be working it will not happen to me. I have taken care of my self for 32 years I dont need you or the gavernment to take care of me. If I did not work for it I do not want it. You and give give is the bigest joke always thinking that the world owes you something for breathing air.

      December 1, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • steven STEVENS

      talkabout jerks...you do not control your future as you may think..but just remember you are an accident or catastropic heart beat a way from posssoble need of help..you are young and think yourself invincible..but one day you will be older and maybe wiser

      December 2, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. NITNINR

    I want a bumper sticker that has the logo 99%. The same symbol attached to all my emails, as well as stickers to place on all my outgoing mail. I want to see this symbol everywhere I go, on windows of supporting establishments, on organic milk cartons, and shoe boxes, and especially on the lapel of our President.

    December 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • rm

      Those and Guy Fawkes mask stickers can be found on e bay,

      December 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Howard

    OMG ... Occupy Wall Street has an office ... more hypocrracy from the lying liberal protesters !!!

    December 1, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Don't be a 1% Poser

      Profoundly idiotic Tea prose

      December 1, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric Nelson

      Offices are Sooooo 1%......LOL

      December 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Calvin

      OMG it was donated to them. Retard

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

      It takes a lot of stupid to type that and still have the poor judgement to hit "Post".

      December 1, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Don't be a 1% Poser

    If you earn less than $250,000 per year and you think you aren't in the 99%....you're math challenged and your nose is covered in 1% brown.

    December 1, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • JC

      Maybe they're in the 99% but they're busting their asses to get to the 1% and not complaining that it wasn't handed to them...

      December 1, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. drc

    So slowly they are evolving into a business/company? I thought corporations were EVIL oh wait inside with heat is better than outside without heat. So everything within that 'office' is produced/run by evil corporations yet they have no problem using the space, paid for by someone else of course.

    The ONLY message that a sane person would agree with OWS on is that WASHINGTON is the problem and WASHINGTON is where you should be protesting. Outside of that you are all a bunch of nut-jobs who were promised the world owed you a living then reality set in that you actually have to work for it.

    December 1, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      AMEN!

      December 1, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • The58thMIND

      DOUBLE AMEN! All those OWS kids got hit with the real world where not everybody wins and suddenly it's everybody's problem except their own.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • JC

      Amen x3. Until they get their act together and get to Washington to protest where the real problem is, they lost my support (not that they had much to begin with). Policies and politicians are the problems... not the people working to pay their mortgages. Want to make a difference, get to DC.

      Otherwise, if most of the "occupiers" spent half the time they do protesting looking for work, they can be making money themselves. There is work out there, but they don't want it. They want cushy jobs handed to them just b/c they were stupid enough to spend $25k+ per year on college and now cannot get a job in their major. Just get any job, pay your bills, and good things will come with hard work.

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

      If they thought it was everyone's problem but their own they wouldn't be doing something about it. Everybody else just sits back a lets the 1% run over everybody – and actually supports that happening by not joining OWS.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Observer

    They can afford an Office Space in New York City, then they cry and call themselves the 99%. Yep, makes perfect sense.

    December 1, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Don't be a 1% Poser

      Yes, it does make sense to know thine enemy.

      December 1, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • PastD

      If you paid attention – it was very clear that the space is donated – evidence that people with resources support the movement as well. Many of us with good jobs still understand the message and agree with it. But then again, not everyone in America is self centered and focused on ME

      December 1, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Calvin

      For an Observer you are pretty blind. The office space was donated.

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

      its donated retard!

      December 1, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      It'll be interesting to see how that "donated" space works for them when it comes to bills and such, especially months down the road.

      Seeing I didn't knock anyone else's intelligence or call names, it's obvious what kinds of people support this "movement".

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

      You read about 1% of the article, didn't you?

      December 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joe of Portland

    I was first sympathetic with this group. However, when they ruined Portland offices and government park at the cost of Portland, Oregon taxpayers money (note not wall street), then my sympathy is gone. I don't respect them anymore and beblieve in their cause. They went into my company's building and throw dirts and feces in the bathroom. Who suffers the employees of the company. They also throw water bottles on people's cars when you asked the protesters to leave the street. So, what cause are this people fighting for and against?

    December 1, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Don't be a 1% Poser

      There will be collateral damage in wartime. ;)

      December 1, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • rm

      Joe, any such damage is a grain of sand compared to that attack on democracy coming from Wall Street and the 1%. The difference is exponential.

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

    Occupy is dead. CNN is just trying to milk one last blog out of it. RIP Occulosers. Good riddance. You all are disgusting fleabags.

    December 1, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Don't be a 1% Poser

      Not as dead as the Tea fogies.

      December 1, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • hateuall

      Over 25 years I have voted Dem 63% of the time but in your stupidity you think only a TPer could hate. Wrong. America hates Occupy. You all are wothless fleabags.

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

      sure thing 1% Poser, except the Tea fogies at least have a pointed agenda and have actually elected officials into office.

      what has OWS done beside frequent the public park bushes to relieve themselves and dance around and smoke pot while writing cliche'd whining rants on cardboard signs? Oh right. Nothing .

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

      They thought the civil rights movement could be killed as well. The fight for democracy over plutocracy, even if it takes educationg many working people who for some reason still don't get it, has just begun.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      Walking into a WalMart, yelling your head off about the "99%", and filling almost 100 carts with stuff from all over the store just to leave them in the aisles so the people you call the "99%" can clean it all up and put it all back isn't going to win you any votes.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jayb18

    nothing more than an extension of the Obama re-election campaign..what a joke..

    December 1, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Don't be a 1% Poser

      LOL – the real jokes are the Republican candidates!

      December 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Don't be a 1% Poser

    This is hardly the end. These are clever, educated kids and they've tasted political success. They will continue to garner more political clout as they eclipse the bitter old Tea Partiers.

    Heaven help the 1% tools once they gather momentum. :)

    December 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • hateuall

      Educated does not = smart. Nothing clever about urinating and defecating in public. Nothing clever about tolerating rapist and gang members among you you. Bums do what Occupy has done and CNN does give them endless facetime. You are educated in what? About 70% of all degrees are essentially worthless in the job market. The fact that so many of you spend $100,000 or more pursuing an education tha tyou know ahead of time will not make you employable proves you are anything but clever-however stupid does come to mind.

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

      If you define political "success" as being useful idiots for the Re-elect Obama campaign, then they have achieved huge success.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • rm

      @hateuall – some people only want to be deficated on by Wall Street. OWS may leave urine on the street. Wall Street is destroying democracy and therefore America. No comparison.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      Walking into a WalMart, yelling your head off like a spoiled child about the "99%", and filling almost 100 carts with stuff from all over the store just to leave them in the aisles so the people you call the "99%" can clean it all up and put it all back isn't going to win you any votes.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Hank

    How does this make sense – a self proclaimed leaderless group has a leadership organization, funding, and an office? And WHY doesn't the reporter at CNN ask this incredibly obvious question?

    December 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • hateuall

      Because CNN is the leader of the Socialist propaganda machine. They are liberal lapdogs.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Calvin

      Just because the Tea Party is bought and paid for doesn't mean every other movement has to be. Their "funding" is donations from people like me who have a job and support their goals, as is their office space.

      For what they have accomplished with what they have it is an incredibly patriotic story and testament to the beauty of the First Amendment. There is nothing more American than protesting against those in power and it is very sad that people like you who are clearly not in the 1% have so much hate for those protesting on your behalf.

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

      Our bikes were: Orbit Romany with various mcaifiidtion (Orbit is a framemaker based in Sheffield, UK) and a Surly Long Haul Trucker. It took about 6 months.

      March 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Brian of Portland

    You know, if you're inside you don't need to wear beanies still. And it's not November anymore, time to shave.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. hateuall

    Poser has nothing to say worth reading. I am 63% Democrat Poser. I have never supported any TP candidate. I still hate Occupy because Occupy is nothing but deadbeat trash.

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

      OWS may be spear-headed by the energy of youth. Most society changing movements start off that way. But the real beneficiaries are democracy and anyone whose job was shipped overseas (via tax breaks for corporations to do that) and lost a home because of it / or anyone who spent a fortune getting educated to teach kids only to find teacher being cut so the rich don't have to pay any taxes. The real OWS is a broad demographic of everyday Americans.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. tom

    I wonder what computers they use in the office. WOuld they be made by a publicly traded company? I wonder what phone service and cell phones they use. Would they be made by a publicly traded company?

    December 1, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Justin

      Grow up and stop hate'n scrub.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      They can use and enjoy products from corporations and still dislike/protest how those corporations behave. Just as they can protest and still love America.

      Can your brain make these distinctions? Apparently not. By your lopgic, since conservatives hate Government so much, they should not be driving on roads or calling the fire department or 911.

      December 1, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. DeeNYC

    Laughable. I walked by there last night. Not a single occupier was there. There were cops and park security guys. Occupy is dead, these guys in that office are just there to collect donations from suckers.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Justin

      Whats laughable is that you think its funny that cops and security are watching the park so nobody can protest. I guess people like you don't remember what people died for before you and I were born. For Ex: The 1st Amendment... You lake honor to be called an American.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      *lack

      December 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
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