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. PersonalHygiene

    Happy to see they've evolved to using clean bathrooms and showering. That's a start. NOW GET JOBS.

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

      Sounds like someone understands poverty really well. "You're poor? GET MONEY!" F***ing simpleton.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don't be a 1% lapdog

      Is that the epitome of Tea Party intellect, "Get a job"??

      This is precisely why these college graduates are protesting – because their are NO JOBS.

      Get a clue and join the universe.

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

      Getting a job is easier said than done. Globalist republicans have been shipping American jobs to China and India for years now.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Loon

      there are plenty of jobs...but these protesters are picky...they only want certain jobs...they could get work as a house painter and make 20 bucks an hour tomorrow in Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island...but these dummies actually were fooled into thinking a college degree means something...hint, it doesn't

      December 1, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anti-Soros

      Maybe the "generous donor" who paid the rent should give them salary! OWS leaders, you deserve a "fair share" of the donor's money! Who are they living off? They don't get paid, oh really? I don't believe they live on donated hot chocolate alone.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |


      December 1, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Loon

      just go on craigslist right now...pick a state and city at random...go to the jobs section and tell me you see nobody looking to'll see 10-20 new jobs postings a DAY 20 new postings a day in most places...people are hiring, but these little princes and princesses think they are too good to work these jobs...I'm sorry but they are not qualified to 99% of the jobs in the country...doesn't mean good people still won't take a shot on know who people won't hire?? anyone who participated in OWS...except I have a feeling OWS participants will leave it off their resume or trick congress into passing an anti-ows discrimination law...

      Interview Question: "What did you do before applying here?"

      OWS Applicant: "Ugh I sat in a park and demanded that I be given a job, wait why am I being interviewed I thought I just get this??"

      Interviewer: "thanks for coming, you can see yourself out"

      not a good look idiots

      December 1, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Weldon Gebhard

    OWS is camped out in offices on Wall Street. While the Fed is at the Hen House printing eggs that have no nutritional value.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don't be a 1% lapdog

      More 3rd grade Teabaggger humor.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. palintwit

    There's only one thing more the teabaggers love more than the baby jesus... and that is boinking their cousins every Sunday right after church.

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

      I smell astroturf

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

      I'm not a Teabagger, but I must say that I enjoy boinking your cousin more than I do mine... She lets me Tea-bag her:)

      December 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. hateuall

    What some of you Occupiers are admitting to here is that you are now Occupying office space donated by the 1%! That is absolutely hilarious. You hate the 1% but will galdly take free stuff from them. America hates you creepy losers!

    December 1, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • palintwit

      No. That's not true. America hates toothless baggers like you.

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

      Again I vote Dem 2 out 3 times and I have supported a TP candidate. Are you too stupid to understand that the average American hates you?

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

      I am an independent voter plain and simple. I vote for the person I believe will do the best job. I will never support anyone who backs Occupy. You all are just plain creepy.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Anti-Soros

    The rent is paid by a 1%. Don't be fooled by this movement. These OWS leaders sleep in the $700 W Hotel!

    December 1, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      I'm with Anti-Soros. GeorgE SoroS is a flippin' jEWish NAzi. He is funding this movement for his personal goals. After what he has done to other world economies, I'm surprised ol' Georgie is still alive.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Small Business

      George Soros people, look him up, do some research, find out just what you are protesting.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. hope

    Gotta love it...

    And I do!

    December 1, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. exodus

    What they're doing is very smart and something seen in the IT world a lot. It's very difficult to corrupt or shutdown a completely decentralized system. A node may be lost but the rest of the system keeps moving forward.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. boomshaka

    Besides, the people in charge of organizing ows are just trying to grab power. Look at how quickly Thebes not only gained funding but managed to do it in a way were they are tax sheltered. They see other groups organizing and everyones under the impression that those groups have a shot at Washington etc or at manipulating lawmakers by using the "voice" of the people and some hippie says "hey its finally my chance for that revolution I've been planning" now I can have power too. And all in the guise of change. I call bs. Americans like capitalism we all just want to feel safe, war h movies, play x box, raise families, drive fast cars etc. We don't want your revolution owe. Especially since you've proven to be no better than the people your so angry at.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ken

    And in this corner is where we store items we have no use for, like books on personal hygiene and information on the negative impacts of living in filth. Right? There has to be a corner like that. I mean when the LA Camp was dismantled, workers in safty suits and masks removed 25 tons of debris from the park. In NY, there was so much trash to put into the dump trucks that they started using big wide snow shovels to help speed the clean-up and even brought in a bob-cat loader to move the trash.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • rm

      A lot of the "trash" that gets hauled off was useful and valuable personal property just moments before the police sliced it up with knives and saws. Vandalism and theft is only illegal if you're not working for the 1%.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. PorkNBeans

    50 years old, I am.
    I've worked all of my life. Had some pretty decent jobs too. Been married, divorced, raised children, owned homes, sold homes. Life. American life.
    And, I support these people 100% I have contributed my time, effort, my arthritis laden body, for what? The so called American Dream?
    I have watched and experienced wage stagnation for the past 20 years, while the corporations make record profits, with zero taxable income. I'm speaking about businesses. I'm not talking about Sam's shoe store or Betty's bakery.
    I'm talking about banks, investors, speculators, the housing industry, pharma, the insurance companies and I'll even throw in things like bogus cancer research and other so called fields of research disguised as 'finding a cure'.
    And lastly, the Church. That's right. The church, who uses the pulpit to sway political opinion, daily. They pay nothing in taxes and yet contribute to political candidates.
    I'm 50. I'm tired. I am the 99%. I hope these young people find their way and that en mass their movement gleans results.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • palintwit

      Hear hear !!

      December 1, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • StupidityhasnoBounds

      PorkNBeans: You are awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!

      December 1, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Really Jersey

    What absolute hypocrites. A CORPORATION to Occupy Wall Street.....COWS..... saying "Give COWS All Your MOOOLA!"

    December 1, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. STEVE

    My favorite quote: ""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.” That means that they don't care about making change happen for its own sake. They want to be the hero, the martyr who gets all the glory for any change that might happen. If they truly, altruistically wanted change to benefit everyone, they wouldn't care how it happened, as long as it happened.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. smellyhippies

    id be okay if they occupied a different country

    December 1, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • rm

      You've been occupied by the likes of the Koch brothers for decades. Apparently you like having THEM occupy you. Enjoy.

      December 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bwahaha

    It looks like an AA meeting going on there or possibly a mental health group talk. You get em guys, retarded Bob is druling for you guys!

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

      druling? is that a new scandanavian olympic sport?

      December 1, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Drew

    The Occupy Movements need to turn into a bloody and violent revolution. That is the only way for change is when all of this fake money our economy generates is stopped by blowing up Wall Street. I work as a Barista in the Financial District. The traders and brokers are laughing at the protesters. One customer came in and said, "Look. The hippies are protesting for jobs."

    December 1, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
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