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. boomshaka

    Just wanna say I've been reading all this and it seems like many of u need to check your history. The tax code, wich the rich exploit (thats one reason there rich) was created by dems and reps and is one big mess. Also its available to everyone, meaning that anyone can legally exploit the tax code. Small business owners and big businesses do that

    December 2, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nikolai

      The anger over the bank boatiuls misses an important fact.These boatiuls made a profit for the US treasury.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  2. boomshaka

    Also to the naysayers of the police and the idea we live in a police state. First, were very very different from China with the exception of the culture we are exporting to there country wich has transformed the very fabric of how they relate to the rest of the world. Second, if you want to know what a police state looks like watch some videos on the troubles in syriah. Our police and our gov don't act like that. Also, no its not a couensedance that the police broke up all the protesting at once, its called the internet. Believe it or not in this modern technological age different branches of gov can comunicate w each other.

    December 2, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • SpikeZX


      I don't disagree with you. I just don't see that OWS will accomplish anything and will probably hurt the cause the way it's being done. As a 48 year old, I would say to them: Go to the library, study MLK and watch CSPAN. Learn how Politics is done. Then, try to effect change. We must judge our movement by its success in changing the success of the anti-democracy forces of the last 30 years. Please us some intelligence in your approach to these issues. Don't create a backlash and play into their hands.


      December 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. boomshaka

    Most of the owe people look. Very unprofesional no wonder they complain about not being able to get jobs. Even the govt passed a new rule recently about all employees not having visible tatoos and odd piercings. What's cool in highschool and college isn't zoster whats cool in the real world

    December 2, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Why bother

    December 3, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. Why bother

    Oh Canada: Our bought & sold land

    December 3, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  6. Isis2012

    Luke 19-13 …. Occupy till I come.

    Some people .. in conversation have indicated that some governing matters and some celestial secrets are not to be told to the people ...

    Well I would have to agree with that because it is said that to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: ...

    But just as there is a time to rend, and a time to sew; and a time to keep silence … there’s a time to speak up;

    There is a time to bow the head …
    but a time to look up ..

    Just as a time to bow down …
    and a time to stand up ..

    There is a time to take the slap …
    but there’s a time to stop the hand …

    There a time to sit it out …
    and there’s a time to make a stand …

    There’s a time to be pushed …
    but a time to push back …

    There’s a time to let it go …
    and a time to take it back …..

    There is a time to be asleep …
    but there’s a time to wake up …

    There’s a time to say no …
    and give back the bitter cup …

    There’s a time to bear the cross …
    and there’s a time to shake it off …

    There’s a time to be a slave …
    and a time to be the boss ..

    Now just as it is truly a time to every purpose under the heaven ... it is a time for the purpose of Occupy …

    Luke 19-13 …. And he (Jesus of Nazareth) called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
    Let all things be done decently and in order

    First in peace ... meeting the spiritual force of resistance with the spiritual force of resistance

    Knowing that the forces of good and righteousness in the Positive Love for the people will prevail

    December 3, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. zim

    this is embarrassing. "...we would still get the same amount of work done with or without this office space...." then why waste the donations on the astronomical rent required to rent that space?

    December 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. StewartIII

    NewsButers: CNN, at OWS 'Office' in New York, Interviews 'Volunteers' Heritage Outs As Seasoned Leftists

    December 7, 2011 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. Amir Heidari

    Should faith beliefs help us to better society in the future?

    Dear Mr./Mrs,

    What would we replace our future concept to because we do not also fall into the same Dyck that the others did and we are accused of the same mistakes!

    Every revolution which has taken place in society; they had a view of
    religious, philosophical and traditions. The result of that is the
    psychological, social and cultural in the community that we are living
    on. New revolutions by the same purpose are being organized. The
    demands take place as demonstration, notices, advertisements and
    articles to attract again people to movement. The main aim is
    participate of the individuals in these movements which they already
    token place and the results of those are clear. The individuals as a
    part of social system always ask for their basic civil rights and
    participated in such operations for the same right and changes. When
    the revolution win by the individuals participation and the
    individuals ask their basic right, if believed maker do not answer
    them with cannon and tanks, the demands of them will be promised to
    next year and the year later. Finally they become in such crises (as
    now) that they will be dumped in the history trash. Yet the
    individuals as a member of the society still want their basic rights.
    But the question is still a mystery for them, also: who and what
    policies they can trust without a doubt at least be able to obtain
    their basic needs?
    In this procrastination we should ask!
    Can faith would be the main cause of all social differences?
    If yes, why do we think and if we do not think what should we change
    it against?
    And if the answer is a no, can we speak without objection may be more
    or less in the first few seconds it says?
    Are we a mankind or an idealist?
    If we are mankind then we have to describe it in shape of physical
    being. And if we are convinced as each opinion including fascist and
    racist beliefs should be considered as human.
    In the further, would humanity be extracted of a man or an idea?
    If an apple is the product of an apple tree, then humanity should be a
    product of man's physiological existence.
    (The Individuals Revolution) my script is free from any faith and it
    is not more than the man as a product of man as being and it will not
    be extracting anything than humanity!
    There for: can the political parties in the world to be responsive to
    people's needs?
    A few hundred years ago, the public demanded the separation of
    religion from the state in view of the escalating pressure from the
    churches to people, and faith in democracy wishes to acquire.
    Today, democracy is much more complex problem for the requirements
    that mankind has. Now once again people looking for new policies and
    procedures to be followed to ensure that their demands are met.
    The word democracy actually means "government by the people" but it
    lacks a fundamental principle also:
    Is that or whether it is ?
    It felt by the democracy in practice the belief rule and it manipulate
    that it is government by the people.

    "The individual revolution" is a definition of man (in the shape of
    physical mechanism), which in that sense we can only call it the
    government by the people!


    Amir Heidari
    Sweden- uppsala

    December 23, 2011 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  10. 99%

    According to OWS, WE THE 99% should be setting up tents in the OWS office, since we deserve our fair shares of their nice office while they pay for the rent and utility. And didn't a woman protestor get hired by John Thomas? She needs to send her pay checks to the rest of us since we deserve our fair shares. ALL of the city’s homeless should be allowed into their office. Come on, don't be hypocrite!

    December 25, 2011 at 4:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. Mohit

    the store oatpree some years ago, big at the same time, at wind winter so I need to search for the .

    February 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. samir

    we need to get back to 10 cmanmmdoents of God and the bill of rights(u s a ),this debt is a made up thing just to enslave us,wake up!

    February 13, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Salasiah

    Exactly Grant! The reich wing trlols haven't had a humane day in their lives!

    February 13, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Soma

    Can't blame just the Dems. The Progressives have taken over the Dem party and infiltrated the Rep party to a great drgeee. They have infiltrated our colleges with Communist professors like Bill Ayres and indoctrinated our children. They have infiltrated every aspect of our govt including our military. Also Judges and Pastors. This has been going on for decades and they decided now was the time for B.O to begin the destruction. They are trying to destroy America .Make us a third world country with a Dictator. The Unions and the Communist Party have joined the OWS This will end in violence and it is just what Soros wants. Anything to disrupt the elections or gain votes for B.O.

    March 12, 2012 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
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