Having already dealt with poor weather, access to food, incidents of police brutality and some media outlets gleefully mocking them, the protesters at Occupy Wall Street find themselves facing their most difficult — yet gratifying — challenge yet: they are running out of space.
As the number of protesters increase at Zuccotti Park, the home of the movement just a few blocks away from Wall Street, finding enough room to live has dwindled.
“We have a residential district which at the point we are kind of overpopulated in because we have more and more occupants coming,” said Casper, a 22-year-old Brooklyn native who declined to give his last name for personal reasons and who has been protesting since the occupation started on September 17th. “We have one small city block. We can only fit hundreds of people sleeping here comfortably with space to actually still move around and have our organization.”
With that development, talks around the park about moving or expanding to a second place are surfacing.
“I think a lot of folks are thinking about that,” said Julian Harrison, a Texas native who flew from Oregon and has become an occupant since the third day of protests. “Everyday, you’re a little bit closer sleeping to the person next to you. So we’re definitely filling up and I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm for finding a new location.”
Figures have varied on the amount of people currently sleeping at night in “Liberty Park,” a play on the original name of the privately-owned park that protestors adopted to avoid using the name of businessman John Zuccotti.
“About a week and a half ago, we counted two to three hundred people sleeping here,” Harrison said. “I would think now it’s 500. And in the afternoon, this plaza is completely full.”
Casper and Harrison represent the two sets of occupants that have emerged with the demonstrations in New York City: The local residents who have the choice to actually sleep in their own homes and the out-of-towners trying to find space in what is their lone set living place in the Big Apple.
As the number of non-NYC occupants increases in Liberty Park, some figures have decided that it might be best for the locals to give up their spots in the park.
“I know there’s a lot of people who live in the city who were occupying space and that as more people came they’re like, ‘Alright, we have apartments, we don’t need to be here’ but they would still like to be out here,” said Jordan McCarthy, a 22 year old New Hampshire woman with her beagle dog Oliver standing beside her. “At first they needed to be here just to occupy, just to be bodies. Now they’re going home but I’m sure a lot more of them would come out if we were to expand.”
K.B. from Lancaster, Pa. understands the reasons why the NYC occupants are heading to their actual homes in the evening.
“I think they’re doing it because they rather be on their comfortable bed rather than be out here,” he said. “But they still want to as supportive as during the entire day. I don’t really blame them. If it was my home town, I might invite a bunch of people over.”
He added that the local occupants have been kind enough to also share their house space to those from out of town. “I kicked it at a couple of friends’ house, drink some wine,” he laughed.
As the chatter for more space gets louder, Casper hopes that any expansion won’t come at the expense of abandoning the protests’ original home.
“I wouldn’t like to see us leave Liberty Plaza, I would like to see us maybe spread.” he said. “I look at it as sort of like us developing little communes. That’s something that’s been branching out and propping up all over the country because of people who seem to get off the grid or who don’t agree with the structure so they come together and work with people who are more like-minded.”
That sentiment is also felt by Harrison.
“New York is an enormous city. We should have occupations in Brooklyn, in Harlem, all over the place, support each other, working together.”
“One of our mottos is ‘Occupy everywhere!’ So I think we would love to see that. I don’t know how that’s going to happen, when that’s going to happen. But I definitely think there’s a lot of enthusiasm for that.”
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