As we’ve documented the changes in Occupy Wall Street over the past month, it occurred to us that we had forgotten one giant demographic: the non-Occupiers of Wall Street. Zuccotti Park’s tourists, the locally employed, and those poor souls who actually lived in the area…what did they think of the never-ending protests?
Unfortunately, we soon found out that many of the people that worked in the area weren’t willing to give us sound bites on how OWS has affected their life as a hedge fund capitalist. But we were able to track down a couple of onlookers and ask them about the movement: was it annoying, rejuvenating, or just plain underwhelming? Read on to find out.
(Photos by Marielle Solan)
Works at: Healthy Vegetarian (Tagline: 99% Vegetarian!)
What do you think of the protesters? "Oh, I try to make food that's healthy that (caters) to this crowd."
Have you seen a jump in business since they've taken over Zuccotti Park? "Oh, a little bit. You know, just trying to get everyone to eat healthy."
Works at: Biryani House
How long have you had a truck here? "Three years."
And since protesters have come to the park, have you had more business? "Oh yeah."
So you are happy to have them? (Laughs) Happy? I don't know. Business is very good. But it's not so much the people in the park as the NYPD. Every day we have about 60 police from the NYPD ordering food, they come down and they buy from us, every day."
Works at: Rafi Place
How long have you had a truck down here? "Four years."
Have you seen a rise in business since Occupy Wall Street? "No, business has gone down. The people who used to order here, they don't come by anymore. This is not good for our business."
Works at: Sam's Falafel
How long have you had a truck in Zuccotti Park? Since 1992.
Have you seen a change in business since the protests started? "Not really. It hasn't gone up, it hasn't gone down…it's about stayed the same."
And what do you make of the people in the park? "I'm honestly very confused about what they are trying to do."
Works at: Hat/t-shirt/memorabilia stand on the southern outskirt of Zuccotti Park
How's business? "It's been a decrease. I think it's the economy, but also with these protests going on, it's blocked a lot of people who might want to come over to us. But that's just…"(Shrugs)
What are your thoughts on this whole park occupation? "I like that it's a peaceful protest. It's a lot of people having a good time. I support that…I've been to a lot of protests, and this one is pretty peaceful."
What do you do?: "We make trading systems."
Do you work around here? "No, I've just come to New York to see a client, and I passed by here. I wanted to check it out."
So what do you think of Occupy Wall Street, now that you've seen it? "Actually, I'm from Tunisia, and it's amazing what's going on here, with people asking for respect. Because you know in Tunisia we had a revolution, and it begins like this."
Really? It's the same. In Tunisia, people are asking for freedom, and here, people are looking for…uh…they are asking for…uh…"
Equality? "Equality! Yeah! The system here really sucks, because the rich people are getting more rich, and the middle class is really in a poor state. And here they are asking for…uh…the rich people to pay more. It's great."
What kind of science do you practice? "I'm a Molecular Engineer."
What brings you to New York? "I'm just here to visit my sister in Brooklyn."
So you just came down to Wall Street to see what's going on? "Absolutely."
And what do you think of it? "I think it's hilarious. The whole thing just kills me. The 'We are the 99%'…that's just great. I'm a lot of different percents. I don't have any catchy sound bites, except to say that, you know, I have a job so I don't have time to go protest things. I think it's quite amusing…these Americans need diversion, and it's a nice little park. So it's a pretty place."
Is he yours?: Yes, this is my baby Wren.
Is this your first time down at Zuccotti? "It is. I've been nervous about bringing the baby, but I have a few friends that have been staying at it…they've said it was okay."
Is this the kind of scene you expected to see? "I keep thinking today's Friday, so I kept expecting to see more people. I think it's great. I'm glad that people are finally saying things…anything at all. Getting together and doing something like this."
How long are you visiting for? "A total of a week, we've been here about half that time."
Is this your first visit down to Occupy Wall Street? "Nope, third time."
Oh, you must really like it down here. "Well…we're staying in Staten Island, so we have to come right by here. Because everything in New York is in Manhattan, and this is where we enter."
So do you find it annoying to always be running into this group in the park? "Oh no, not at all. You have to combine it. I was expecting it to be a lot bigger. We actually had to go around looking for it, and be like 'Oh, okay. It's located on this one little tiny block.' I was expecting a much bigger deal, in how much space it takes up, and how much of a…problem it is for people around here. I don't perceive it to be a problem at all, so the national news gave me the wrong picture."
Do you have any personal opinions about the protests, one way or another? "Yeah…I'm sympathetic. I'm a sympathizer."
What brought you down to visit Wall Street? "I wanted to come to this protest because I was very, very interested in it. It's drawn a lot of media attention, of course, and in Europe. And this idea of people saying 'That's it, the system does not work anymore, that is idea that's really taken over most of Europe. Like Frankfurt, for example, in front of the European Central Bank, there have been protests. And in Zurich, they have huge protests outside the big banks UBS and Credit Suisse. So I think it's time for change now, something is really not working."
Do the Swiss protests fall under the 'Occupy' movement? "I don't think they are as solid as they are here, but there are some. I find it interesting to have (the protests) in the core of the capitalist city."
So the protests haven't affected your Smoothie runs? "Oh yeah, this guy right here (motions towards Smoothie truck) and I, we're buds."
How often do you go buy Smoothies in the park? "Several days a week, afternoon snacks."
So you can't speak on the record about your feelings towards the protesters, but can you tell us anything about what you see on your Smoothie trips? "I've told my mom -- because she obviously knows what's going on – that it's at a point now where it will feel weird when it's not happening."
How long have you been working on Wall Street?: "Since March…30 years ago, I used to work in Herald Square, in a bank. Now I work here."
So now you walk by these protests every day…have any thoughts? Is it blocking your way to work? "No it doesn't. It's the police…it's all them. The police on Wall Street, they won't let you pass, they tell you to go around. But I find a way, a way to get around all the police blocks."
Have you found it harder or easier to go to work these days? "It's a little harder, a little more traffic, but it's okay."
Any other comments on what's going on down at Zuccotti Park? "Not really."
Do you live or work around here? "I live right near Battery Park."
How has your daily life been affected by the protests? "Yes and no. It's been affected every time I have to navigate across the area from where I live. But the police have done a pretty good job, so it's okay. But the noise has been a disaster."
Really? "Well yeah, this time of year, you want to have the windows open for the fall, it's a beautiful time of year. All I hear until two in the morning, when I can actually fall asleep, is bum-bum-bum-bum-bum…all night long. It's very loud. If I lived here, it would probably be a disaster. But I live across the highway! And it's still so loud! I live on the 30th floor, so it's the acoustics, for sure, but I can hear everything. The drum circles go on and on and on and on. And I'm all for (the protests). But I was raised to respect my neighbors."
Have you actually visited inside the parerk? "Oh yeah, I go in there frequently. It's a disaster. I mean, I just actually had extra food from an event, and I brought it over to donate. And I specifically gave it to the Sanitation (workers), because I may live in New York, but I am a person of community. And it's really disgusting over there; it's gross. I could get into the whole political aspect…but you know, I used to think that appearances weren't everything, but when you' looking at something en masse, appearances matter. Like you go through there, and it's like, 'Why would I listen to you? You're disgusting.'"
So the mess is kind of detracting from the message? "You know, I just got into a serious conversation with a guy over there, and I was happy to have it. A lot of the noise and filth distracts from the actual message. Which I'm still unclear on…I just saw someone walk by with a 'Bring Communism Back' sign. I saw someone with a Herman Cain sign. But this guy reminded me, the guy I talked to, that there is a serious component there. Which is good…it's good."
How has your daily routine been affected by Occupy Wall Street? "Too many people on the street; very difficult to get down the street. Other than that? No affect on me."
So you were saying your commute has been a little bit messed up, recently. "Yeah, I mean it's not really a big deal…I'd say it's about a 15 minute difference, just because of the barricades they keep around the street. I happen to get off at the Broad Street J train, and where the barricades are, I have to go around, come up, then go around again. But nothing really big."
Have you been by the protests yet? "I've been past, but I haven't actually stopped."
Do you have any thoughts on what's going on down there? "No, I really don't. I don't even know what's going on, I'm so busy paying attention to doing…everything else. It's the New York life, we live the busiest lives…so if it doesn't really involve us, we don't really get involved. Though I'm assuming that what's going on…it pretty much involves us, does it not?"
So the protests have been going on for awhile now, does it affect you, being so close to the park? "Eh, it doesn't matter to me. You know, I think it's good that they're out there, for their own…well, I don't know what their causes are, exactly. I don't think they've pinpointed what they're actually there for. But it's democracy at a first glance. As long as it's not like what's going down in Greece or Italy, they should keep them there all they want. I don't know. It's a good thing."
Has your life or your commute been affected by the protests? "Nope, not at all."
Do you have any feelings, one way or another, towards what's been going on? "No I don't. I really don't. I don't mind nothing. Just some people trying to make a point, make a statement, and that's fine to me."
So you're just visiting? "Yeah, we're staying with some friends, and they live in Brooklyn."
So what brings you to this part of town? "The guy we're staying with works around here, and of course we wanted to come check it out. Wanted to get a look at Occupy Wall Street; feel the energy more than anything else."
So you're pro-protesters? "Yeah."
Any thoughts, now that you've seen it? "It didn't change my opinion in any way. I just got to see their passion; got to hear it…got to donate some money."
Do you have any feelings towards the protests? "I mean, I agree with what they're doing. Something has to be done. The amount of money some people have, when there's starving people in America. So I agree with the very basis of it…but I don't know…there are so many people with different opinions down there. There was someone for gay rights, someone supporting (legalizing) marijuana…there's so many things. But yeah, the very basic idea of the protest, I agree with."
So what did it look like to you? Was it what you were expecting? "I was hoping it was going to be a little more exciting. But they did have a dishwashing station, and I thought that was awesome."
Wait…do you live here or in Paris? "I moved here from Paris, then I moved back. Now I am just visiting."
Wow, so we guess you're glad you moved back to Paris to miss all of this. "This? (Gestures to O'Hara's) This, no I love this place. I know the bartender."
No, we meant what's going on in Zuccotti Park. "Oh, have you been over there? I don't know what's going on over there. I just saw that, a bunch of people…I didn't know what was going on."
So what are you doing these days? "Well, I did some construction, but that ended. I signed with a management company, might try to do some acting in the near future."
Are you from the city? "Oh yeah, I was born in New York, raised in Weschester County, and now I live in Brooklyn.
So have you been to the protests before? "Yeah, it's my second time down here. My boy who's real into it keeps telling me to come back. And you know, I totally understand what's going on, but I feel like maybe not everybody is on the exact same page. It makes it sort of…I guess…a shitshow?
I mean the ideals and the ideas are very good and I agree with them, but my only problem is with some of the people I hear protesting. They kind of take away its credibility, and that's depressing. Because there's a lot of people…like the 98% who aren't here at the park … they aren't hearing about the protests and the ideals behind it. They just see the guys with the tattooed faces on TV, the guys that are here to "fuck the system"…sorry about the language. They just want any reason to protest.
And when we first dropped the bomb on Iraq -- on what, April 20th? – those protests in New York were amazing. Everyone was united, and I thought it was really good. And these…well, they're good, but I just don't see them going anywhere. Because I am realist, and I understand and I sympathize – I'm broke and unemployed myself! – but I just don't see it doing much. Don't get me wrong, I like it when the public gets together…"
But you don't see any real change coming out of this? "Well, no. The publicity is good, and it gets certain people listening. But it gets the attention off of Obama. And I'm not saying it's like a conspiracy, but I think this is helping Obama in a lot of ways."
"I guess my problem is: I'm smart, I'm all for this, I love protests, and I love people standing up for their thing, and there's great food here and stuff, they've raised some money…but I just am looking for that unified, set goal for this protest. They keep saying that they're not going to leave here until things change. Well, it's about to get cold. You won't find me out here."
So you work literally across the street from Zuccotti Park. What are your thoughts on it? "It doesn't really affect me."
Does it affect your commute at all? "Not really, no."
So what are you doing watching the park outside? "We're actually on our way somewhere else. We just stopped to gawk, I guess."
*Note: Trevor knew our photographer from his Hebrew school. We did not just pick a little boy off the street. That would be weird.
Trevor, you live right around here, right? "Yup, right at ___ Liberty."
So you've seen the protests every day. What do you think of them? "Well, they're sort of freaky sometimes. And also, they're really loud and annoying."
Can you hear them from your house? "Depends what they're doing."
Do you see anything that looks like fun over at the park? Like the painting or the music? "Not really. It looks pretty boring…they're just sitting around."
So do you work around here? "I don't walk at Wall Street, I'm just here to look at the protests."
What do you think of it? "I…I think it's good. It's just…I don't know if it's going to do anything, but it's a good idea."
Is there something about Occupy Wall Street you wish you could fix? "I think what it is, is media in general. Like they (Occupy Wall Street) are doing a lot of media to get their point across, but a lot of things they're not really being honest about. The same with the media that's against them: they're not really honest either. So it's kind of hard to decide what is actually happening."
What do you mean when you say OWS hasn't been honest to the media? "Well, I'll get the news, then I'll go on Occupy Wall Street's website to see what they're writing about, and then I'll go down here to see what's actually happening, and it's like three different variations. It's all very different perspectives, but it's all happening in the same space."
What brought you down here today? "I was just curious. You see the news, and all the different causes, and it gives you different picture. So I wanted to come down here and get a sense for myself, rather than just through what I've read, because I feel like there are so many different representations of what's going on. I wanted to make my own opinion."
And now that you have seen the protests for yourself, what do you think? "I think there's a little bit of truth to what all the different media outlets have been saying. There seems to be no central message. A lot of people would say that's a good thing, and to some degree I would agree with that, but I also think that there are a lot of uber-liberal causes that are being championed here that just really distract from the greater issues. I do think there are these bigger issues they could focus on, that would still leave them with a wide variety of messages. But they could get more serious."
So this is your first time checking out the protests? Yeah, I'm in New York visiting my brother, and I figured I would check it out."
And what do you think? "I'm not sure…"
Is this what you were expecting? What you saw on TV? "Basically? I don't know. I'm not sure what the main point is."
We're hearing that a lot today. Maybe they're having an off-message day? "I think they need a stronger point. I support the anti-corporate greed message, but is this going to solve anything? I guess they're getting their voice heard. I think they need unified direction."
Have you seen any Occupy protests in Minneapolis? "Nuh-uh. It wouldn't surprise me if there was something in St. Paul, the capital…but I haven't seen anything like that."
Are you visiting?: "No, I live in Central Park West. But I'm from Texas."
Well, what brought you down here today? "Just to see what's going on."
Now that you've seen it? "Well, I didn't know how small it was going to be. The park is pretty well-confined. There's lots of young people…I just got here, that's all I've observed so far."
You came all the way here from Nova Scotia? "Well, I'm from Edmonton, but I had family I was staying with in Nova Scotia, and I'm here visiting my son. "
What do you think of the protests? "Well, until I came down and actually looked and observed people, I thought that it was so great that people were going to create something, because we need to bring attention to the fact that there is a big disparity. But when I came down and looked, I was kind of disappointed in what I saw. I think the people need more structure. The ones that are here, they need to get a life."
Wow. "Yeah. (Laughs) Well, the appearance is that they want something for nothing, which is not what I'm about. But that's just the impression that I get…I haven't talked to anybody here. But from the signage and the comments and the appearance, I think some of these people, if not most of them, are looking to blame someone else for their problems instead of taking responsibility for themselves. I could be wrong."
Um…we'll just put this cigarette out… "Thank you. Yes, if you were wondering why I was stepping away from you…"
Sorry. So what brought you down to Wall Street? "I wanted to see the original Occupy Wall Street."
And now that you've seen it, what are your thoughts? "It's pretty interesting, observing at least some of these interactions between people. The signage that's up, the kind of community that's being created here: about being respectful of people, about being respectful of the environment, and people expressing their opinions."
There's an Occupation in Berkeley right now, isn't there? "There is actually a larger occupation in Oakland and San Francisco. We're all sort of following the lead here from New York."
Is this what you were envisioning? "I don't know. You always see things on TV and then it's different in person. I expected to see more tents. Maybe they got put aside for the rain."
No, they don't allow tents in the park. "Really? So…people just sleep out in the rain? Wow."