Published November 11, 2011
Small business owners and local residents fed up with the “Occupiers” at Zuccotti Park in New York City are planning a counterprotest and news conference of their own Monday, to make clear the crowd has long overstayed its welcome — and that businesses will not survive if the “occupation” continues.
Flyers are being passed around at small businesses and residential buildings around the park in downtown Manhattan promoting a “Protest against the Occupy Wall St. and Mayor Bloomberg who does nothing to get them to leave.”
The news conference is scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m. on the steps of City Hall.
In recent days, shopkeepers, restaurant owners and others with small businesses located near Zuccotti Park have been quietly meeting to share stories of the damage they say has been caused by Occupy Wall Street: theft of property, vandalism, threats, violence and even incidents involving the throwing of fecal matter.
The flyers were printed out by a 46-year-old unemployed teacher named Leslie who has spearheaded the counterprotest efforts. She asked her last name not be used out of concern the protesters would retaliate against her, and that her involvement in the counterprotest might negatively affect her job search.
“It’s time for them to go,” Leslie said of the Occupiers.
John Corstales said he planned to take the employees of his restaurant — Essex World Cafe, located a block away from Zuccotti Park — to the news conference.
“I’ll bring all my people. These protesters—they’re not even protesters, they don’t know anything—they are horrible. They break things, they steal, I have to close my bathrooms and bring customers downstairs [to employee restrooms],” he said.
“You should see what they have done to my gate, what they do every night when we are closed,” he said, referring to vandalism and damage to the exterior of his restaurant.
One of his employees said the urination and fecal matter in the neighborhood are among the worst of the problems. A construction worker who works nearby said he saw someone defecating into a newspaper, which was then rolled up and thrown across the street.
“What they do is horrible, it is just horrible,” Corstales said.
He said he was particularly upset about an incident involving New York Police Inspector Anthony Bologna, who was reprimanded by the department following circulation of a video of him pepper-spraying protesters on Sept. 24.
“He is the best captain in this neighborhood for five years. No better human being than him,” he said.
Leslie makes no effort to conceal her disgust.
“They say they are the 99 percent. Let me tell you, I’m unemployed and I lost my unemployment benefits after 99 weeks. I had to move in with my mother—I’m a true 99 percenter,” she said.
A police officer who was posted at the perimeter of the park for seven days said he would be attending the Monday event out of uniform, “as a protester and fed-up New Yorker.”
“After speaking with many of them, I realize they are unemployable takers,” he said, asking that his name not be used. “They just want to be able to tell their friends, ‘Hey, I was there.’ There is no leader, no voice. They have money in the bank but can’t agree on using it and no one knows who controls it.
“I’m sick of it. Fed up like everyone else.”
An email request for comment from Occupy Wall Street’s media contact was not immediately returned.
Other business owners asked that their names not be printed out of fear of further harassment and vandalism. They said Zuccotti has become home to an increasingly violent and unsanitary crowd, including some looking to commit crimes.
They also complained about the incessant drumming that has become synonymous with the movement.
One restaurant owner complained protesters repeatedly sneaked in to use the bathroom. Others said protesters crowded into their establishment during last month’s snowstorm and refused to leave.
Some local eateries have said they have had to lay off employees because business has tanked since the protesters arrived.