Photo: Robert Johnson — Business Insider
When you read stories like this (via the NY Post), it’s impossible not to wonder what’s going on in Zuccotti Park right now:Zuccotti Park has become so overrun by sexual predators attacking women in the night that organisers felt compelled to set up a female-only sleeping tent yesterday to keep the sickos away.
It sounds like a nightmare. A space overrun with dangerous people waiting to prey on defenseless women.
We were struggling to wade through all of the rumours we were hearing — We heard that the police were telling convicts and bums to, “take it to Zuccotti”, if they were causing disturbances in public. We heard that the police would stand and watch as things in the park got out of hand. That some of the protesters were drinking and doing drugs at night. That there were anarchists in Zuccotti urging violence against the police.
So we headed back to the park to ask questions.
What we found on the ground in Zuccotti paled in comparison to what we read in the papers, but to say that there is no danger would be a lie.
As one protester, Grayson, told us, “I think it’s safer here than walking the streets of New York.” He told us his girlfriend safely walks around at night to go the bathroom at McDonald’s. Grayson himself has started working the community-watch and says the campers can hear everything that goes on in the dark. After all, they’re staying in a tent in the thick of the park, towards the eastern side.
But that’s just it. The park now has sides, and the eastern side is the friendliest. Nan, the woman who set up the female-only sleeping tent, told us that there is a “rich” section, a work section (where protesters cook etc), an occupiers section (for daily activity), and a section on the west side that is seedier, to say the least.
Not to say that Nan doesn’t think the homeless and other wanderers have a place in the occupation. They march, she said, and they hold the park for protesters when they’re out at a demonstration. But winter is coming, the nights come quickly, and since the protesters think the NYPD not only won’t help them, but is out to get them, Nan decided the women needed to stick together.
And they’re doing that in one of a few expensive military tents that have popped up around the encampment. They can sleep 16 people, and according to NBC New York, the protesters just placed an order for 27 more of them.
Those tents may be able to shield the protesters from the elements outside, but there’s no telling what will happen from within. We spoke with young self-proclaimed Anonymous anarchists who have come out of confrontations with the police charged with felonies and misdemeanours. They, like many others, believe the police have infiltrated the camp. And they don’t trust The New York Post, or many other local journalists either, because they believe most news outlets want to discredit the movement.
They have their own way of talking about what goes on at the camp, and it seems like everyone else does too. Nan told us that the young woman who had been assaulted last week was drunk, and that opinion turned against the man who allegedly assaulted her because she is white and he is black.
Without an official voice to confirm the truth, though, you just have to listen, see everything, and judge for yourself.
The most open area left in Zuccotti, the library is well stocked with books and is about to receive shelter. Those metal poles are based in five-gallon buckets of cement and will be covered with tarps.
One of the librarians checks out how his selection stacks up against The New York Times Review of Books
There is an undeniable sense of organisation. The core group speaking for the original Occupy movement have drawn in people from all over the country.
The media tent was filled with laptops and electronics before the generators were pulled by FDNY. Inside there is still a permanent feel.
Everybody at Occupy Wall Street has a plan. This map at one of the information tables calls for a march on Washington
Here a group of people come together and talk about other Occupy movements in the U.S. One man held up pictures of Occupy Louisville where three people showed up.
The next big day in the Occupy lineup is Veteran's Day. The group plans to leave a handful of people at Zuccotti and march to Central Park.
These three from upstate New York are enthusiastic about the Central Park march, and plan on staying until the park closes, challenging police on the curfew and forcing arrests.
The bicycle powered charging station is up and running and people hop on to charge their phones, and often to warm up from the cold. This girl was charging her iPhone.
This gentleman was charging his Blackberry. The wiring array is laid out on a piece of plywood bolted to the handlebars.
This couple hitchhiked to Zuccotti from Long Beach California. He walks security from 2 to 4 in the morning. He said aside from small arguments, there is very little conflict and arguments are as far as confrontations progress.
Nan (who prefers not to be photographed) is in charge of female security and after the sexual assault charges from late last month, she set up this women only tent.
There are no screens and no markings on the tent save for this poster tied to the corner. AM New York interviewed a woman who slept here with her 17 year old daughter, and said they both felt safe.
They were asked to relocate so workers could attach the new sign to the military grade tent that runs about $1,000.
There is a vibrant energy, and despite real actions and concerns by protesters, there is a light-hearted element to the encampment.
This sign is prominently displayed and shows the diffused frustration some protesters feel — at everyone.
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