NEW YORK — Saturday marks exactly three weeks since the Occupy Wall Street protest began at Zuccotti Park and with the numbers swelling by the day, the movement has outgrown the area.
As the protesters awakened to begin their day, a change of venue was on the agenda. The demonstrators feel it’s time to expand and will march to Washington Square Park Saturday afternoon.
“The size of the crowd has quadrupled since a week ago and there’s no more room for people who are trickling in from all over the country every day to join us, so we need elbow room,” said protestor Bill Steyert from Queens.
Showing no signs of diminishing, the Zuccotti Park campout has Mayor Michael Bloomberg also searching for solutions.
Zuccotti Park has 24 hour public access and with hundreds of people now camped out for the third week in a row, the park’s owners are concerned about cleanliness.
Brookfield Office Properties released this statement:
“Sanitation is a growing concern. Normally, the park is cleaned and inspected every weeknight. This process includes power washing, litter removal, landscaping and other maintenance as required. Because many of the protesters refuse to cooperate by adhering to the rules, the park has not been cleaned since Friday, September 16, and as a result, sanitary conditions have reached unacceptable levels.”
Around 200 people have been sleeping in the park with hundreds more coming during the day to protest and volunteer.
“They’re just making life miserable for the working guy,” said bar owner Mike Keane.
“I think it’s important for us to get out of this square, we’re kind of restricted to this,” said Emily Brady from Freehold, New Jersey.
But the protesters say they are doing their best to reduce their noise level in the overnight hours and clean up as well.
“The people that have been here have been cleaning,” said demonstrator Michelle Rafic. “I see them sweeping.”
An effort is being made not to destroy the park. A sign reads, “Please walk around flower beds, not through flower beds. Show these flowers and their homes some respect.”
There are also no bathrooms in the park, so protesters go to nearby businesses like Burger King and McDonald’s. “Anywhere we can go that they won’t throw us out,” said volunteer Katie Cristiano.
A few local sympathizers have even offered protesters their showers.
Supporters have donated food, clothing, medical supplies, soap, razors, books and cash. Some drop off their offerings, while others send them UPS. A local pizzeria will deliver an “occu-pie” if someone orders one.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has also been spreading all over the country, with protests springing up this week in several more cities, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City.
As these protests hit the three-week mark, demonstrators say they are emboldened by the growth of their movement.
“It just shows that the movement is sustainable and it’s going to keep growing,” said Tyler Fritsch from Easton, Pennsylvania. “Today, we have the biggest numbers we’ve seen in a while and the day before that, the biggest numbers. It just keeps growing.”
“It’s going to take something like this to get Washington to wake up, for politicians, local and federal alike to really open their eyes and do something about what’s going on in our country,” said Christopher Marshall from Brooklyn. “People are getting upset.”