'Occupy Wall Street' Takes A Stand Against Pretend Protesters
The kitchen may no longer have such an open-door policy at Occupy Wall Street.
Frustrated about having to work around the clock to serve "professional homeless" and others pretending to be protesters, the volunteer chefs at Zuccotti Park stopped serving food for two hours on Wednesday, and for the next three days, will downgrade their fare from organic treats to basic brown rice dishes, the New York Post reports.
As Occupy Wall Street has grown, the kitchen has had to contend with people who aren't committed to the cause. Marlisa Wise, a volunteer chef, told the Huffington Post that the kitchen plans to use the next three days to "take a deep breath and reevaluate where we've come from," in order to devise a plan to continue to serve free food, while also sustaining the movement.
Rafael Moreno, another volunteer, told the New York Post that "we need to limit the amount of food we're putting out" to keep away the people who may be freeloading.
"This three day action was consensed upon by the Kitchen, an autonomous working group open to all members of the community, after many days of conversations and open meetings with members of various working groups, including Security and De-escalation, Structure, Comfort, Sanitation, Community Watch, Finance, Direct Action, S.I.S., Facilitation and the Peace Council," the People's Kitchen announced on the NYC General Assembly website.
While downtown New York is taking measures to limit the number of squatters, other cities are making a little more room around the table, and the mission, to include those who don’t have a permanent address.
In Atlanta, for example, the homeless have been contributing to building and maintaining the campsite and the protesters are working to save a shelter that’s at risk for getting shut down.
"Don't have the misconception that most homeless people are always out for a meal," Billy Jones, 28, told the Associated Press. "I'm here because there are things I can lend that are helpful to the movement. I can get food anywhere. I don't have to be at Occupy Atlanta to get food."
The Atlanta protesters have lent a critical helping hand to the homeless too. The movement marched -- with the homeless -- on Thursday to a local shelter, which will get shuttered if it doesn't pay more than $200,000 in overdue water bills by the end of the month, according to CBS Atlanta.
Down in Austin, the movement has mobilized to push for more affordable housing and for legalizing tent cities -- outdoor residential communities. Earlier this month, proponents set up a "model" tent city in Auditorium Shores to demonstrate the need to sanction campgrounds for the homeless, statesman.com reported.
"The thing is, we welcome the homeless here; they're a big part of the 99 percent," Marine Veteran Melvin Davenport told KVUE News.
But striking a balance in participation among the homeless and the protesters has sometimes proved challenging, even in cities, like Portland, that have long with a friend to the homeless.
Though Occupy Wall Street Portland protester Kat Enyeart told the Associated Press that "we're here to spoil each other," some have expressed uncertainty about the level of security and the outbursts of violence among the homeless.
"I served four tours in Iraq, and I felt more safe there at times than here," Micaiah Dutt told the news outlet. "There, I had a weapon and knew the people around me were with me. Here, I don't know."
CORRECTION: The story originally stated that the homeless have been banned from dining at Occupy Wall Street. The General Assembly hasn't issued an official ban.