By Candice M. Giove – NY Post – Nov. 6, 2011
The cheap walkie-talkie crackles inside a crowded downtown McDonald’s, stopping the gathered mass mid-sip from their Kombucha bottles and cups of corporate coffee.
“There’s a situation,” a vagabond gumshoe dubbed “Conscience” tells me after the static-filled communique arrives over the air at around 3 a.m.
Cornered on the other side of the fast-food joint is Fisika Bezabeh, 27, a Zuccotti squatter who inexplicably returned to the eatery after allegedly clobbering a manager with a credit-card reader earlier in the night.
“We can’t take him in by ourselves,” yells another OWS security-force member.
The Zuccotti “cops” had just spent an hour and a half tracking Bezabeh through goat paths in the park armed with a description from the manager.“We cannot take him in by ourselves, the cops have to come!” reiterates the OWS security force member.
They call the NYPD — and it becomes abundantly clear that the cops down there are sick of the antics.
“Every single night it’s the same thing. I mean, some guy was a victim of rape!” an officer snarls. “There comes a time when it’s over. This is a disaster. It’s all we’re doing, every two seconds, is locking somebody up every time.
It’s done. It’s done,” he repeats. “Occupy Wall Street is no longer a protest.”
Scenes like this — and far worse — have been playing out since the Zuccotti Park “occupation” began on Sept. 17.
The parcel is now a sliver of madness, rife with sex attacks, robberies and vigilante justice.
It’s a leaderless bazaar that’s been divided into state-like camps — with tents packed together so densely that the only way to add more would be to stack them.
And despite an NYPD watchtower overhead and the entire north side of Zuccotti
lined with police vehicles, it is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous places in New York City.
Reporter Candice Giove in her sleeping bag
I arrive in the Financial District after dark on Thursday lugging a backpack, a sleeping bag and layers upon layers of clothes.
It’s 8 p.m., and the suits and ties fill the bars. They glare at my overstuffed bag as I walk from the E train to a 7-Eleven for a few last-minute items for my night in Zuccotti Park.
The anti-bacterial soap and powder are nearly out. Naturally, the condoms are fully stocked.
Outside, an old-man Occupier in a plaid earflap hat is screaming at people in the crosswalk at Church and Barclay. “Why are you afraid of bunny rabbits? Whyyyyy?”
As I cautiously walk the Zuccotti perimeter, picking up photocopied literature on anarchy, there is a poster on a tent bearing a set of park rules that includes: “If you want to hook up, go to a singles bar.”
There is literally no space to unfold my sleeping bag. I ask around for help.
Out of nowhere, a man pushing a shopping cart with his friend inside rammed the thing “Jackass”-style into a police barrier and walked off laughing like a hyena.
A woman emerges from a makeshift tent that looks more like a layer cake — a clear tarp draped over a sleeping bag that is on top of a filthy mattress. It even has a welcome mat missing the “m” and the stench of a vagrant. “There’s not much space left,” she said and walked off into the darkness.
Every camp tent is like its own state. There is “Camp Anonymous,” the group best known for anti-Scientology protests.
It’s neighbored by a tent full of vampires
, the “Class War” tent and the “Occupy Paw Street” tent, whose residents hand out treats to occupying pets.
There’s also “Camp France” and the “Nic at Night” tent, which supplies the protest with smokes.
I settle on a sliver near Broadway by an OWS library — which frighteningly has a children’s section. On a bulletin board, there are personal messages like, “Call your sister!”
I’m wedged between a newbie from Brooklyn and some guy from Toronto, who preferred the experience of urban camping to his buddy’s couch or a hotel.
“My knees will crush you,” a hulking squatter shouts. “I don’t want to hurt you.
“You’re in my doorway. I’m going to crush you.”
Someone takes offense and yells, “Manners!”
He’s much kinder when he emerges later from his green tent and hands me a shiny Mylar blanket for extra warmth. “It’s going to get cold,” he said.
This spirit of generosity and the naivete of the original OWS protesters is devolving into a state of distrust and paranoia,
They speak of theft, about government infiltrators and tales of Rikers Island castoffs being dropped off to roam and ravage the site.
From underneath my blanket, I hear allegations of financial corruption and intimidation over sexual orientation.
“I’m in a tent that keeps getting flooded, ransacked and robbed,” fumes a transgender group
leader — a female who identifies as a male. He said that the transgender group would create its own police force for transgender protesters and females, since an immense distrust loomed over the OWS-created authority.
That group is also demanding financial transparency amid growing concern over the use of the $750,000 war chest.
They have a point. I notice supply-station cupboards are dangerously lacking any blankets, tents, tarps or Mylar. “Someone forgot to get that stuff out of storage,” an attendant claimed.
“We have three-quarters of a million dollars in the bank and all these f–king people are not doing financial accounting while we’re calling for it from the larger corporations,” says the transgender leader. “A lot of good people are quitting.”
A day later, a female-only “safety tent” would be erected to shield women from predators. Organizers plan to add a medical tent, as well as others designed to provide safe sleeping for gay, transgender and co-ed groups.
The threat of rape is very real here — for women and men.
Sitting in the McDonald’s just moments after Bezabeh was hauled off in cuffs, Lauren DiGioia, 26, tells me about how she became one of the growing number of victims on her very first night in the park.
“I was forced into a very tight space,” she says. “He kind of moved up against me. ‘Oh, let me warm you up. It’s cold out here,’” the creep told her, she said. “He kept pursuing me, and he started becoming aroused, and I could tell that he was becoming aroused,” she said. “I just tried to shield myself.”
He allegedly groped her, pulled her and tried to get on top of her. “I kept thinking to myself, ‘In the morning, I am going to get this guy arrested,’ but in the morning, he was gone,” she said.
DiGioia, who is from Clifton, NJ, was shocked to see her alleged attacker’s image in The Post about a week later — and she identified him to the police.
She is now offering counsel to other victims, as new ones crop up every day. “I just talked to two gentlemen who were raped last night, and they don’t want to press charges because [authorities] wanted to take them in an ambulance and . . . do a rape kit,” she said.
She passed on their account to the security force, while encouraging them to press charges. “There was another girl raped by the same man,” she said from a table in the McDonald’s, which has become the headquarters of the revolution. It’s a place to meet, to get warm, to scarf down dollar-menu grub and to use the bathroom that becomes increasingly vile as the night goes on.
I’m ultimately invited to spend the night in a Camp Anonymous tent instead of solo in a sleeping bag. I spend the rest of the night awake against the wall of a tent built for four — but packed with six.
My bunkmates include an anarchist, a sexual-assault victim, two security-force members, a girl dressed like the devil and her kitten — the “Anarkitty.”
“We are a microcosm of all of society’s defects and the failing economy,” DiGioia said. “Just because we’re here under a microscope, everybody’s going to come and throw up their arms and say we have to shut this place down.”