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How Occupy Wall Street Works

Occupy Wall Street Costs
Breakfast in Zuccotti Park.
Breakfast in Zuccotti Park.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Since the Occupy Wall Street movement is protesting the abuse of economic and corporate powers, it raises the inevitable question: How much does the movement cost? With police monitoring encampments, and public spaces being used as makeshift group homes, the protests undoubtedly come with their own price tags, depending on the size of each Occupy operation.

Within Zuccotti Park, the internal expenses of supporting a few hundred folks every day aren't insignificant. Food alone runs between $2,000 and $3,000 daily, the bulk of which goes toward cheap staples such as peanut butter and fruit [source: Woolley]. Occupy Wall Street supporters have also donated plenty of food; nearby Liberatos Pizza, for instance, has sold about $6,000-worth of its specialty "OccuPie" pizzas purchased by donors [source: Woolley].

It's also important to remember that Occupy Wall Street isn't a homeless encampment. A majority of protesters in New York have full-time jobs, although they typically earn less than $25,000 per year [source: Captain]. Moreover, Occupy Wall Street isn't running on a shoestring budget. In late October 2011, the movement announced that it had raised more than $500,000 in New York. The non-profit Alliance for Global Justice keeps track of New York City's Occupy coffers, which receive an average 400 donations every day [source: Berkowitz]. In comparison, Occupy Chicago, one of the next-largest protest sites, reported about $20,000 in donations. The Occupy movement hasn't acquired its thousands in large lump sums; a majority of monetary donations value less than $50 each [source: Berkowitz].

In mid-October, Occupy Wall Street protesters were almost kicked out of Zuccotti Park to allow in a cleaning crew. At the last minute, after pressure from local New York officials and protesters, Mayor Michael Bloomberg agreed to allow the occupation to stay put as long as they keep the green space clean [source: Saul and Fox]. The Department of Sanitation picks up trash regularly from the park, but it's up to the protest's Sanitation Working Group to manage the rest of the effort [source: Gray].

Cities are also having to pony up to pay policemen overtime to guard encampment barricades, control crowds and clear out illegal occupations (such as protesters remaining inside a public park after hours without a permit). New York City has spent more than $3.2 million on Occupy Wall Street-related law enforcement overtime pay [source: Woolley].

That fiscal disturbance in an already cash-strapped city is just one of the criticisms that some have lobbed against the Occupy Wall Street Movement.