OWS’s Zuccotti Park becoming New York’s #1 Tourist Destination

on October 25 2011 5:20 PM

Tourists
Tourists take photos of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) campaign demonstrators in Zuccotti Park, near Wall Street in New York October 20, 2011.

On Oct. 17, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg told a radio host that the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protestors were not good for tourism. On his Oct. 21 radio show, however, Bloomberg changed his tune, acknowledging that Occupy Wall Street is, in fact, a tourist attraction.

Some have argued that Occupy Wall Street is now New York City's #1 tourist attraction. The ubiquitous red double-decker sightseeing busses meander by for a glance while even more eager tourists flash their cameras from the sidewalks below.

On some days, there are more spectators than actual participants at Occupy Wall Street. Zuccotti Park has transformed into a hub for curious visitors. Some photograph the protestors, while others snag shots of themselves in the midst of the action.

This is the best I've felt in years surrounded by all of this optimism, Teresa Mangum said, moments after her friend snapped a cell phone picture of her in Zuccotti Park.

I took these pictures to show my students back home, she added.

Mangum is a professor at the University of Iowa. She explained how many of her students are involved in Occupy Iowa City, and she made a point of visiting the demonstrations first thing when she got to New York.

Although Mangum admitted she was just there to watch, she hoped that it didn't send the wrong message.

I want to say 'I support you,' not just 'I want to look at you.'

But how do the protestors feel about being looked at and photographed all day? After all, many New York City tourists have more pictures of Occupy Wall Street than the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building.

For 26 days in a row - rain or shine - 56-year-old Marsha Spencer, a grandmother of five, has remained in her chair in Zuccotti Park knitting hats and gloves to keep the protestors warm.

People are here for different reasons - I get it. I talk to tourists every day, Spencer said. I made a sign to answer their basic questions so I don't have to talk quite as much.

I've got a sore throat, she explained. Hold on, let me pop a halls real quick. Spencer touched her chest as she searched her pocket for a cough drop.

Okay, I was saying I'm here with a message. If people want to take pictures, if they want to talk with me, that's what I'm here for.

Spencer noted that the crowds have grown in the last two weeks. Zuccotti Park used to be a big draw each weekend, but Spencer said the crowds have really picked up on the weekdays too.

Karlyn Hendriks traveled to New York City with her family from Holland. She said that Occupy Wall Street was always on their itinerary for their family vacation.

We heard about it back home in Holland and wanted to see what it was all about, Hendriks said.

It's very heavy, her mom added, pointing to the costumed protesters wearing masks and locking themselves in cages.

One could easily liken the experience to visiting the circus. Instead of one big tent, there's a sea of small ones, and in the maze that is Zuccotti Park, there's an assortment of acts that are no less theatrical.

Feeding the circus is the growing audience - an audience of eager media outlets from across the globe, annoyed New York City police officers, and enthralled tourists.

Tourists wandering over from the nearby 9/11 Memorial have cameras around their necks, MTA maps in one hand, and an Occupied Wall Street Journal in the other.

Downtown Manhattan, known for its straight-laced, suit-wearing businessmen, has never looked so wild.

Indeed, the Occupy Wall Street protests have everything tourists seek: photo-worthy moments, memorable trinkets, and a lively atmosphere.

If you can't afford a Broadway show, at Zuccotti Park you can witness live music, performance, and plenty of theatrics.

If you don't want to patron the cheap tourist boutiques of Times Square, at Zuccotti Park you can get a screen-printed shirt, buttons, artwork, or even a hand-sewn hat from Ms. Spencer, who's been known to give away her work to tourists if their nice and we get to talking for a while.

In the years since the attacks of 9/11, the city made an aggressive push to revive lower Manhattan and drive back both businesses and tourists.

While they may be driving off the businessmen, one thing's for certain. Occupy Wall Street has livened up downtown Manhattan - for better or worse - and attracted droves of tourists from across the globe.

 

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