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Melissa Russo, Keith Feldman
Downtown residents say they've had enough of the drum banging, chanting and garbage around Zucotti Park. Nearby business owners and residents marched to city hall with a protest all their own. Melissa Russo reports.
Downtown residents and business owners angry that their neighborhood has been occupied for two months by the Wall Street demonstration staged a protest of the protest Monday, declaring that City Hall has let it get out of control.
Angry over all-day drumming, people urinating and defecating on the streets and verbal attacks from protesters, organizers rallied at City Hall Monday to send officials a message.
"They go to the bathroom in the garbage," said one local business owner. "They destroyed the stall, they broke one of our bathrooms. We gotta take all our customers now down into the downstairs bathroom."
"I'm just sick of people being harassed and pushed around by these people," said another protester wearing a white mask. "People are scared to come out. People are sick of seeing them. They're sick of them taking over the neighborhood, fighting with police."
Exasperated residents and businesses said they are "pursuing all options," including lawsuits against the city, the mayor and the private company that owns Zuccotti Plaza, the encampment headquarters.
Organizers of the anti-Occupy protest posted fliers downtown that say "Mayor Bloomberg is helping them stay."
"I don't think he's handled it at all," a local resident said of Bloomberg. "He hasn't returned any of our collective letter-writing."
The Occupy Wall Street movement began with a few people on Sept. 17 and has grown to hundreds who have made Zuccotti Park, a small plaza along Broadway, their home.
Businesses have complained for weeks that the encampment is causing them to lose money, although a few have made money off the protests, as donors from all over the country have sent food from nearby restaurants to the movement.
Mark Epstein, owner of Milk Street Cafe on Wall Street, said his business has suffered and he has had to lay off people in recent weeks.
The protest has been, he says, "a fiasco."
Han Shan, a member of Occupy Wall Street's community relations working group, said he and others in the encampment are trying to be better downtown neighbors.
The group recently worked out daytime drumming hours with the local community board, and secured some portable toilets for protesters to use.
But, he told the New York Times, “at the end of the day, it’s an occupation. We didn’t ask permission to be there and we don’t want to. It’s about bigger, broader issues.”
"If you go one block away from this park, you would never know it exists," he said last week. "It's just literally -- in any direction, one block away -- there's just nothing."
Bloomberg repeated Monday, "We'll take appropriate action when it's appropriate."