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Occupy Wall Street threatened by freeloaders?

Short-term protesters in New York learn to lend a hand

Phil Boydelatour washing supper dishes at Zuccotti Park Oct. 11. Photo by Katrina Pyne.
Phil Boydelatour washing supper dishes at Zuccotti Park Nov. 11. Photo by Katrina Pyne.

Whizzing furiously through piles of dishes wasn’t exactly what Phil Boydelatour had in mind when he decided to skip out on his school vacation to come to Occupy Wall Street. But, if it keeps him in the good books with long-term protesters, he’s more than willing to don some dishwashing gloves.

“I came here because I wanted to show my support for the movement,” says Boydelatour, a student from Columbus, Ohio. “The very simple thing to do is to show up, so that’s what I did; I showed up during my vacation time.”

Boydelatour walked onto the premise and immediately offered to lend a hand. A woman up past her elbows in dishwater threw him a pair of gloves and walked off.

“I’m trying not to be one of those people, you know, the people who come, take food, and leave. I’m here to help.”

Boydelatour, along with many other protesters at Zuccotti Park, feel that people who stop by for the short-term to pitch a tent, grab some grub and jet the next day usually cause unnecessary stress on the organization of the movement.

“It turned out that they really needed my help… there are always dishes to be done and groceries to buy,” he says.

Boydelatour has now been camping out for three days and says he feels like he’s starting to fit in.

Joe Palma, a New Yorker from Queen’s, was laid off as a bus driver 46 days ago. Since then, he’s been living the Wall Street life.

“I had some money so I bought a train ticket and just came straight here,” he says. “By the second day I was getting comfortable and found out how everything was done. Everyone was so gracious to me with food and everything I decided I wanted to help them too.”

Palma is now one of the more experienced members of the kitchen staff. He puts in eight to nine hours a day cooking at their offsite kitchens and setting up meals in Zuccotti park. He says they feed thousands of people each week.

“The only people we are not thrilled with are the opportunists—the people who know about the free food and come just for that.”

He says these people are not associated with the Occupy movement. “They come to steal and rob people and mostly they are drug addicts or just bad people. They have nothing to do with this and it’s a shame that happens.”

Palma says that despite these people, newcomers are always welcome. He encourages anyone who is dropping by for a night to lend a hand, as he did.

“We are doing it because we want to do it. All the people here are very good people. They may not be angels but they’re very good people.”

Forty-six days since he was let go, Palma is still proud to be part of such a strong movement. He says that even though he’s not getting paid in money, the free food he gets after each meal is well worth the effort.

Boydelatour says he’s happy to do his part for even just the short time that he is there.

“The truth is that most people do not help with stuff like this, but other people are doing other things; they’re making signs and they’re being loud. If other people are better at communicating the message, that’s fine. I’m going to show up and bust my ass doing dishes because that’s what I’m good at.”

Katrina Pyne
Katrina Pyne
Katrina was Editor-in-chief of the Gazette for Volume 145 and News Editor for Volume 144.
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