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Occupy Wall Street Mulls 'Sleep In' at Washington Square Park

By Andrea Swalec | October 18, 2011 9:08am
Occupy Wall Street protesters are scheduled to meet around Washington Square Park's fountain every night at 5:30 p.m. through Sunday, Oct. 23.
Occupy Wall Street protesters are scheduled to meet around Washington Square Park's fountain every night at 5:30 p.m. through Sunday, Oct. 23.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Washington Square Parkgoers, 6th Precinct cops and Occupy Wall Street protesters may soon pack their overnight bags for one giant pillow fight. 

The populist protesters rallied near the park's fountain Monday night to discuss possible actions in the park, including repeated 18-hour demonstrations during the park's 6 a.m. to midnight hours, symbolic marches around the park's perimeter while it's closed overnight, and a 24-hour "Occupy Slumber Party" that would violate the curfew in the city-owned park and likely result in arrests. 

Speakers from the nonhierarchical group of more than 100 people, who echoed each other's words so everyone could hear and no one seemed to be in charge, said a decision on whether or not to "occupy" Washington Square Park will be made independently of the Zuccotti Park protesters.  

Members of the intentionally nonhierarchical group fluttered their fingers in the air to indicate approval of a speaker's statements.
Members of the intentionally nonhierarchical group fluttered their fingers in the air to indicate approval of a speaker's statements.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

"It would be a completely autonomous decision for us to come to Washington Square Park," one speaker said. 

Regular demonstrations in Washington Square Park would benefit from the addition of NYU students to their ranks, speakers said. 

Members of an 11-person "breakout group" that discussed an illegal 24-hour protest in the park called for massive numbers of protesters and campaigns to educate each other about legal risks. 

"If we do occupy this space, we'll need solid numbers at all times so the police can't drive us out," said Brooklyn comedian Brent Schmidt, 23. "I think we would need a minimum of 8,000 people here to hold this space." 

Schmidt suggested that more experienced protesters work to teach would-be participants that "getting arrested isn't so scary" and that summonses they might be issued would likely not go on their permanent records.

"Civil disobedience is part of any social movement," said freelance filmmaker Jesse Ruuttila, 28. 

The group also discussed the tactical disadvantages of Washington Square Park. The park's many exits and clear sight lines from the central point of the fountain could aid police in corralling demonstrators, group members said.

When the large group reassembled and reported their small-group discussions, one protester raised the importance of "civility and keeping things clean, so we don't come off as people who are going to come and make a lot of noise and a mess." 

"It's important to make the community feel like they're part of this … and like it's something they have a role in," he said. 

This gesture wasn't enough for SoHo resident Jane Greer, who asked the demonstrators to express their discontent elsewhere.

"It's a great idea, but please don't occupy this park. We live here and need our peace and quiet," she said.

The discussion leaders encouraged Greer to join break-out groups to discuss her concerns. 

The group will continue to discuss plans for demonstrations in Washington Square Park during "General Assembly of The People" meetings every night at 5:30 p.m. through Sunday, Oct. 23. 

"You are invited. Come. Students. Workers. Residents of the area," OccupyWashingtonSquare.org reads. "We want you. We are you. We are the 99 percent."