By Leslie Albrecht, Julie Shapiro, Tuan Nguyen and Nicole Bode
MANHATTAN — A day after the city swept Zuccotti Park clear of the tents and tarps of the Occupy Wall Street encampment, protesters tried to regroup in search of answers on what the ouster would mean for their movement.
A handful of protesters slept overnight on the bare concrete of Zuccotti Park, other protesters left to seek shelter in subway stations, churches and a nearby McDonalds. But all said they were looking to the future of the movement that is set to mark its two month anniversary Thursday.
"I don't know how many nights I can do this. I may have to alternate — one night on, one night off," said Rayson, 24, a University of Toronto student, from Yonkers who wandered around Zuccotti Park and the surrounding areas in search of a place to sleep overnight.
Wednesday morning, he headed into a McDonalds for warmth, saying he felt terrible.
Occupy Wall Street organizer Bill Dobbs, who was at Zuccotti Park Wednesday morning, said the protest was moving ahead with plans to shut down the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, but did not provide details.
“One of the things about the new regime is that it’s harder to find people,” Dobbs said, adding, “We’re going ahead with tomorrow. That’s the main focus now.”
Robert Reiss, 55, who lives on Rector St. said he thought the next step for Occupy Wall Street was to share time between protesters.
"I think it will ideally become shifts, people will be here 24/7. As the occupiers of the day leave, the occupiers of the night will arrive," he said, but added that nothing had yet been organized.
Brandon Watts, 20, whose eyes were bloodshot after spending the night at a nearby McDonalds, said he thought the days of Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park were numbered.
“It’s all done here. I think I’m going to go to DC to protest,” Watts said. “I’m very tired and cold now. We’re not going to survive the winter with this situation.”
“Some of us want to fight to have the tents back. But it’s not going to work,” added Watts, who came from the States from Romania 11 years ago. “Maybe we'll find another spot.”
Alisha Silliger, 20, who came to NYC from Michigan a month ago with her boyfriend and two dogs, said she was hoping for the best, in staying at OWS in New York, but was preparing for the worst.
She and her group slept in the World Trade Center subway station overnight, but she said she wouldn't be able to remain homeless for long, because of her Belgian Malinois named Spencer and her American Stafford Terrier named Luna.
“In terms of sleeping arrangements, if they decide something as a whole, we’ll be there,” Silliger said, but added that she couldn't let her dogs suffer. “I have to keep their warm and safe. My heart is in this movement but I have to think of them first.”
Her boyfriend, Scott Roberts, said the police crackdown "gave us the spark we needed to fight this fight. We can move on from here, it’s not over."
Other protesters said they were planning to stay no matter what.
“I don’t know what the situation is, but I’m staying here. I will always stay here. My new address is Wall Street,” said Salem Rivera, 20, of the Bronx, who slept in McDonalds overnight.
Other protesters believed that they should re-focus on the original goals of the movements.
“We should move on [to] big things, being active rather than just fighting all day about the park,” said Kyle Coby, 23, from California. “This is not what this movement is about.”
Coby, who came to New York three months ago to find job as a DJ, said the fact that tents were cleared out from the park might not be a bad thing.
“We were too busy keeping people fat and keep this park clean,” said Coby, who stayed in the park overnight. “No time for protest or marches. We should go to Wall Street, close down some institutions like Goldman Sachs or the Fed. Getting more people joining the movement.”
Keith Hendrickson, 27, from Long Island, said, “I think New York is right that we just can’t camp here all the time in Zuccotti Park. The movement have expanded to all around the world, it’s not about this park any more.”
“Look at Greece and Ireland, they’re collapsing and that’s coming here soon. We’re not sheep anymore.”
On the Upper West Side, protesters gathered at a Sanitation depot Wednesday at West 56th Street and 12th Avenue, where property confiscated from Zuccotti Park was brought following the police raid.
Elijah Moses, a 22 year old from Queens who said he was homeless, came to collect a drum kit he said was worth hundreds of dollars. He found some drums and cymbals, but not all of his instruments.
Moses called the overnight raid and lost property a "disturbance."
"It's not going to end anything," Moses said. "I am the movement. I'm going to be all over the place."
He said he planned to set up his drums in Union Square as soon as possible. "We just need to demonstrate that we're still here, even though we're not at the park."
Some, however, were happy to hear of the tents clearing out. Local residents began to come back into the park, including Rachel Donez who lives nearby.
“I’m very happy to be back,” said Donez, 39, who lives a few blocks down on Washington Street, as she was walking her Chinese pug. ” For two months I couldn’t go here. It was just too messy and noisy.”
With additional reporting by Mat Katz