Small-business owners tell Occupy Wall Street: You're hurting the 99 percent.
Many small-business owners across the country are demanding Occupy Wall Street protesters pack up and leave, saying the protesters are driving business away.
Occupy Wall Street may claim small-business owners as members of the 99 percent, but from Oakland, Calif., to New York, many local enterprises are asking the protesters to pack up.
On Tuesday, members of the commercial business district in downtown Oakland sent a three-page letter to Mayor Jean Quan, demanding that the protesters go. Five city council members held a press conference Wednesday reaffirming the demand.
“The impact of the urban encampment has been very negative,” says Paul Junge, public policy director for the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Three businesses with commitments to new leases in the downtown area, which would have brought in some 350 jobs, backed out of their agreements in the past three weeks, he says.
“We are aware of dozens of small businesses in and around Frank Ogawa Plaza where the tents are, reporting 40 to 50 percent losses in the past three or four weeks,” including clothing stores, coffee shops, and conference spaces, Mr. Junge says. “People don’t like walking around down there, it makes them nervous ... they are taking their business elsewhere.”
Like many Occupy encampments across the country, protesters in New York’s Zuccotti Park have made special efforts not to hurt the local commerce, says Michael Zweig, economics professor at State University of New York at Stony Brook, who has spent time at the encampment and will speak as part of a lecture series in the park on Monday. “They have teams to deal with sanitation and trash issues just so they won’t interfere with the operation of local business,” he adds.
Nonetheless, the problem with the movement is that it is not hurting the big banks, but rather, it is hurting the small-business owners that are fighting to survive in a recession, says small-business owner Carol Bloom Stevens. Though Ms. Stevens' business is located in Rye Brook, N.Y., an hour north of the city, she is sympathetic to all small-business owners.