Occupy Tompkins Starts Small, But Expects Company

occupyCarolyn Sun Left to right: Roberto Hernandez, John Penley, Joan Moossy, Jerry Levy, and a student.

Occupy Tompkins Square Park started out as small group of four — John Penley, Joan Moossy, Robert Hernandez and Jerry Levy,  all over the age of fifty.

“We’re geriatric protestors,” Mr. Penley joked.

All had been protesting at Occupy Wall Street since its first week in September, and today, as planned, they met at noon on a grassy knoll in the middle of the park. Protestors trickled steadily in as the day wore on; by mid-afternoon, they numbered a modest dozen.

Mr. Penley, 60, said he had drummed up today’s protest by walking around Zuccotti Park, where he has been sleeping since the protests began, with a sign reading “Occupy Tompkins Square Park.” Why Tompkins? “Because it’s our park!”, he said.

Mr. Hernandez, 53, a long-time resident of Bed-Stuy, wore a tan baseball cap reading “Never Give Up.” He has been going to Occupy Wall Street every day since its first week in September. He said he had been on disability for the past three years after a kidney transplant, and wanted to see the country take better care of its senior citizens: “I see how they struggle, some eating cat food.”

Tony Bontemple, 45, lost his job in sales and marketing at a finance firm in 2008 and is now a limo driver. He recounted fire trucks harassing Zuccotti Park protesters by blaring their sirens during the early hours. “And for some reason,” added Mr. Penley, “they need to drill a jack hammer at two in the morning for hours like they did this past week.”

Mr. Bontemple said the protestors are showing signs of stress. “One guy threw a bottle at the police. We’re not going to support that kind of behavior obviously, but we understand why.  It’s stressful to sleep on cold concrete at night with the police harassing you.”

According to Mr. Penley, the bulk of the protesters was expected later that evening, after 7 p.m. “There are protesters in Times Square and the plan is for them to walk to Union Square, then Tompkins Square Park.” The Living Theatre, one of the oldest experimental theatre companies in New York City, is slated to perform at each stop.

Not that there was a lack of performances at Tompkins Square Park. Onlookers snapped photos as a guitar player, saxophonist, and drummers stopped by.

Around 6 p.m., the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop tweeted a photo of an empty-looking park and reported, with seeming facetiousness, that the protests were “getting pretty crazy.”

Earlier on, Mr. Penley got up to shout at a white-vested police officer nearby: “Police brutality! Don’t hit us!” He said he intended to spend the night outside of the park, which has a midnight curfew. “I’ll stay up and party all night. I heard BMW Guggenheim Lab has an open bar tonight.” The others present all intended to go home and sleep in their own beds.

Lenore Holtz, 39, admitted to being employed as an executive assistant for one of the evil corporations that she’s protesting.  When asked about her involvement, the Jersey City resident responded, “I want to abolish capitalism. I know it’s not realistic, but that’s my heart’s wish.”