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OWS: The Saboteurs

October 31, 2011

Caroline B alerted us today:

The biggest threat to New York’s OWS is now internal conflict. The NYPD knows this, and rumor has it that they’ve even been encouraging drifters to take up camp beside the protestors. As the weather gets colder and the psychology of the encampment is altered by the subdivision of the park into tented private spaces, this is a very critical issue to consider, and one that could even call for the dispersal of Zuccotti (maybe Gremlins style into multiple new encampments).

She’s referring to an article on provocateurs and saboteurs inside the camp.

Gary Phenof

Among other saboteur elements, the article highlights Gary Phenof. I personally saw this man start a fight on the day of the heavy rains. Interestingly, he started it just when most people were taking refuge from the rain in the church, so there were very few peacekeepers around. As he wildly taunted and took swings at one of the other protesters whose sign he didn’t like, the police quietly stood and watched. I had the distinct feeling they did not mind.

The article says:

With his bear-like size and self-professed “combative style,” Gary Phenof, a 50-something Staten Islander would be hard to miss in any crowd. Wearing a Russian hat, waving a full-size main-land China flag and giving out copies of the China Daily—even at the far edge of Zuccotti Park—Phenof stuck out like a sore thumb. Asked if it’s really fair to other OWS demonstrators (the movements’ buttons decorate his coat) to associate them with the symbol of Red China, Phenof fixes me with a quizzical gaze. “Won’t this scare some people?” he asks rhetorically. “Probably, yeah.”

Full article here: Are protesters their own greatest enemy? 

I wrote On facebook:

I have been hesitating for days to post these items because I worry they will take the wind out of the movement completely. What should we do? But how can we stay silence as race/gender safe spaces are eroded…

Chris K responded:

I think not talking about this presents us with more of a threat to take the wind out of the movement than getting it out and talking about it. I think the erosion of safe places makes it more urgent to talk about. We’ve survived infiltration by James O’keefe, right wing attack ads,”oath keepers” and other libertarian groups, a bs Brookfield eviction, police violence and are having some success mediating with the drummers. We need to find a way to work through this if we want the movement to go further. I think people ignored the drummers for too long, before it became an unmanagable problem. We can’t ignore this problem away either.
The physical threats and attacks are particularly upsetting. And the passivity of the police on this only provides more clarity that they do not regard themselves as public servants. It’s appears as though it is accepted and promoted, that peaceful dissent is an invitation for violence.
No one said this would be easy.

Caroline B, cross-posting from Cheyney’s googlegroups comment:

@ JoshHarkinson : A trustworthy #OWS activist tells me that an influx of homeless and hardened criminals is causing major issues for Zuccotti campers. She cites reports of cops dumping inmates a few blocks away. There are also rumors of NYC’s City Homeless Services sending homeless there. If the rogue elements at the park can’t be tamed, she thinks #OWS will relocate to a new site that is more easily defended. I’ve put in calls to NYPD and City Homeless Services seeking comment on the sabotage accusations. Will report back on what they say.


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  1. From Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones, on Twitter: “Just spoke to Sharman Stein, spokesperson for NYC’s Department of Corrections, who says no special inmate drop-offs happening near Zuccotti. She did say ppl released from jail in Manhattan are taken to Canal and Center Streets, which is not far from Zuccotti. But this is not new.”

    Ref: and

  2. Manju permalink

    Police should not be called on to intervene in what is happening at Liberty Square. OWS needs to police itself and not give room to NYPD to involve itself in what is happening at the park.

    Second, people should not be asking each other to take signs down. Unless those signs represent rightist or hateful propaganda there needs to be a broad tent of all those opinions of the 99%.

    As others have alluded this requires having an accountable and reliable leadership.

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