Members of Occupy Chicago are frequenting downtown shops and restaurants to use restrooms and to even sleep, according to local business employees.
“They come in to use the bathroom, but never purchase anything,” Sean Coen, a supervisor at Freshii, a snack bar on Jackson Boulevard and Clark Street, said, while adding he cooked oatmeal for the protesters out of sympathy.
Other employees were less forgiving.
“They come here to sleep. Security is helping kick them out,” said Wilbur Hernandez, a manager at the McDonald’s across the street from the Occupy site. He added that Occupiers often only buy coffee and ask for free refills.
One protester denied Hernandez’s assertion.
“I have never slept in McDonalds,” said Jason Martin Jablonski, a member of Occupy Chicago.
The movement’s official stance, according to media spokesman Micah Philbrook, is that they do not want members to disrupt local business and they do not encourage asking for free food or sleeping in local businesses.
“They probably go to sit down and relax, and they probably do end up falling asleep,” said Philbrook. He said that often protesters spend a long time on their feet and need a place to relax.
Businesses in the area but not immediately adjacent to the Occupy site have been affected in different ways.
“[A march] affected our delivery driver,” said Careid Surprenant, gallery manager at Picture Us Galleries. “He had to take a different route.”
An employee at the Bank of America Building who declined to give her name said she had to pass through the protesters in order to get to work. She said she asked the protesters to move out of the way, and they got into an argument, with one protester allegedly insulting her with a profanity.
People on their way to work will occasionally engage the protesters, telling them to get a job or debating with them, said Philbrook.
“The hostility is a rare occurrence though,” Philbrook said, adding that many people passing by will give a thumbs up or similar gesture of approval. Some even donate resources to the cause.
“A majority of the people we see actually support us,” said Jablonski, who said he worked in the banking industry before joining Occupy Chicago.
Supportive or not, Occupy Chicago is a frequent topic of conversation choice for some customers.
“I have customers from the Board of Trade, and they talk about it sometimes,” said Surprenant. Protesters are not allowed in the Bank of America Building where her gallery is, said Suprenant