Vendors cash in on anti-Wall Street protests

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 26, 2011 11:00 AM

By Chris Francescani

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Capitalism has taken root in the one of the most unlikely places in New York's financial district -- Zuccotti Park, home of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

On every corner of the park, vendors sell buttons, T-shirts, wristbands and artwork, leading some to complain that the merchandising is undermining the movement.

Business appears to be booming online, too. One site is selling 30 packs of Occupy Condoms for $11.99. Another has a $35 Occupy Wall Street iPhone case. Nearly 5,000 individual items were available for sale on eBay by Tuesday night.

Michael Wright, whose Facebook page advertises him as "The Ultimate NYC Skateboarding Hu$tler," set up shop in the park to sell T-shirts and sweatshirts to the crowds who stop by for a glimpse of the anti-Wall Street protesters.

"I'm running low! What you see is what you get. What size you need?" he asked tourists approaching his table.

Wright, who accepts all major credit cards, acknowledged he has been challenged by protesters inside the park.

"I've had people hold up a sign that says, 'What are you doing here?' But I try not to take it personally," he said.

Across the park, Herman Smalls hawked "I Am the 99%" buttons for $2, without apology.

Some hard-core protesters inside the park were not pleased.

Nicole Capobianco, 19, who said she's been part of the movement since its September 17 inception, was appalled by the profiteers.

"I don't appreciate that," she said. "That's the antithesis of this movement."

She said she and her fellow protesters "do not want to be involved in the marketing of our movement."

Volunteer spokesman Haywood Carey said Occupy Wall Street protesters have asked vendors not to sell their merchandise inside the park.

"But honestly, it's not our place to tell them they can't do it. We do not own 'Occupy Wall Street.'"

One New York couple is trying to do just that.

Last week Robert and Diane Maresca filed an application to trademark the phrase "Occupy Wall Street."

"If I didn't buy it and use it, someone else will," Robert Maresca told The Smoking Gun website, which first reported the story.

(Editing by Paul Thomasch and Bill Trott)