‘Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me’: Occupier Tries To Re-Create Zuccotti Park in His Brooklyn Apartment

Erica Ritz
Occupy Protester Austin Guest Tries to Re Create Zuccotti Park in His Brooklyn Apartment
Occupy Protester Austin Guest Tries to Re Create Zuccotti Park in His Brooklyn Apartment

Occupy Protesters (Photo: AP)

An article in Reuters Friday describing the current activities of evicted Occupiers is prompting jokes from conservatives, with one commenter saying: “These people have become a caricature of themselves.”

The New York Post introduces an excerpt of the article as “cruel, sad, or hilarious, depending on where you’re sitting,” before describing one Occupier’s latest “communal living experiment” in Brooklyn:

The spacious apartment in Crown Heights where Austin Guest, a 31-year-old Harvard University graduate, lives with another seasoned protester is a far cry from the crowded, chaotic Zuccotti Park of last fall, where hundreds of protesters camped out each night.

Nevertheless, inspired by Zuccotti, with its free meals and free books, Guest said he and his friends are pursuing an Occupy-like experiment in mutual aid.

In the apartment, for example, the protesters follow a code of conduct designed to prevent one person from dominating a conversation. Guest, who majored in performance and media studies at Harvard, said he has had to “unlearn” the sometimes “impenetrable” rhetoric of the Ivy League.

“I was trained to speak in, like, five paragraphs at a time, with really clearly delineated, bulletproof arguments. And that kind of communication doesn’t leave a lot of space. That’s the point. It’s impenetrable. And that’s not how we talk in OWS,” he said. [Emphasis added]

Splitting the $1,400 monthly rent with another protester while they look for a third roommate, the two are often joined by other Occupiers who “come and go but don’t pay rent.”

So how do they get by?

Reuters continues:

Occupy Protester Austin Guest Tries to Re Create Zuccotti Park in His Brooklyn Apartment

Austin Guest (Photo: AP)

Several times a week, Guest bicycles to wealthier Brooklyn neighborhoods, like Park Slope and Cobble Hill, where he and other protesters help themselves to the bread and vegetables that gourmet shops deem spoiled or unfit for sale.

On a good night he might find trays of sushi stacked neatly in an oversized trash bag or still-fresh-looking loaves of bread from Caputo Bakery.


Guest struggled with convention at Harvard as well. Antics tied to his experimental theater work and academic problems that he described as writer’s block, prompted school officials to ask him to leave, twice. He graduated in 2007, eight years after enrolling.

Toward the end of his time at Harvard, Guest and several friends showed up at the university’s career fair, dressed as superheroes, to protest the participation of U.S. military recruiters. Guest, in Captain America garb, was kicked out before he could approach the recruiters.

These days, Guest spends most of his time planning protest actions and refining the model of group living and self-reliance inspired by his experience at Zuccotti Park. He earns money by working for a friend’s moving company and by doing freelance community organizing.

Guest said there is “no going back” to the life he knew before Occupy – a full-time job in Manhattan and a comfortable apartment in Prospect Heights. [Emphasis added]

The Occupier who spends most of his day “planning protests” and eating other people’s discarded food– while also somehow refining the model of “self-reliance” he learned in Zuccotti Park (“with its free meals and free books”)– concludes: “It’s like, are we going to live in a world where we throw each other under the bus every chance we get, or are we going to live in a world where we take care of one another?”