In its second week of protests, Cesar Chaves Plaza continues to be ground zero for the Occupy Phoenix demonstrators; protesters camping out downtown have relied on nearby businesses for food, restrooms and a place to relax.
With only two public restrooms and an ordinance against sleeping on the property, protesters have frequented several downtown businesses, both local shops and franchises.
Conspire Cafe and Boutique in downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row has donated books, food and drinks, and also has allowed protesters to spend the night at their property free of charge.
Anthony Vandawalker, a volunteer at Conspire, said the occupation and the cafe believe in the same values and that it has helped their business.
“On the first night, I stayed open all night,” he said. “There were tents and sleeping bags set up. I made it pay-what-you-want because I know their predicament.”
Conspire acted as the protesters’ sanctuary, a place where they could get off their feet, relax and get some food, he said.
“They were so happy that we were doing that for them. They didn’t expect it all,” he said.
Vandawalker said the cafe may have made more money by cooperating with the protesters because some gave more in gratitude for the hospitality than they otherwise would have spent.
Dale McKay, 58, has been protesting since the movement’s first day on Oct. 15 and has spent multiple nights camped out in the plaza.
“We have a lot people here and the businesses in the area have been very helpful,” he said.
McKay and other protesters said the Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurant less than a block away on First Avenue has been willing to let protesters use their facilities without purchase.
The protesters return the favor by keeping the facilities clean and purchasing things when they can, he said.
Though an employee or manager could not comment on the issue due to corporate rules, they did however confirm that protesters are allowed to use the facilities.
Clad in all pink and with a giant peace sign on her shirt, Liz Hourican, 40, has been protesting since the pre-occupation march on Oct. 14 and said she spends at least 12 hours a day at Cesar Chavez Plaza.
“I think that the small business owners are struggling in this state,” she said. “Most people are very happy to see activism in the shape of change.”
Tyler Ellis, owner of Coney Island Grill on Adams Street two blocks north of the protest, allows anyone into his restaurant.
“There are a lot of corporate offices who would think that allowing protesters in would be aiding and abetting,” Ellis, 26, said.
Ellis said he sees both sides of the argument and chooses not get involved, but he stressed he will never turn down someone in his restaurant.
Hourican has made sure to purchase at least one item a day wherever she uses the restroom, she said.
“They’re supportive and do appreciate if we buy something,” she said. “Several businesses let us use their facilities. They empathize because they can’t be here.”
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