Occupy Wall Street Fund Distribution Causes Strain Among Protesters

The Occupy Wall Street 'finance committee' gets heat over $500,000 in donations.

Oct. 25, 2011 — -- As the Occupy Wall Street movement expands, protest organizers are struggling with distributing the $500,000 in donations they have received and quelling disgruntled protesters.

Pete Dutro, a member of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) finance committee, dismissed reports that squabbling was growing among the ranks regarding fund distribution.

"Finances are always a flash point for a lot of organizations," Dutro, 36, said.

The New York Post reported groups of protesters were upset for having to fill out paperwork to access funds, such as money to reimburse drums that had been vandalized one late night.

"There are people who don't want to follow the process and there's not a whole lot I can do for them," Dutro said. "How is that going to be accountable?"

About 8,000 individual donors have given on average about $50 each, Dutro said. Earlier this month, the Occupy Wall Street account was temporarily frozen due to a human error, losing $144,000 in online donations.

Occupy Wall Street had raised about $500,000 and as of Monday have $416,000 according to the bank balance sheet, Dutro said. He said the majority of expenses are food, and next are clothing, medical expenses and credit card fees from processing the online donations. The protests, which originally began on Sept. 17, have spread across the country, with people camped out in San Francisco and Chicago, among other cities. There were over 130 arrests related to Occupy Chicago early Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

A number of celebrities have made appearances in the protests downtown in New York City, including filmmaker Michael Moore, actress Susan Sarandon, and Russell Simmons, the co-founder of hip-hop recording label, Def Jam.

Photos of Occupy Wall Street Across the Country

The protesters have organized themselves into "working groups" such as the "comfort working group," which is responsible for meeting basic needs of the group, like underwear. That group also solicits money from donors on the street.

Dutro said finance committee, comprised of six "core" members, distributes $100 a day to over 30 "working groups" by keeping a tally on receipts and on what the money is spent. For requests over $100, people must submit a request to be approved by the "general assembly," which Dutro said is usaully approved and dispersed by the next day.

Bryan Smith, who is a member of the Comfort Working Group in charge of basic neccessities for the protesters, such as thermal underwear, expressed his frustrations with the protests' financial management to the New York Post.

"The other day, I took in $2,000. I kept $650 for my group, and gave the rest to Finance," he told the Post. "Then I went to them with a request -- so many people need things, and they should not be going without basic comfort items -- and I was told to fill out paperwork. Paperwork! Are they the government now?"

Dutro said it's been "hectic" recently as "things have been moving so fast," but he is trying to maintain accountability with the group's finances.

"There are people who have recently become involved in the past few days and they think they know everything and OWS and are entitled to the funds but don't want to be part of the process," he said.

The finance committee is comprised of six "core" members and others who play supporting roles.

"The problem with a lot of these movements is things get nebulous, meaning, who's who and who's doing what," he said. "The core people are committed to staying and there are other people who work support roles. The people who handle money are core people."

Dutro is a former tattoo artist from Brooklyn, said he used to work for a software development company. He said he now works the equivalent of two full-time jobs at the protests.

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