NEW YORK (AP) — It was only a few nights after the Occupy protesters began sleeping in his church sanctuary when Pastor Bob Brashears realized that his laptop was missing.

The refugees from Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park had found their way to his cavernous Presbyterian church on a cold winter evening, hoping to stay for a few nights, maybe longer. It was the latest stopover for the nomadic group, which has been living in a rotating series of churches since Mayor Michael Bloomberg shut down their camp in November.

“ There was a sense of shock and sadness that it had happened,” said Brashears, whose laptop will soon be replaced by Occupy organizers. “And there’s a common understanding that if there’s one more theft in the church, that’s it.”

This is what the Occupy encampment has become: A band of homeless protesters with no place to go. Amid accusations of drug use and sporadic theft, they’ve been sleeping on church pews for weeks, consuming at least $ 20,000 of the funds that Occupy Wall Street still has in its coffers. Their existence is being hotly debated at Occupy meetings: Are these people truly “Occupiers” who deserve free food and a roof over their heads?

“ We don’t do this out of charity,” said 34-year-old Ravi Ahmad, who works for Columbia University and volunteers with Occupy in her spare time. “ We do this so that whoever wants to work in the movement can work in the movement. This is a meritocracy.”



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