Occupy Wall Street

A postcard from Occupy Apple

September 20, 2012: 5:03 PM ET

Why a score of protestors have gathered on Fifth Avenue for a "sleepful demonstration"

Lash outside the Fifth Avenue Apple Store

FORTUNE -- "You don't need your iPhone," says the bearded young man with a cardboard sign every time someone takes his picture, "your iPhone needs you."

He says this quite often, because his picture is getting taken a lot today.

His name Ryan Lash and he's standing on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 58th Street holding a couple cardboard signs and a note for 100 Chinese yuan. He's 26 years old, born and bred in Baltimore, although when you ask him where he's from he tells you "Occupy Washington."

He's part of a group of 20 Occupy Wall Street activists who planted their sleeping bags outside Apple's (AAPL) big glass cube Wednesday night and established an uneasy truce with the 50 other line-sitters (by our 5 p.m. Thursday count) queued up to buy the new iPhone 5 that goes on sale Friday morning.

Lash has no intention of buying any kind of iPhone, and neither, he says, do any of his fellow protestors. He's here to capitalize on the growing media presence that surrounds every Apple launch event. Sometime between now and 8 a.m. Friday, he and his friends plan to sell their spots in line for $100 a pop.

Lash is a friendly, bear-like guy, quite sincere and loaded with misinformation. The cardboard square he's holding reads: "Every time you take a picture of this sign, Asian workers try to kill themselves."

Give him a chance and he'll rattle off a whole list of dubious bullet points:

  • Apple is a tax evader -- they have accounts in the Cayman Islands (Truth: Apple is openly lobbying for a tax holiday to avoid paying repatriation taxes on the billions it's earned overseas; the Cayman Island bit is news to me, and to Google News)
  • Apple employs slave labor in China (Uh, no)
  • The workers live in terrible conditions, with only one bathroom for 200 people (that sounds unlikely)
  • Eight Apple factory workers attempt suicide every week (Really? "Approximately," he says)

Lash doesn't have an answer for why Occupy Wall Street has chosen to target this company, as opposed to all the other electronics manufacturers that depend of cheap Asian labor, other than the fact that Apple is releasing the iPhone 5 tomorrow. "This is a new thing for us," he admits.

And something of a target of opportunity. On the anniversary of the original Zuccotti Park sit-in, the NYPD forbade the protestors from sleeping on the sidewalks near Wall Street. But they seem have no problem with folks camping out next to the Apple Store. "This a sleepful demonstration," he says with a grin.

He concedes that the Apple protest has less visible public support than the one that focused national attention on the misdeeds of the financial industry. "Some people are uncomfortable," he says, "they don't like to have their precious apps pushed in their face."

Then he booms -- not in an unfriendly way -- at a woman who has just snapped his picture with her mobile phone:

"You dial your iPhone, it does not dial itself."

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