The Occupy Wall Street movement began in Zuccotti Park on a glorious mid-September Saturday and, so far, many of its larger marches have taken place in the warmth of New York’s Indian summer. But winter has been looming, and on Saturday, just a couple days before Halloween, the protesters got a preview of what they’re in for.
By morning, the crisp New York weather had given way to a true winter slushfest. Precipitation soaked the city, alternating between freezing rain and wet snow, while a bitter wind whipped between lower Manhattan’s buildings. By mid-afternoon, a frozen film had varnished the surface of cars parked on the street and the dozens of tents in Zuccotti Park. Organizers scrambled to tie down tarps over the group’s media center, as the storm blustered through the park.
“People ask how we’re going to get through the winter,” one of the protesters said as he bundled together a tarp. “We’re going to dress warm, buy hot food from around here. We’ll be fine.”
Occupy’s drum circle, which has until now been a constant presence in the park, was absent on Saturday afternoon, but a small band with a horn and drum stood at the park’s entrance on Broadway, playing upbeat music. At the center of the green, a protester who gave her name as Kimmy said she had just returned to the city after working in Nashville. “We came the minute we landed. We don’t care about the weather,” she said.
Nevertheless, Kimmy was prepared for adverse conditions, cozy in a ski jacket with her protest sign, featuring a long quote from Thomas Jefferson, laminated in waterproof plastic.
In the six weeks since the group first gathered in lower Manhattan, it has become increasingly better organized. Its “working groups” have multiplied from a handful to 79, including those tasked with organizing the movement’s public demands and handling the movement’s media, alternative banking and sustainability needs, among many others.
But the Comfort Working Group is likely to play a particularly important role as Occupy prepares for winter. Since Week 1, the Comfort Working Group has been accepting donations of hats, gloves and blankets. It has been endeavoring to keep those who sleep in the park warm at night. On Saturday, many protesters remained in their tents, out of the harsh weather, but true to their promise, they didn’t leave.
Occupy has remained stalwart throughout the last month and a half, vowing to endure indefinitely. On Oct. 10, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that he didn’t know when the protests might end, but added, “I think part of it has probably to do with the weather.” The protesters seem determined to prove Hizzonor wrong.