Occupy Wall Street, of course, is an outdoor movement, and it has withstood its share of inclement weather to this point. When I visited two weeks ago to report on the protest, the hundreds of protesters assembled were all drenched in a cold rain. Some of those out there were people with major health concerns, including one 9/11 first responder with whom I spoke. Being in the rain was a health hazard for a guy suffering from sarcoidosis; what would he and other protesters in New York and other cold-weather cities do when the weather worsened? We’re about to get an answer.
New York City, along with a lot of the Eastern seaboard, is predicted (even by the Occupiers’ own meteorologist) to be hit with several inches of snow tomorrow. It’s already quite chilly out, and preparations are underway. There will be no electric heaters, it seems: the NYPD and FDNY swooped in today to confiscate generators and gas canisters. So if they’re going to tough it out, they’ll be relying on donated blankets, coats and other clothing (and whatever clothes are on their backs). Occupiers in Lower Manhattan are getting tips from the homeless on staying warm:
“I actually originated using newspaper — newspaper and cellophane. You put the cellophane on first, and then you put the newspaper, and that keeps you warm,” said Jeremy, a dreadlocked 25-year-old who has been homeless for three years. “And there’s meditations that you can do to heat yourself up. Hot thoughts. Like summer, or fire, anything that’s hot, you know what I’m saying? And it works.”
One adamant OWS organizer was quoted by New York magazine saying, “The real revolutionaries will stay in minus-50 degrees.” That absolutism alarmed a friend of mine, GOOD associate editor Nona Willis Aronowitz. Inviting in the issues of privilege, media visibility and “martyr politics,” Nona writes that the revolution should not be winterized:
The idea that comfort and excess equals greed and corruption is embedded in the message of Occupy Wall Street, but images of shivering martyrs are counter to the underlying meaning behind economic justice, which is that every person has a right to live a fulfilling and pleasurable life. It’s always a shame when people are so intent on fighting against something that they forget to exemplify what they’re for…
Yes, sleeping indoors every night reduces Occupy Wall Street’s visibility and waters down their stay-put rhetoric, but one-upping the “fair-weather activists” with hypothermia is exactly the kind of irksome privilege that threatens the movement’s authenticity and mass appeal…
Anarchist feminist Emma Goldman famously said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” It’s hard to dance with frostbitten feet.
There’s no doubt that the Occupy protests have blown up, putting a lot of neglected issues back on the forefront – but in so many ways, it’s become about the parks they’ve taken over. The police violence carried out against protesters in Oakland this week came after they tried to reclaim the park they’d been occupying.
The issue of physical space is so important to the genesis of this movement, and perhaps still to its survival. So how much would that suffer if Occupiers moved their protest indoors? (Below: @jesidres sends this from her gig in Boston.)