New York’s early October snowfall brought freezing temperatures and wet snow to the Occupy Wall Street protesters in Zuccotti Park causing an exodus to homeless shelters and a fight in a local McDonald’s.
We arrived at Occupy Wall Street at approximately 6:30 pm. Several tents in the park had collapsed. Most of the protesters had abandoned the park or were secure inside their tents. A man moved through the encampment shouting information about shuttles that were available for protesters who wanted to vacate to nearby homeless shelters. Another man called out saying dry socks were available in his tent.
The media tent seemed to be the camp’s main hub of activity. A group of five to ten protesters were gathered under a large tarp tent with icy cold water cascading off its edges. One man sat in front of a laptop manning a livestream. They told us they switched to battery power after the police removed their generators. Kevin Shenenberger, a member of the Occupy Wall Street media team, said he expected about a third of the protesters to stay the night and endure the weather. Mr. Shenenberger also explained that the Occupy Wall Street general assembly had begun using a Spokescouncil model.
“Spokes like a bike, not a spokesperson,” Mr. Shenenberger said.
The Spokescouncil involves smaller groups reporting back to the General Assembly in an effort to make the process of group declarations and decisions less cumbersome. Mr. Shenenberger also suggested the freakish early winter weather was a blessing since it would allow the protesters to see what they were lacking and what preparations they needed to make for the imminent ’round the clock cold.
As we spoke to Mr. Shenenberger, a man arrived to warn that police flatbed trucks had showed up with barricades. He expressed worry that the cops might try to take advantage of the diminished numbers and evict the protesters from the park.
“You might want to move your stuff if they’re trying to strike us,” the man said.
“My number is on all my stuff and I have everything important is with me,” Mr. Shenenberger said.
Another group of protesters arrived at the media tent.
“We’re from Occupy Austin, we showed up to support. This was probably the wrong day,” one woman said, joking about the storm.
Another man with a long beard came up and spoke to Mr. Shenenberger.
“I showed up to teach you guys how to actually take over the government,” he said.
After about an hour braving the storm in the tents, we made our way to a nearby McDonald’s on Broadway where we encountered about 60 protesters taking refuge from the cold. In the vestibule, a crowd smoked cigarettes. A McDonald’s employee struggled to keep the protesters out of an upstairs area of the restaurant that was closed. She declined to give her name or comment on record, but we asked if she was enjoying the increased business that came with the protests. She shook her head.
“They’re harassing me, threatening me. … Other states are closing down, why can’t we?” she asked.
A pair of men began to scuffle in the restaurant.
“Why don’t you mind you’re own business?” one said.
Another man called out inviting people to another location.
“Please come to 60 Wall Street,” he shouted.
Using the call and response style of the “people’s microphone” that has become another signature of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement, another man repeated the invitation. We asked him what was happening at 60 Wall Street.
“It’s a warm place that’s bigger than this,” he said.
“Please go there,” said the woman from McDonald’s.
We left with the vast majority of the group continuing to warm themselves in the McDonald’s.