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With winter closing in, Occupy Boston protesters debate next moves

Posted by Roy Greene  November 4, 2011 04:00 PM

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(Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)

The taste of winter weather recently left its mark on the Occupy Boston site at Dewey Square.

For many Boston residents, winterization means turning up the heat and pulling extra blankets out of storage. But Occupy Boston protesters must find a way to keep warm outdoors at their Dewey Square encampment.

Occupation Boston campers and commuting protesters gathered in South Station Halloween night to discuss how they can survive the winter and what the city is likely to allow.

A group of about 20 protesters congregated around the food court’s small tables, preparing for what Bostonians can only assume will be a long winter, with the season’s first snow falling last weekend.

The weekend Nor'easter has taken its toll on the camp. Although protesters have generally shown bravado in interviews with the news media, several talked earlier on Halloween about possibly moving to warmer Occupy locations for the winter.

And at the media tent, Farhad Ebrahimi said that debate had begun among some members over whether to maintain the outdoor campsite as the heart of Occupy Boston throughout the winter or to find a staging site indoors to continue the protest.

“There’s going to be a group that is going to try to stay here regardless,” said Ebrahimi, 33, who commutes daily to the protest site from his home.

At the winterization meeting, campers said they are reviewing indoor spaces at which they can hold their daily governance meetings known as General Assemblies.

Others discussed means of dealing with the weather outside.

One man suggested rearranging tents so that smaller ones are in the site's center, protected from harsh winter winds by larger tents. Another man said the protesters might surround the camp with large drum barrels to block wind.

The group recently enlisted the help of MIT architecture students, who are currently working on a plan to better prepare Dewey Square for the winter.

Some Occupy protesters have already begun winterizing individual tents, clearing rotting, flammable hay from underneath tents and lifting the tents off the ground using wooden pallets. Though these platforms create distance between tents and the cold, wet park grounds, protesters need the city’s permission before they can bring any more pallets into the encampment.

Meanwhile, clothing tent owner Tracy Leichty, 41, continues to collect coats, sweaters, and boots from the community. So far, she says locals – ranging from families to Financial District businessmen – have been steadily and generously donating warm clothes to the campers.

Massachusetts College of Arts student John Orlando, 23, who has been camping at Dewey Square since the encampment's first day, says he doesn’t think the weather has been too harsh. In preparation for the winter, he just bought a new, warmer sleeping bag, and he plans to visit a local military surplus store soon.

“Hopefully [winter] sort of eases onto us and we can adjust as we go,” he says.
Other members of Emerson College’s Metropolitan News Service contributed to this report.

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

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