Protesters camped out in Zuccotti Park contended with snow, wind, rain and unseasonably cold temperatures for the first time Saturday as the Occupy Wall Street movement began its seventh week in New York.
"It's definitely tough," Daniel Thorston, a protester from Syracuse, N.Y., said on Saturday of the weather. Asked whether the protesters could survive the coming winter, Thorston said Zuccotti Park need not remain the central hub of the Occupy movement if conditions become unlivable, emphasizing the "decentralized" nature of a movement that he says can shift from city to city. Though conditions were uncomfortable in New York -- city officials removed a gas and diesel generator the day before the storm citing safety concerns -- Thorston said the protesters don't have plans to stop spreading their message.
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"People aren't going to give up fighting the system because it's cold out," Thorston said.
Still, the values of the growing community in New York are being put to the test as increasing numbers of what the New York Daily News calls "lawbreakers and lowlifes” have taken up residence in the Zuccotti Park's west side. Jeff Smith, a member of the Occupy Wall Street press working group, told the Daily News that the rift between the protesters and the hangers-on has become more noticeable in recent weeks:
"I mean you wouldn't see somebody at the General Assembly smoking a joint," said Smith, reflecting the frustrations shared by many working group members who have invested their time and energies in the occupation. "But in the back, they’re selling crystal meth."
Even if the protesters are momentarily plagued by internal rifts, they seem to be getting support from the outside. The demonstrations in New York have raked in nearly $500,000 so far, but they've only spent slightly more than $50,000, the Associated Press reports.
In other cities around the country, Occupy protesters contended with more than just weather -- many faced arrests over the weekend. Officers in riot gear arrested fifteen people over the weekend in Denver as Occupy protesters attempted to illegally set up tents in a park. In Austin, 37 protesters were arrested after police clashes.
Progressive activist and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore lent his support to the Occupy Oakland protesters Friday after the group clashed with police and faced mass arrests last week.
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