As high winds, low-30 temperatures, and sheets of snow ripped through downtown Manhattan, Occupy Wall Street was under siege on Saturday, this time from Mother Nature. Zuccotti Park was transformed into a tent city, with just over a hundred protestors huddled against only the fourth October snowstorm to hit New York in 135 years.
Other than the roaring wind, the park was quiet: no chants, no drum circles. The day's outdoor activities were canceled and the wall of sign wavers on Wall Street has been replaced by a single, stalwart placard: "Hell Snow, We Won't Go!" Tents are explicitly forbidden * by Brookfield Properties, which owns the park — but that hasn't stopped the protestors. "People are doing what they can, they're going to bring in tents," said Robert Silva, a 37-year-old recording engineer from Brooklyn. "This is snow, it's not going to kill us. What they're doing to us will kill us. What they're doing to our world."
Adam, a 20-year-old occupier from New York, told me that the park's stone pathways were filling up with icy water. "It seeps in through the bottom of the tents," he said. "We don't know how much longer this is going to last." The crush of belongings and bodies has strained the park's drainage system. As tents heave under snowfall and water trickles down from the street, the park is turning into a colorful, ice-cold fishbowl.
Some electric pumps and heaters would have come in handy, but the city confiscated Occupy Wall Streets' generators and gasoline yesterday, citing them as fire code violations. If they continue to be banned, the movement will lack in heat sources once the cold weather settles in more permanently.
While the occupation's ranks have thinned, the hard-core activists are sticking around, huddling in a large central tent and distributing donated sleeping bags. "It's like Valley Forge out there now," a beaming middle-aged finance facilitator named Mercury John told me. "But it's a beautiful day ... We'll keep splashing in the puddles."
This post has been updated with additional information.
*This post has been corrected to show that tents are forbidden, not forgiven, by Brookfield.