More than shared outrage, a just cause, or the serendipity of setting up in an open-24-hours park, the prime facilitator of the Occupy Wall Street movement has been an unseasonably warm autumn. But the long-simmering tension between protesters and police shifted on Saturday, when the weather became the occupiers’ chief antagonist: it was a unseasonably wet, slushy, windy and cold day, the most severe weather-challenge the movement has yet faced—and a taste of the what it’ll face going forward. More than an inch of snow fell on the city, the highest October accumulation since record-keeping began in 1869; it also rained. Temperatures were at or near freezing.
In Zuccotti Park, the protest’s home, demonstrators had set up dozens of tents; many had become topped with snow. In mid-afternoon on Saturday, a man with a broom wandered the park, brushing it off. Others swept slush from the surrounding sidewalks. A few volunteers distributed stacks of foam padding, to keep tent-floors and sleeping bags dry. “Is anybody home?” they’d ask as they approached each tent flap.
Aside from these helpers and half-a-dozen people crowded around the tarp-covered kitchen area, Zuccotti was nearly empty—a sharp contrast to the throngs of protesters and curious-minded people who have usually filled the park during the day. No one drummed. Even the typically heavy police presence was missing; the only cops I could find were trying to stay warm and dry in unmarked cars parked along Cedar Street.
Fire officials had confiscated the occupiers’ generators and gasoline the day before, which some considered an effort to freeze the protesters out of Zuccotti.
One man circled the park’s perimeter at a clip, shouting support. “The whole world is watching,” he hollered. “Don’t give up now.”