This weekend, snow created divisions among the protestors of Occupy New Haven, at least for a few hours.
The unexpected five inches of snow that accumulated between noon on Saturday and early Sunday morning brought chaos and inconvenience to the roughly 35 protesterscurrently inhabiting the New Haven Green in the city’s branch of the anti-corporation protests that have appeared across the nation. Early in the snowfall, demonstrators working to brush snow off tents and reinforce their structure expressed frustration at the inaction of some of their peers who were huddled around heaters in the food tent to keep warm and comfortable. But by early evening, Occupy New Haven was back on its feet, and participants seemed confident in the movement’s ability to outlast the winter.
By 4:00 p.m., the accumulated snow and ice had already caused eight or nine tents to collapse, and some occupiers were working to restore them. But tempers ran high and frustrations abounded even during the reconstruction effort.
“Only two or three people were dealing with the problem at first,” Josh Kline, one of the demonstrators, said. “Some people got very angry and there was a little dissension among the protesters.”
Kline added that the difficult conditions were “bringing down the morale of the protesters” and making “everyone frustrated.”
Two essential tents — the big blue tarp at the center of the Green in which food provisions are stored and the comfort tent that holds medicines and toiletries — started falling apart in the early afternoon and protestors made them the first priority for reinforcement. The snow also caused branches to come down on the Green.
Though some protesters said they were most concerned about falling branches, no injuries were reported.
Protesters also received the support and the aid of some New Haven organizations. Augusta Girard, program coordinator for Promoting Enduring Peace, a New Haven-based peace organization, said her group installed a new tent on the Green in order to offer the occupiers provisions and medical supplies.
Still, by Saturday evening, tensions had eased and occupiers said they were optimistic about the movement’s longevity.
At 8:00 p.m., the protesters had reinforced their tents and reorganized their configuration to maximize body heat. Some were singing ‘Amazing Grace’ inside their tents. One occupier who asked to remain anonymous to “protect his reputation” said many demonstrators had underestimated the weather, but after the snowstorm they were brainstorming ideas to “work on surviving the winter.”
Three protesters said their main concern was to decide on the best ways to protect themselves from the upcoming winter weather. They added that some “winterization strategies” that the movement was discussing included acquiring generators and fuel heaters, as well as continuing to reorganize the configuration of their tents to share heat most effectively.
“Some people might think that winter is going to be the ending for us,” said Martina Crouch ’14, a Yale student involved in the movement. “But we have structure and numbers. It’s just a matter of keeping ourselves warm.”
On Sunday afternoon, 90 occupiers, Yale students and passers-by attended a General Assembly held by the movement on the Green, where they raised $240 to acquire fuel for a heater.
Crouch added that even though some “small fights” arose among the protesters Saturday afternoon, they are all trying to maintain an attitude of civility.
“We are all together,” occupier Sean Conlon said. “The most important thing is that we stay here.”
Occupy New Haven moved onto the Green on Oct. 15.