In the middle of their camp, Occupy New Haven’s protesters are building a solar panel. Constructed of wood, glass and metal coils, the panel will capture sunlight to heat their kitchen tent.
The panel is one of several new measures that occupiers on the New Haven Green are undertaking to address falling temperatures as winter sets in. Many are opting to spend their nights at home or in friends’ houses to escape the cold. Of Occupy New Haven’s 30 regular demonstrators, about half have stayed the night in the last few weeks, according to Jillian Tupper, one of the movement’s leaders.
While many Occupy movements across the country have been shut down or attenuated, the Elm City’s protest has lost comparatively few members in the past month. Occupy New Haven has sustained support from the Center Church on the Green — which owns the property on which their camp sits — according to occupier Justin Van Horn, who is currently unemployed and moved from Wallingford to the camp Jan. 1. The camp also receives donations of food and clothing from local businesses and churches, New Haven residents and the Occupy Supply Fund, which provides supplies to the movements across the nation. Municipal services provided the movement with portable toilets and dumpsters and comes every day to clean.
“I have not been here much at night,” Tupper, whose home was recently foreclosed upon, said, explaining that she has slept at a friend’s house in Hamden most nights.
On particularly cold evenings, the Occupy camp’s security team patrols the grounds each hour to verify occupants’ safety, Tupper said. During the day, she added, nearby community members invite occupiers into their homes to warm up.
Occupiers have also modified their living accommodations to keep out the cold by placing wooden pallets insulated with burlap sacks and blankets underneath their tents, Tupper said. Still, she and 10 other demonstrators walking around the camp agreed that the rain and wind have been difficult.
Tupper said the movement still holds demonstrations and regular meetings in the mornings with the goal of diminishing corporations’ influence on politics. She said she believes that the cold will strengthen the occupiers’ unity.
“We are never hungry,” Van Horn said. “If it is going to be a cold night we help each other out and make sure everyone has blankets. We are using radiant barrier insulation and bubble wrap in the tents to protect against the cold.” In case of sickness, the camp is stocked with Vitamin C pills and other medicines.
Occupiers admitted that there has been a slight reduction in their numbers because of the weather, but many protesters are coming during the day between jobs and school. Hatun Biyikli, a student at Career High School in New Haven, said she comes to the camp almost every day and joins demonstrations.
While occupiers spend much of their time in their tents, each night they screen a movie or documentary and sometimes play music.
Although Occupy New Haven has only faced one snowfall, its members claim that weather will not pose a threat to the movement.
“It will be crappy but I think we can manage,” occupier Kevin Swingle said.
Van Horn was more optimistic. “I will make an igloo,” he said. “The Egyptians made the pyramids. We can make an igloo.”
The Elm City’s “occupation” officially began Oct. 15.