Occupy Wall St Weathers Storm


Originally published in Newsday

With frostbitten toes and fingers, cases of hypothermia and freezing puddles of water in their tents, Occupy Wall Street protesters thawed out Sunday after weathering a rare October snowstorm.

Undeterred by the freezing rain, ice and snow, demonstrators in Zuccotti Park shook out wet clothes and sleeping bags Sunday and hung them on makeshift clothes lines attached to tree branches.

“It was rough until 1:30 a.m.,” said Sean Allingham, 30, of Winnipeg, Canada. “As soon as the weather cleared up, we cleaned out our sleeping bags and we were nice and toasty.”

Allingham, a writer and traveling poet who does odd jobs during his travels, said several residents have allowed him and other occupiers who work at the encampment’s library to use their apartments to rest and shower.

“People have been very gracious,” said Allingham, who said he has camped outdoors across North America, and in the tropic jungles of East Asia. “I am very comfortable in the outdoors. I don’t plan on leaving.”

William Estrella, 26, of California, said he woke up in a puddle of water and with a body temperature that had dropped to 91.7 degrees. “A medic took care of me. He gave me blankets and put heating pads on my chest, toes and fingers,” Estrella said. “Everybody stepped up to help make the situation manageable. I am staying here because I have been waiting a long time for my generation to stand up and stop watching reality TV.”

Meanwhile, in response to the FDNY seizure of gas and biodiesel generators that officials said posed a fire hazard, protesters from “Tunes Up,” a New York City environmental and bicycle advocacy group, were hooking up five bicycles to battery-powered generators.

The pedal power initiative will charge up the generators, which will provide juice to cellphones and computers used by the occupiers to publicize their movement.

“We’ll be able to charge up these huge batteries with pedal power and get back our cellphones and computers,” said Keegan Stephan, 27.

Elsewhere, dozens of protesters in Portland, Ore., and Austin,Texas, were arrested over the weekend.

Late Saturday, hundreds of protesters gathered in Portland’s Jamison Square in the wealthy Pearl District and defied a midnight curfew.

There was no violence during the arrests, which took about 90 minutes.

Police said the arrests were made on charges that included criminal trespassing, interfering with a police officer and disorderly conduct.

Police in Austin, Texas, made 39 arrests early Sunday as they moved to enforce a new rule banning food tables in the City Hall plaza where protesters have camped out. Some protesters surrounded the tables with arms linked.

Most were charged with criminal trespass, Police Chief Art Acevedo said. No injuries were reported.

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