Protesters face Valley Forge-like test, some intend to go the distance.
By Jeff Johnson
In Cairo, protesters are shot and killed. At UC Davis and in Denver, they are pepper sprayed and batoned. Here in Kansas City? The park sprinklers came on during one of Occupy KC’s events and dampened the grounds. Not shocking video material. No outraged citizenry, no city officials forced to step down, and a bunch of local Occupiers left wondering whether they are being taken seriously.
As it stands, Occupy KC’s imminent challenge is not The Man (as 60’s-era protesters referred to their oppressors), but Old Man Winter, who every Midwesterner knows can be unrelentingly oppressive. Observers and insiders wonder if it is realistic to expect Occupiers to sleep on frozen ground for the next few months, and are concerned that the local Movement might fizzle without a continuous outdoor presence.
So far, Occupy KC has gotten away with using tents at Penn Valley Park, their original and main protest site near the Federal Reserve Bank. However, even with tents and heaters, it is a big question mark whether Occupy KC can survive the entire winter outside. Adding uncertainty, local law enforcement has repeatedly warned Occupiers that they may at any time enforce the city parks’ no-tent rule.
As with most things Occupy, opinions are divided and plans vary. Some say it would be a waste of resources to support an outdoor camp through the winter months. Others are committed to the symbolic importance of the park presence.
Chad Moore, 26, stays at the site two or three nights per week.
“A bunch of us have decided that if we can stay out here through the winter, that will make an even stronger statement,” said Moore.
Another Occupier said the site serves as a unifying, physical hub for an Occupation that has seen its share of division.
Brian Gandreau intends to stay through the winter. He says efforts are in the works to obtain large military tents with room for communal sleeping, possibly to be set on wood pallets. As an indoor refuge on the most bitter of cold nights, Gandreau says they have leads on charitable organizations nearby.
For some of those dependent on the food, supplies and community of the camp, the political message of the encampment is not the priority, but instead, simply day-to-day existence. For these individuals, without an Occupy camp, there may be nothing remaining that identifies them with the Movement.
Linda Miller, who helps coordinate the receipt and distribution of supplies on site, says so far they have had a good supply of donated blankets and gloves, but sleeping bags and tents continue to be a need. Storms have already taken their toll. “We lost several tents, and the kitchen tent is about to go,” said Miller.