By Josh Sager
If the occupations are to survive the harsh winters of the northern United States they must find ways to not only deal with the weather, but develop strategies to keep people safe and facilitate the transition. At Occupy Boston, a working group of occupiers as well as several faculty members of local universities have been working to winterize the Occupy camp. The winterization process can be broken down into several distinct and important categories: Winterized structures, Camper safety, and Legal.
The Occupy Boston camp is currently composed of a large number of three-season tents and several larger, military grade tents. As the smaller tents are not structurally able to support large loads of snow, nor are they properly insulated or waterproofed, they must be replaced before winter sets in. In addition to the problems with the tents themselves, they are spaced far too closely to comply with fire regulations. At this point, the winterization committee has proposed a consolidation and reorganization of the tent structures which will solve the structural and spacing issues that face the occupation site.
Several military grade, arctic rated, tents will be bought using donated money and set up to replace the current tents. These tents are far stronger, more insulated and waterproof then the current tents, making them a safer and more comfortable way to weather the winter. In addition to purchasing the high grade tents, the occupiers will be using a structure designed by volunteers from MIT and Harvard; this structure will be lightweight, strong and designed to protect the occupiers through anything that a New England winter can throw at the. Not only will the new structures hold up to the weather but they will allow many more people to live together, making it possible to ensure that nobody freezes in their sleep. As shown by numerous cold weather deaths in people living without shelter, the most dangerous times in the winter are the nights, when people without insulation freeze in their sleep.
In coordination with the Safety and Medical working groups, the Winterization group is organizing a winter safety system. On cold winter nights, the Safety and Medical groups will be running periodic checks inside of the living tents to ensure that everybody is safe; in the event of somebody becoming hypothermic, they will be brought to the medical tent to be given insulating layers and warm drinks. In a worst case scenario, the medical team will call for an ambulance to transport the hypothermic occupier to the hospital. Through a combination of preparation, vigilance, and medical assistance, the occupiers will prepare for the winter so that everybody can remain safe, healthy, and comfortable.
One potential stumbling block in the winterization plan is the actions of the police. Currently there is an injunction against the city from removing the occupations except under extreme circumstances (fire, health, or violence). Unfortunately, the BPD has been enforcing a blockade of winterization materials into the camp.
The BPD abides by the court order in that they don’t remove the protestors, but they won’t allow any new materials into camp; this makes little sense to the occupiers as they are planning on staying, but need to be safe while they do. If the occupiers are dedicated to stay through the winter, doesn’t it make sense for the police to allow them to be as safe as they can make themselves? Ultimately, the occupiers hope that the judge hearing the case will not only allow the occupiers to stay in Dewey Square, but will also rule that the occupiers are allowed to winterize their camp in order to stay safe.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The police officers stationed at Dewey Square have conducted their jobs without violence and are only following orders to blockade the occupiers’ site. Ultimately, any responsibility for this policy rests up the chain of command, not with the officers themselves.