Occupy Syracuse prepares for winter's wrath

With the arrival of snow and bone-chilling temperatures, Occupy Syracuse campers predict they'll make it through the winter -– but it won't be easy.

Judy Blanco walks around the Occupy Syracuse camp in a heavy, black coat and polka-dot scarf, occasionally pulling the scarf over her mouth to protect her face from the wind.

She's been involved in Occupy Syracuse, part of the national movement calling for an end to the corruption on Wall Street, since early November. The camp itself started Oct. 2. Two months later, the dynamics have changed. Chilly nights are turning dangerously cold as the camp trudges deeper into December.

Photo: Michael Boren
A cardboard sign reading "Honk If You Are A 99%er" hangs from a tree outside the Occupy Syracuse camp in November.

Authorities in cities across the nation, including New York City, Los Angeles and Albany, have either cleared Occupy camps out or ordered their eviction before next year.

In Syracuse, city officials have allowed Occupy protesters to stay in Perseverance Park on South Salina Street, so long as they don't cause any trouble. 

The number of campers swelled to nearly 35 earlier in the fall before dropping to about 20, Occupy Syracuse members say. Some left because of the cold.

"So far I know it's going to get a lot colder," said Blanco, 30, of Syracuse. "People ask all the time what we're going to do when it snows, and I really just don't even know. We'll figure something out."

Piles of blankets and pillows cover the tents where the Occupy Syracuse members sleep overnight. Some tents are barely large enough to squeeze two people inside, but campers make it work.

They also find ways to avoid shivering at night.

“You need somebody to cuddle with,” said Shane Featherstone, 19, of Nedrow. “That helps stay warm.”

The camp relies heavily on donations for water, food and clothing. Bins of thermals and gloves line the inside of one of the more than five tents. A kitchen -- or about as close as you can get to one outside -- also sits tucked in the back and holds stacks of cereal, donuts and other foods.

Four banks, including JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Citizens Bank and Morgan Stanley, surround the camp, meaning protesters don't have to go far to voice their displeasure.

It's unclear when the campers plan to leave the park, if they are not ordered first. But most campers offer a single answer: "As long as it takes."

“There’s a lot of answers and a lot of things that need to get fixed. It’s hard to put your finger on just one or even set a timeline for it,” said 36-year-old Scott McGroty, of Oswego, who started the camp with two blue tarps he pulled from his car. “I mean, the Civil War wasn’t just something that happened overnight. But look at how much that changed the world.”

Below, see what the Occupy Syracuse protesters have been doing since the local movement started more than two months ago.

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