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Occupy Wall Street Protesters Prepare For Winter Weather [LIVE UPDATES]

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By Erika Niedowski, Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Wall Street protesters around the country who are vowing to stand their ground against the police and politicians are also digging in against a different kind of adversary: cold weather.

With the temperature dropping, they are stockpiling donated coats, blankets and scarves, trying to secure cots and military-grade tents, and getting survival tips from the homeless people who have joined their encampments.

(CLICK HERE OR SCROLL DOWN FOR LATEST UPDATES)"Everyone's been calling it our Valley Forge moment," said Michael McCarthy, a former Navy medic in Providence. "Everybody thought that George Washington couldn't possibly survive in the Northeast."

More than a month and a half into the movement, Occupy Wall Street activists from New York to Colorado have pledged to tough out the snow, sleet and cold as they protest economic inequality and what they call corporate greed.

But the dangers of staying outdoors in some of the country's harsher climes are already becoming apparent: In Denver, two protesters were hospitalized with hypothermia this week during a storm that brought several inches of snow.

The activists also know full well that the number of demonstrators is likely to drop as the weather gets colder.

Some movements are scouting locations indoors, including vacant buildings or other unused properties, possibly even foreclosed homes, though some question the wisdom of holding a protest outside the public eye.

Lighting campfires is probably out of the question in most places because of safety regulations.

Boston's Occupy movement, which has roughly 300 overnight participants and could face some of the most brutal weather of any city with a major encampment, has set up a winterization committee that will try to obtain super-insulated sleeping bags and other winter survival gear. Activists from the movement's flagship encampment, consisting of hundreds of people in New York City's Zuccotti Park, are sorting through packages arriving daily that include coats and jackets.

In Providence, where city officials are threatening to go to court to evict hundreds of campers from a park across from City Hall, a core group said it will remain through the winter months - if not there, somewhere else. Rhode Island's capital has an average low temperature in the 20s from December through February and recorded nearly 3 1/2 feet of snow last year. Many of the more than 100 tents are not built to withstand harsh conditions.

Temperatures were expected to drop into the 30s across much of the Northeast by Friday morning, and forecasters said snow is possible in some places over the weekend. Boston got its first dusting late Thursday night.

In Denver, as protesters prepared for this week's snow, a few dozen sympathizers stopped by to drop off blankets, gloves, chili and hot chocolate. Police refused to let activists erect a tent. That left some sleeping on the wet ground, covered by snowy tarps.

"I welcome the challenge of this cold weather," said Dwayne Hudson, a landscaper who has been living at the Occupy Denver site for nearly two weeks. "This is like war. You know, soldiers do it when they occupy a place. I'm sure the mountains of Afghanistan get pretty cold."

But after the first snowfall, he admitted: "It's getting tough."

Eric Martin, who is on Occupy Boston's winterization committee, said the group had raised about $35,000, which could help buy winter supplies. Various ideas are being discussed to keep tents warm without using combustion-based heaters, which are forbidden. Another proposal: igloos.

"We're looking at ideas from military vets to survivalists, to the homeless community to indigenous peoples," Martin said.

Activists in Philadelphia are also researching sturdier, warmer structures that could replace the 300 to 400 tents set up on the concrete plaza surrounding City Hall.

Chris Goldstein of Riverside, N.J., owns one of the tents, though he sometimes sleeps at home. He learned the hard way during the first rainfall that the site has poor drainage: "I occupied a puddle." The self-employed writer and activist put pallets under the tent to lift it off the ground, and outfitted it with small carpets for insulation.

In the meantime, he and other activists have access to a Quaker community center two blocks away where they can shower and thaw out in common rooms.

In Chicago, where winters are famously bitter, protesters living in Grant Park are working to secure several indoor locations to get them through to spring. A church nearby is letting some demonstrators sleep overnight. Activists in Portland, Ore., likewise said that moving the protest inside is the only realistic option.

Patricia Phelan and her fiancee, Savanah Kite, have been camping in the Providence park in a $20 tent from Walmart. As temperatures dipped into the 40s in the morning this week and people could see their breath, they hadn't yet employed their hand warmers or a down comforter Phelan had in the car just in case.

Their plan is to add layers as necessary.

The trick will be keeping morale up, Phelan said, "and not letting the climate get to us."

___

Associated Press Writers Jay Lindsay in Boston; Barbara Rodriguez in Chicago; Ivan Moreno and Kristen Wyatt in Denver; Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia; and Nigel Duara in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.

___

Take a look at images from the scene in Oakland below:

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Via HuffPost Miami:

When an Occupy Miami member offered evicted protestors vacant apartments in a building he owns in Downtown Miami's Overtown neighborhood, it seemed like the perfect solution: the 'Peace City' space would provide headquarters for the movement and shelter a small faction of the group's most vulnerable members. But it hasn't gone well. Other tenants say the building has become a cesspool of drug use and violence while non-resident Occupy Miami members are trying to distance themselves from the 'radicals' -- all while the two factions are wrestling for control over Occupy Miami's social media sites and future plans.

From the Miami New Times:

The feud between the Overtown occupiers and more mainstream members has only gotten worse. The two factions are now battling for control of Occupy Miami's social media sites. The movement's main Twitter account recently announced it had been "hijacked by a small, non-consensus group of radical members." The Occupy Miami Facebook page was also temporarily hacked by someone inside Peace City. Meanwhile, the Overtown occupation is slowly driving away more moderate members.

"This is a black eye on the Occupy movement," says Shannon Reaze, an Overtown community organizer and Occupy Miami supporter who is now helping tenants move out of Paz's building. "The violence and drugs going on here are way outside of what I thought Occupy stood for. This place is destabilized."

...The supposedly hard-core activists here spend their days drinking and getting high. And as Peace City devolves into lawlessness, the most committed occupiers are leaving. Local landowners and politicians want the place shut down, while cops are suspicious. Yet as long as Paz wants the protesters around, nothing short of a demolition order can keep them out.

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Via HuffPost DC:

WASHINGTON -- Occupy DC has a new lawsuit involving tents on its hands. But it doesn't involve temporary structures in McPherson Square.

Two protesters arrested during a February action outside Merrill Lynch's offices on 15th Street NW near McPherson Square have filed suit against the Metropolitan Police Department, Legal Times reports. (Read the complaint here.)

The plaintiffs, Samuel Dukore and Kelly Canavan, were part of a "targeted occupation" of Merrill Lynch on Feb. 13 where protesters were raising awareness about Merrill Lynch's reportedly close ties with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa, for his part, claims that the reports of these close ties are "wildly inaccurate."

Full story here.

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OWS reports via its website:

After the brutal attack on the attempted re-occupation of Liberty Square by NYPD on the 6-month anniversary of #OWS, a number of Occupiers have relocated their base of occupation to Union Square in midtown Manhattan, a point of convergence for several #OWS protests over the past 6 months.

According to reports on the ground, several dozen people slept in the park after the illegal and violent raid on Liberty Square. Over 70 people remain, now on Day 3. Although tents and tables are still banned, Occupiers have brought blankets and sleeping gear. Many are calling it ¨the new Occupation.¨ In addition to holding General Assemblies, Union Square Occupiers are providing vital jail support for those arrested on #M17 as they are released from NYPD custody. So far, the NYPD has made no attempt to remove Occupiers or prevent them from sleeping in the park.

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Occupy Long Beach is defending the mother's home. For more information, click here.

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The woman had the apparent seizure has been identified by the New York Observer as Cecily McMillan:

Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street activist once profiled in Rolling Stone, suffered a seizure Saturday night during protest action near Zuccotti Park. Many on-scene reported Ms. McMillan had trouble breathing after she was tackled and handcuffed by law enforcement.

A video uploaded to Youtube late Saturday night purports to show the attack. Two women can be heard commenting, “There’s Cecily,” then there is confusion as the police clearly perform a violent take-down on someone in the crowd.

According to Jeff Sharlet’s November, 2011 article about the Occupy Movement, this may be Ms. McMillan’s second violent encounter with police.

To read the full story, go here.

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Cops caught on video about 10 seconds in taking down the woman who had the apparent seizure:

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Watch video from inside Zuccotti Park as police moved in late last night:

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The paper reports from last night's chaos at Zuccotti Park:

At one point, a woman who appeared to be suffering from seizures flopped on the ground in handcuffs as bystanders shouted for the police to remove the cuffs and provide medical attention. For several minutes the woman lay on the ground as onlookers made increasingly agonized demands until an ambulance arrived and the woman was placed inside.

By 12:20 a.m., a line of officers pushed against some of the remaining protesters, forcing them south on Broadway, at times swinging batons and shoving people to the ground.

Kobi Skolnick, 30, said that officers pushed him in several directions and that as he tried to walk away, he was struck from behind in the neck. “One of the police ran and hit me with a baton,” he said.

To read the full story, go here.

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@ Greg_Palast : Our photographer ZD Roberts beaten @OWS Zucotti Park by cops. Thrown to ground, hair grabbd, hit with clubs while yelling, I'M PRESS PRESS!

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@ macfathom : Doubling east on Barclay, and now the ragged front of the march is at City Hall. #OWS

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@ LuddoftheFuture : girl in the street having a seizure and the cops have her in handcuffs. can this get any worse (live at http://t.co/4pLyy3gP)

Activists cry out for paramedics. The woman is limp on the ground. "Come on you violent bastards where's the paramedics?"

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@ jeffrae : March is heading north up broadway #ows #occupywallstreet

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@ macfathom : Dozens of arrests, many cuffed and sitting on broadway waiting for their ride to jail. #OWS

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@ RDevro : Police are barricading the park. It's cleared. I witnessed countless violent arrests. No way to estimate numbers.

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@ troutish : Protesters being dragged out by the head at #OWS #Zucotti Park http://t.co/qomhKkrA

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Cops pulling apart human chains. There are shouts for mic checks. Now, chants start forming. "The NYPD are sweeping through," says Tim on the live stream.

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@ ANIMALNewYork : Police are moving in. It's chaos.

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@ ANIMALNewYork : NYPD just made an announcement that Brookfield has to "clean the park" and Liberty Plaza is officially "closed."

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@ OccupyWallStNYC : Bagpipers just started marching into the park bringing the party mood with them, NYPD arrested one of them, and things got real heated. #OWS

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@ JackieHRye : NYPD just "destroyed" the tent in Zuccotti Park, Occupiers call for its re-building. Marching band also going through the park. #OWS

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@ RDevro : The tent in the middle of the park continues to fill with people planning to stay the night. Lots of energy here.

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Activists ask for more room as the tent is growing, expanding.

"It looks like a floating tent." -- as Tim on his live stream.

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Owly Images

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@ OccupyWallStNYC : .@justawall is leading us in a song! "Hit the road, banks! And don't ya come back no more no more no more no more!" #OWS

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Activists have assembled make-shift, cardboard sleeping areas inside Zuccotti Park. The cardboard is joined by a large green tarp.

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@ RDevro : A tarp is going up in Zuccotti as protesters march around the park chant-dancing. #m17 http://t.co/rJfP3GF9

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