WASHINGTON -- As temperatures drop and snow begins to fall, thousands of Occupy protesters are beginning to fear the approaching winter while many of their supporters worry the occupations will thin out.
In an effort to combat both dwindling temperatures and participation, collaborative news blog FireDogLake has launched Occupy Supply, an initiative to provide the protests nationwide with enough supplies to survive the winter.
"It's clear from what's happening around the country [that officials] are trying to freeze out the cold weather occupations and trying to shut down the warm weather ones," said Jane Hamsher, founder of FireDogLake. "Keeping people warm through the winter is going to be really key to the success of the movement."
Occupations that have already been blanketed with snow, such as those in Bangor, Maine, and Denver, have begun to accept donated winter wear and supplies, even taking advice from the local homeless who endure frigid conditions annually. The FireDogLake fund hopes to centralize the donation initiatives and provide truly useful, American-made supplies where needed.
Occupy Supply began accepting contributions through its website on Oct. 21, but the unexpectedly large amount donated -- $50,000 in just a few hours -- encouraged Hamsher to slow promotion until Thursday so that she could figure out the best way to disburse the growing funds.
Channeling the Occupy movement's central demands -- to reduce the role of corporations in politics and to create much-needed jobs -- Hamsher decided that the Occupy Supply goods must be made solely by unionized manufacturers in the United States.
"What we're shipping is way better than what you can find at any Target. A lot of it is industrial stuff so it's made for people who work in cold weather," she said. "It's really, really good quality."
While each Occupy Supply item is 100 percent American-union-made, Hamsher admitted that finding such suppliers was no easy task. Socks, jackets and hats are just some of the goods available. The fund is hoping to add tents and sleeping bags, but so far Hamsher has been unable to locate manufacturers that fit the criteria.
"The saddest part of all of this was looking up union suppliers, and half of the [websites] were dead. All these companies have gone under," she said. "That's why people are out there on Occupy Wall Street because all of these jobs are gone."
Hamsher said there is great demand for the winter apparel -- and not just from occupiers.
"The biggest problem we're having is that everyone wants the Occupy Supply items, but we're not selling them," she said, noting that 100 percent of the money raised goes to supplies for the occupations.
Where shipments of supplies will end up is heavily based upon FireDogLake members' interaction with the program. When an occupation reaches out to Occupy Supply, a local FireDogLake member acts as a liaison to the particular protest and listens to what its specific needs are, Hamsher said, describing the program as a "very organic effort" to help the movement.
"We don't want to just ship stuff out to them," she said. "We really want to have an ongoing relationship with them."
The first Occupy Supply shipments will contain 5,000 jackets, vests, hats and socks for more than 10 locations, including occupations in New York; Boston; Des Moines, Iowa; Memphis, Tenn.; and Washington, D.C.
"We always welcome donations and supplies, but it's incredible the response that we've gotten so far," said Marisa Holmes, an Occupy Wall Street media, facilitation and structure representative. She called Occupy Supply's forthcoming shipment "probably the largest [the occupation has] received for infrastructure."
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