The New York Fire Department, citing a fire hazard, removed the gas-powered generators from Zuccotti Park earlier this morning, leaving the media center, medic station, and food kitchen powerless until they can procure battery-powered versions, which organizers say could come as early as next week.
Meanwhile Security group member Brendan Burke, a tall bad-ass looking dude who has been volunteering at the park since the second week, told The New York Observer that there have been “three or four” incidents of sexual assault in Zuccotti Park. But since Security — now working with a group called Community Alliance — deals in mediation and conflict resolution and have no authority to check people’s tents or act as bouncers to the park — they have directed these women to file complaints with the NYPD.
Yet another mediation group called Community Watch is busy tearing down the tents at the time of this writing; they are sweeping the park for a routine cleaning, we are told by Watch organizer (and former Peace Council member) Suzanne Sutton. People were told about this “sweep” earlier in the morning, we are told, yet we witness several heated arguments with individuals who refuse to take their tarp down, or who have lost items to the giant storage bins where things go if you are not around when it’s time to take your tent/tarp down. If an item is unclaimed, it will be going to a storage facility nearby. The generators, when they come, will not be used to be keeping Occupiers warm.
Nor will they be feeding them gourmet meals: as reported, the kitchen has scaled back its services in attempt to dissuade homeless people and the rumored convicts from Rikers Island that the NYPD is allegedly dropping off at the park from cohabiting the park and turning the movement into something more resembling a soup kitchen/homeless shelter. We overhear a conversation between a woman and a member of the Comfort station: she is asking for a tent for a party, and he is taking down her information. “We’re making sure everyone has a phone or email address,” he tells her, “just so we’re not giving away our supplies to the uh…you know…the homeless.” He then quickly apologizes for saying “that word.” But it’s clear that resources, especially for food, shelter, and clothing, are being rationed as closely as possible.
If this seems a little harsh — what happened to the ‘come one, come all’ mentality? — it is obviously out of necessity. Maybe it is the cold weather, or the drop in morale from the lack of Internet connection, but the scene down at Zuccotti Park is much grimmer than ones we’ve previously encountered. There seems to be a lot more heated arguments, a lot more panhandlers, and at least 10 guys stop and chat us up about our legs. One of these men, Marcel, is busy yelling about his tent being torn down. “They only pay attention to me when I yell,” he tells us. “Where I come from, you’ve got to stand up for yourself, or you get beat.”
So…where did he come from?
Marcel suddenly gets evasive. “I come from around here,” he tells us. Who told him to come to Zuccotti Park?
We run into an old college friend, Cameron Healy who has joined Ms. Sutton’s mediation group. He is currently sleeping under a table. When asked what he plans to do if it snows, he shows us how he’s raised the bottom and has tarps underneath.
If the living situation, the “community” as it were, has become unmaintainable on Occupy Wall Street, what’s a possible solution?
“I’d love it if we did a major action one night: got everyone out, mopped, scrubbed, and left the park totally empty,” Mr. Burke told us. “We would organize protests by flash mobs. Yes, I eventually would like to see the kitchen closed and moved off-site. I’d like to see the things that serve everybody change and move, to get people on their feet, start being responsible for themselves, and start realizing why we’re here.”
Leaving Zuccotti Park is not the worst idea we’ve heard: with all the different sub-groups and working committees diverting their efforts to keeping the community warm and safe in their self-made village and the media center down until new generators can be brought in, who will be left to actually protest once the winter snow starts to fall?
They have about 12 hours to figure it out.