The icy winds will blow: Occupy Chicago tries to prepare for winter

Occupy Chicago’s general assembly voted down a proposal today that dealt with surviving the winter. Operation: Winter Building / Chicago Spring would have given the winter-bound movement a way to keep active across the city, maintaining a presence while the cold weather made 24/7 occupation dangerous. The dissent came from a number of issues, including a wording change and a contingency that thought that it wasn’t a direct enough action. The vote narrowly missed the nine-tenths majority that it needed, falling only eight votes short.

This begs the question that has already been asked, how will Occupy Chicago survive the winter? The movement was stopped from having a permanent home by city officials, removing the possibility of figuring out survival with an encampment, a difficult but not impossible task. Early morning visits from the police have meant that the protesters must be up and moving, instead of bundled and keeping warm, further making the perpetual occupation difficult. As anyone who has spent a winter in Chicago will tell you, it gets to be deadly cold.

There is still some time left for the occupiers to figure it out. But “figure it out” is exactly what they need to do. The winter, outside of being cold, can be a loss of momentum. Direct actions that take place outside are going to get less attention from the public, as well as less participation. Indoors, actions are limited by space. Ten thousand people won’t fit in the hallway of the mayor’s office. With the G8 and NATO coming in May, the Chicago branch of the Occupy Wall Street protests will be in the world spotlight, being the home team, so to speak, for protest movements that will converge in Grant Park this spring. Winter mustn’t put a dent in their presence.

The occupy movement was going to be a struggle all along. Starting in September, in both New York and Chicago, winter was a thought in the back of everyone’s mind. Talking to one of the “Skeleton Crew” (members who stay the night and clean/deal with the police,) the concern for a place to prepare warm meals and keep people dry was made in early October. These issues were only magnified with time.

So, Occupy, take what you learned tonight, and reform your proposals. Put forward another one tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. Until you figure out a solution, you need to make this your top priority. Not to tone done your politics, but to survive, both as a movement, and as human beings.

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