My normally not so favorite National Weather Service broadcast announcement has let us know that from Sunday until noon Tuesday, we are going to be getting a lot of snow. How much depends on the wind pushing streams of moist air off the lake blowing out of Canada. When it comes strait in off of Lake Erie, most snow falls 5 to 15 miles south of here and beyond. When it comes in at an angle, more falls here. So far, we got a few inches in Erie at the Gazebo, but other areas in the County got as much as 17″.

But these are not normal times. Some of my fellow Occupiers are praying to the gods for a heavy snowfall here in town. They have been planning on building an igloo-like shelter in Perry’s Square, near the Gazebo. While the City has been right there every morning after we have tried to protect ourselves with shelter of some sort, there is no law against building snow people or snow forts in the park. So we plan to build some sort of weather protection that way. So far we don’t have enough here but we are still hopeful.

I spent the night before Christmas and the night before New Year’s Day at the Gazebo, camped out in my folding camp chair. I also stayed overnight when the severe weather warning was announced Sunday. It does not bother me as much as some, I spent six years on third shift working in the rail yard guiding locomotives and removing snow and ice from the switches so I could “throw” them. If you don’t get every bit out, then the switch will not close completely and the locomotive will derail. So I have experience outdoors at night in the winter, and know what to expect.

I set my chair up with a tarp on the seat, then a foam sleeping mat on top of that. I have tied handles to the tarp to draw the tarp around me to keep the wind and snow out. A couple of bungee cords then hold it in place. It looks like this before I get in:

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I bundle up in my old winter rail yard attire, plus some extras. I wear two pairs of woolen socks, tennis shoes, and pull over rubber boots on my feet. A tee shirt, sweat pants, jean bibs, sweat shirt, insulated bibs, and a down coat with hood cover my body. Once I am sitting in the chair, I then cover my legs with one of the Occupy Supply sleeping mats and an old chore coat that is blanket lined. I have two different pairs of gloves I use, a leather work glove with a fake fleece lining, and a pair of driving gloves which allow me to handle the camera buttons and dials. The camera hangs around my neck and under the down coat when not shooting. Here is a picture of that gear:

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I am the only one here with that kind of cold weather experience and some of the gear needed to stay warm in these conditions. But all that is changing. Some Occupiers are gaining that experience in an “on the job training” sort of way. We are also slated to receive some heavy gear from the Heroes of the Movement that donated to or work at Occupy Supply. Jane Hamsher and I have been in contact quite a bit working to get gear that will allow us to withstand the worst weather Canada throws at us from across the Lake. Thank you Jane.

Without Occupy Supply, we would have to give up the Occupation here until Spring. I feel that we do the Movement a great deal of good in this area by being a visible symbol of our discontent and showing our willingness to sacrifice our comfort to make that point. I feel that unless we are thrown out, we should stay in the Square as long as possible.

We still have to figure a way to get out of the wind and stretch out while resting. We are being limited to a couple or three tables, some folding camp chairs, and a few tarps draped over the tables to keep them from getting damaged by water. At night, they sometimes get arranged like this:

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Chris is one of those staying most nights. Here he is poking his head out to say hi when I bought tacos from a local bar after I left work for that nights sleepers.

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Here he is again, after emerging from the arrangement called the OccuBubble on Christmas Eve night.

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I stop several times a week after I leave work at 11:00 pm. I bring food, propane, moral support, and conversation. I also usually drive those sleeping at the Gazebo to a convenience store a couple of miles away to use the bathroom. This is also an opportunity to warm up in my Jeep. I am only a sleeper on weekends, but I will stay and visit after work until the incessant droning of my voice puts them to sleep. But better that than boring them to death…

I don’t particularly like the configurations we use, too much wind and wet gets in under the tarps. I have a couple of ideas I hope to try out. I will have to find three tables of the right size and price to try it with, along with a tarp of the right size, but I think that several sleepers could stay warmer and dryer with a different set up.

Wednesday at 9:00 am is the next City Council meeting. City Hall is across the road from Perry’s Square, and we are VERY visible to people working there. This is a picture from October taken on the sidewalk in front of the Police Dept building next door to City Hall.

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Several of us plan to speak. We still have yet to hear from any sort of legal eagles or legal beagles with any advice, but I will be trying to figure out what we can do on our own to retrieve our missing property. I also hope to figure out some sort of argument supporting our desire to protect ourselves from bad weather while exercising our First Amendment rights. If any readers are familiar with any case law that could help, especially based on the Pennsylvania Constitution, please let me know.

If you would like to let the Mayor and City Council know what you think of their heavy handed attempts to drive us away, please email them or call. Their contact info follows, and please note that City Council is a part time office, so the Councillors also list their home phone numbers. Play nice…

Jessica Horan-Kunco
Council President
457 West 31st Street
814-454-0587 (home)
Governmental Relations: City Treasurer, School District, City Controller, Mayor, State Legislators, U.S. Senators, U.S. Congresswoman, County Council, County Executive.
Email: jkunco@erie.pa.us

Joseph Schember
927 West 22nd Street
814-455-9621 (home)
Authorities: Parking
City Depts. & Bureaus: Administration, Finance Dept.
Email: jschember@erie.pa.us

Curtis Jones, Jr.
1305 East 36th Street
814-456-0497 (home)
Authorities: Redevelopment, Zoo
City Depts. & Bureaus: Economic & Community Development
Email: c_jonesjr@yahoo.com

Patrick Cappabianca
4133 French Street
814-864-4229 (home)
Authorities: Housing, Convention Center
City Depts. & Bureaus: Bureau of Police, Civil Service Board
Email: backpat@verizon.net

Mark Aleksandrowicz
411 Lighthouse St.
814-455-8611 (home)
814-833-3861 (work)
Authorities: Airport
City Depts. & Bureaus: Code Enforcement, Special Events
Email: markaleks@erie.pa.us or markaleks@hotmail.com

James Winarski
1140 East 31st Street
814-453-5669 (home)
Authorities: Water, EMTA
City Depts. & Bureaus: Bureau of Fire, Public Works
Email: jwinarski@erie.pa.us

Joel S. Schwartz
502 East 33rd Street
814-460-2683
Authorities: Sewer, Port
City Depts. & Bureaus: Public Works
Email: jschwartz@erie.pa.us

Mayor Joseph Sinnott, ESQ
626 State St. – Room 502
Erie, PA. l650l-1128
814-870-1201
jsinnott@erie.pa.us

A special thank you is owed to those that have helped out by donating to Occupy Supply. So here it is:

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Special Thank You from Mark and the rest of Occupy Erie.

All photos were taken by Mark Haller, aka Mentatmark