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Occupy Winter

Occupy Memphis bundles up for the cold, prepares for holidays.



"I'm not usually this fat," said Occupy Memphis member Jack Armstrong, pointing to his multiple layers of clothing.

Over a month into their occupation of Civic Center Plaza, Occupy Memphis is preparing for the holidays and cold weather. The group has gotten a decent amount of financial support from individual donors, which, along with donated food items, clothing, and tents, has helped keep campers warm and fed.

"We are going to be getting a generator and some space heaters," Armstrong said. "We've set up a tent city with all these tents in the front to buffer the wind coming off of the river, and we're bundling up with lots of layers."

After city officials banned the group from plugging into light poles for electricity, they've turned to U.S. Marine-issued batteries to power electronics, such as space heaters, cell phones, and laptops.

Despite cooling temperatures, spirits seemed high at the Occupy Memphis camp last week. Protesters scattered throughout the campsite played guitars, spoke to curious passersby, and prepared for an early Thanksgiving dinner.

"We're going to be doing Thanksgiving here on Saturday," Armstrong said. "We'll cook a turkey dinner offsite and bring it here. If we cook here, we'll have to go through the health department.

"And it'll probably be pretty similar for Christmas," Armstrong continued. "For New Year's, we'll be swinging from the chandeliers and having a good ole time out here. But drinking and drugs aren't allowed so it'll have to be fairly tame."

Numbers have been growing steadily, according to Armstrong. He said around 50 people sleep onsite during the week and up to 115 on weekends.

"Most of the time, we'll have around 45 people actually staying here and the rest will come and go," Armstrong said.

"It's addictive," said Armstrong, when asked why he chooses to camp onsite. "I have to leave during the day for work, but when I'm off work, I'm back down here. I stay most nights. I've been here since October 15th, and [I've come to love] the camaraderie. They're family."

The Occupy Memphis group plans to remain at Civic Center Plaza indefinitely, which could mean camping straight through the winter. The Memphis Police Department and the city of Memphis have agreed to allow the protesters to stay, so long as they remain peaceful.

Armstrong, who plans to stay as long as the camp is intact, said there's plenty going on at the Occupy camp to keep his mind off the cold weather.

The occupiers have developed a daily schedule, and while most of the day is spent kicking back, holding meetings, and talking to people who stop by the campsite for more information, some of the members march to the Bank of America every day at 3 p.m. to protest.

"Nothing is ever the same," Armstrong said. "I'm always learning new things. I'm watching people work together at the [general assemblies], where you get to see civics going on. We're writing proposals. We're passing them. It's really cool watching that interaction. Everyone should come down here and spend a day. What you see on TV, it's nothing like that."

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