Occupy Wall Street appears to be preparing for an Occupation expansion into New York City's world-renowned Central Park.
This Friday-- Veterans Day-- the Occupiers plan to march to Central Park. The question at this point is, do they plan to stay and form a permanent, Zuccotti Park style Occupation?
There some indications the answer is "yes."
There have been rumors for weeks that the Occupation would set up other franchises. Washington Square, Thompson Square, and Union Square parks have been reportedly under consideration, and some of those sites have already been playing host to nightly "General Assemblies."
A permanent expansion of the Occupy Wall Street franchise would stretch police resources and exacerbate threats to public health and safety already seen in Zuccotti Park. So far, it hasn't happened.
But as part of their preparations for the approaching cold weather, the Occupiers have been requesting donations of sleeping bags and tents from camping gear manufacturers. At least one Colorado tent-maker received an email requesting winterized outdoor gear from the Occupiers with a specific mention of the move to Central Park. The text of that donation request is below, though the sender wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from the Occupiers or their allies:
"Our occupation has stretched to its limits in Zucotti Park, the snow beat us down, tested our resilience, and our occupiers are quickly becoming bored with complaining about the status quo. The time has come to plan for the future. On 11/11/11, our occupation will be moving to Central Park for a festival of arts and education to usher in the creation of our future...we at the occupation would be blessed to receive [whatever] you would be willing to donate."
The push for more tents, it seems, could be directly related to the creation of another Occupy site in Manhattan. And its not an isolated request. A couple of weeks ago, the Occupiers claimed that camping gear manufacturers REI and Patagonia were donating sleeping bags to Occupy DC.
Both companies released public denials of that claim, but an effort is clearly afoot for the Occupiers to stock up on camping gear, possibly beyond current needs.
Perhaps more important, though, is that Zuccotti Park is running out of space for them.
This means expansion would be a logical next step for the Occupiers, as Zuccotti Park already looks like an overcrowded shanty town. As the WSJ put the Occupiers' need for a bigger venue this morning:
"Protesters in other cities have set up in spacious parks, where there's room to grow. Not so in Manhattan. Zuccotti Park is two-thirds of an acre and is hemmed in by marble walls in some places and in others by watchful police officers who make protesters remove dwellings that cross the line between park and sidewalk."
Close to 200 tents fill the square, which sleep a few hundred people at most. The cramped quarters have spawned a town planning commission, and a census is underway to get an exact count of overnight Occupiers.
This bureaucratic response to the overcrowding has created friction between the free-love-and-drugs Occupy crowd. When asked about the Occupy central planning committee's actions, one protestor told the journal, " if they begin moving up by claiming eminent domain, it would be hypocritical and ironic."
Given the already tight quarters and haggling over real estate, Occupy's attempted expansion to Central Park appears imminent.
One thing appears certain-- if the City of New York and the NYPD allow the Occupy movement to spread at will and stay overnight in violation of ordinances against camping, all the problems created in lower Manhattan will only get much worse.