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Occupy Denver: Five people hospitalized for exposure to the cold

Update, 3:11 p.m. October 26: Occupy Denver's most recent report, via its Twitter account, is that a total of five people have been hospitalized within the past day.

The group is urging people to contact Mayor Michael Hancock's office to advocate on behalf of protesters using tents to stay warm in Civic Center Park.

Original post: After sleeping in the season's first major snowfall, two Occupy Denver protesters were hospitalized overnight due to exposure. Although the low temperature was augmented by frequent coffee and cocoa donations and the camp's entire supply of tarps and blankets, it proved too much for the two, who were taken to Denver Health when they became ill from the cold.

One of the hospitalized volunteers suffers from diabetes, which contributed to the condition. "It was just too cold for them to stay outside in this weather," volunteer Neil Therrell says. "It was tough for the rest of us, but we made it through."

Two occupiers wake up surrounded by snow in front of Civic Center Park.
Two occupiers wake up surrounded by snow in front of Civic Center Park.
Kelsey Whipple

The scene as the protesters woke up under tarps covered in snow this morning featured a smaller gathering than usual. A decrease in size could also decrease public attention for the occupation, if fewer people are physically occupying. "Our size already decreased from eighty to twenty overnight," Therrell says. "People don't want to or can't handle this cold. I'm not worried about maintaining a presence, though, because I know that people will stay if they care. And we care."

Craftier protesters have made use of donated plastic grocery bags as guards to keep water from infiltrating their shoes, but dry socks are a rarity. One activist held up a sign this morning asking for donated dry socks, but the poster's thin green marker lines were quickly eclipsed by the snow.

Occupy Denver's kitchen, the Thunderdome, is covered by tarps to protect food items from the weather.
Occupy Denver's kitchen, the Thunderdome, is covered by tarps to protect food items from the weather.
Kelsey Whipple

The group is currently out of propane used to heat things on its camping stove, and donations of Starbucks quickly turn cold outdoors. Groups are gathering to decide which donated items are recoverable after damage from the snow, and while the plan fluctuates back and forth on the issue of tents, this morning's weather has established them as a necessity despite police interaction like the one last night, volunteers say.

"In other cities, occupations have put up tents over and over, as many as three or five times, and the police stop messing with them and realize they need them, it seems," Therrell says. "We just have to keep asking for tents and then setting them up because we can't risk extreme exposure to the elements."

More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver clashes with police (again) over tents raised for cold weather (PHOTOS)."