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Donations pour in for protesters

Mark Rimbach (above) embraced Giordana Mecagni and her 17-month-old daughter, Lucy, (below) at the Occupy Boston demonstration on the Rose Kennedy Greenway yesterday. Mark Rimbach (above) embraced Giordana Mecagni and her 17-month-old daughter, Lucy, (below) at the Occupy Boston demonstration on the Rose Kennedy Greenway yesterday. (PHOTOS BY ESSDRAS M SUAREZ/GLOBE STAFF)
By Mark Arsenault and Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / October 13, 2011

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The plea from Occupy Boston went out on Facebook and Twitter early Tuesday: The demonstration needed money for bail, after more than 100 protesters had been arrested in a police raid.

On-line donors responded with more than $11,000, according to the group’s page on WePay.com, a Web service that processes Internet donations.

A day inside the tent city, g16.

A separate plea for logistical needs - food, blankets, warm clothing - has raised more than $10,000 for the two-week-old protest, based at a bustling half-acre tent city in Dewey Square near South Station.

That ability to shake the Internet money vine for cash appears to give the demonstration uncommon staying power, as activists hunker down for the long haul. They are preparing for coming cold weather and say they have no intention of ending their camp-in.

“We’ve been growing daily, and now the focus is on continuing to grow,’’ Phil Anderson, a spokesman for Occupy Boston, said yesterday outside the encampment’s makeshift media station.

Inside the tent, volunteers sat at two work stations, monitoring the day’s news and other business. “We are planning on being here for as long as it takes,’’ Anderson said.

Reaching their goals could take a long time: The loose themes of the protest include reducing corporate influence in government and ending wealth inequality, though many of the protesters are there for personal causes.

The camp was busy yesterday afternoon, as curious onlookers toured the tent city and protesters formed discussion circles to talk about everything from capitalism to composting.

So long as the protest is peaceful and safe, Mayor Thomas M. Menino is inclined to let demonstrators stay in Dewey Square, part of the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway. “No time limit,’’ said Menino’s spokeswoman, Dot Joyce, “so long as they maintain an atmosphere conducive to public safety.’’

At Dewey Square, protesters penned signs this week asking for donations of cold-weather camping gear.

“Personally, I’m prepared to stay here through the winter,’’ said Eric Schow, 25, of Mansfield. “Even if we do leave, the sentiment is not going to go away. And there are camps down South and all over the world.

“There’s a winterization committee that is going to winterize the camp; there are space heaters that run on batteries,’’ he said. “Eventually, they will have to let us grow here. The longer we’re here, the more support we gain.’’

In-person donations continued flowing yesterday. People dropped cash in a plastic tub. On one occasion, a man in a dark blue business suit pushed several neatly folded $20 bills through the slit into the bin. He declined to be interviewed.

Frank Maloney, 48, of Marshfield, gave $20 to help the protesters. He said he is not concerned about how the money might be used or by whom.

“I assume it just might be used for hamburgers,’’ said Maloney, who works with a technology company a five-minute walk from Dewey Square. “There are too many people casting aspersions on what is going on here. I, for one, believe in what they are doing, and that includes how they are taking care of the donations.’’

Jason Potteiger, a media volunteer for Occupy Boston, said the money generated from the Web has not yet been used. He said several specific funds have been set up through the Internet, including a fund to raise cash for a generator, which has garnered about $1,200.

So far, cash donations have covered all cash expenses, such as taxi fares, he said.

Potteiger confirmed that Occupy Boston rented a 12th-floor room at the upscale InterContinental Boston hotel at 510 Atlantic Ave., on the night police moved in to arrest protesters.

“We wanted to make sure there was some accountability, so we filmed the arrests from there,’’ he acknowledged. “It was just for that one night. We didn’t even stay for the whole night. We weren’t thrilled about spending the money in that manner. If a Motel 6 had been there to give us that sort of vantage point, we would have rented a room there.’’

The protesters have been using electrical outlets on the Greenway to charge laptops and phones for their media tent, but said yesterday they are considering getting a generator in case the city tries to cut the power.

The Greenway Conservancy, which oversees the park, will not allow a gas-powered generator because of safety concerns over the handling of fuel, said spokeswoman Lisa Quackenbush. The Greenway has no plans to turn off the outlets; the cost is nominal, she said.

A food truck festival planned for Saturday in Dewey Square had to be postponed until spring because of the encampment, but overall “the conservancy has had a great relationship with Occupy Boston,’’ said Quackenbush.

About 18,000 square feet of trampled sod in Dewey Square will most likely have to be replaced when the protest is over. Conservancy engineers estimate the cost at $12,000, which the park would consider a routine expense after a period of heavy use. “We do this all the time,’’ Quackenbush said. “It is the regular course of doing business as a park.’’

She said the rest of the 16-acre Greenway is open to the public and operating normally.

The protest has attracted wide attention since Tuesday’s police crackdown, which came after the demonstration expanded to a nearby parcel the city had asked protesters to avoid.

Some 140 demonstrators were arrested. Among those swept up in the swift police raid was Robert Plain, a reporter from WPRO-AM radio in Rhode Island, who had been dispatched to cover the protest.

Prosecutors were later persuaded that Plain was working as a member of the media when he was detained and arrested and moved yesterday to dismiss charges against him, said according to the Suffolk district attorney’s office.

Mark Arsenault can be reached at marsenault@globe.com.