As the sand drained from the hourglass, protesters fortified the ramparts of their new central compound, while Occupy New Haven’s homeless population quietly packed up and moved on.
That was the scene on the upper Green Tuesday some 24 hours before the city’s deadline for Occupy’s departure. The city has named Wednesday at high noon as the time by which all members of the encampment should vacate the premises.
Occupy New Haven has held its ground on the upper Green since Oct. 15, 2011, when it was established with the cooperation of the city. It has outlasted most other offshoots of the Occupy Wall Street movement that inspired encampments across the nation last fall. According to one list, New Haven’s is now the last standing in New England.
The cooperation with the city has fallen apart completely in recent weeks, and devolved into direct conflict. The city Monday delivered the notice to leave by Wednesday. At a press conference later that day, two members of occupy ripped up the notice and wiped his butt with it, respectively.
Following a Monday night meeting where a dozen occupier volunteered to be arrested if need be, the camp was abuzz with activity Tuesday morning.
Josh Heltke wielded a hammer, creating walls out of plywood structures previously used as tent platforms.
Occupiers hoisted other panels into place around the entrance to a cul-de-sac tent compound in the center of the camp, as Tommy Doomsday cheered, wearing an American flag cape, Guy Fawkes mask, and sheepskin gauntlets.
Spraypaint flew freely as occupiers put up defiant slogans and symbols.
Meanwhile, staff from Columbus House and Marrakech—two social service agencies—helped pack up homeless people. Social worker Kenneth Driffin said he and others are helping find housing and transport belongings.
“People just need support to the next level,” Driffin said.
“I’m coming back in an hour, you want lunch?” he said to three guys he’s helping move.
Mike Dirienzo, the leader of a group of homeless people tented on the south side of the occupation, already had lunch. He was cooking up chicken with rice and mushrooms with honey mustard and rye bread. He said he’s packing up. He has no interest in getting arrested he said.
“A lot of people are panicking today,” said Sara Ferah, who’s homeless. “They don’t know where they’re going to go.”
Ferah said he doesn’t know where he’s going to go either, but it won’t be back to a shelter. Ferah was part of a group who had been working on last minute negotiations on moving the camp, with city Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts. Those talks failed because there’s no time to have the aldermanic discussion that would be necessary to find a new camp site, Ferah said.
12 Hands Went Up
After police Monday night delivered a second round of notices to vacate the New Haven Green, a dozen occupiers volunteered to get arrested on Wednesday.
On Monday night, occupiers held a General Assembly (GA) meeting to discuss the imminent demise of their camp and plan nonviolent civil disobedience.
The meeting began shortly after a 7 p.m, visit by Lt. Luiz Casanova and several other cops, along with workers from the city’s parks and public works departments. The police handed out more copies of the city’s notice to vacate, which was also hand delivered Monday morning to the campers on the Green.
The public works staffer duct taped the notice to tents, and to the flagpole at the center of the camp, where a defiant black flag was flying.
Lt. Casanova (pictured) said police were trying to ensure that everyone got the message.
As a General Assembly of 30 people got underway, Occupier Chris Garaffa promptly ripped up a copy of the notice, as occupiers had done earlier at a press conference at City Hall.
Occupier Ben Aubin said the city is “escalating” the situation. He said Occupy has not changed its behavior at all and “now they’re acting aggressive.”
He asked who would be willing to “resist” on Wednesday to the point where they might be arrested. A dozen people raised their hands. He asked them what they were willing to do.
Remain as peaceful as possible, said one.
“An old-fashioned sit-in,” said another.
John Gage, occupier and pastor of the United Church on the Green, asked for more specificity about what non-violent resistance might look like on Wednesday.
Linking arms, someone replied. Ben Weidner volunteered to lay in front of a bulldozer.
Gage asked people to talk to each other over the next day and make sure everyone in the camp is committed to nonviolence.
“This is a peaceful movement,” said Don Montano. “People who react with violence are not welcome here.”
“It’s the system that is violent to us,” said Garaffa. He warned that occupiers should not expect that “the other side” will be non-violent on Wednesday.
The occupiers planned some logistics for closing time: The remaining food stores will be given to a soup kitchen. Occupiers should remove all valuables from their tents.
People will be coming in on Tuesday from Occupy movements in Boston, New York and Delaware, someone announced.
After eviction, occupiers should meet at the “Broadway Loop” for a GA, Garaffa said. He offered walking directions to Broadway. “Elm Street is that street right there.”
On Thursday at 6 p.m., Occupy will hold another GA, he said. “This isn’t over. We’re going to keep going.”