Feds Investigate Ex-Occupy Leader

Thomas MacMillan PhotoAs the Occupy New Haven camp fades into memory, federal agents have started paying housecalls to its erstwhile members and Fair Haven neighbors, and looking for a former leader who won’t answer their phone calls.

“I don’t communicate with gang members,” said that former leader, Ben Aubin, explaining why he took the battery out of his phone after the FBI tried to contact him.

Aubin is a former organizer with Occupy who later moved into one floor of an experimental-living house in Fair Haven calling itself the Atwater Resource Collective. (The city dismantled the Occupy encampment on the Green April 18 six months after Aubin and comrades erected it.)

An FBI agent and a Homeland Security agent stopped by the house at 92 Atwater St. on Monday, according to neighbor Andres Hammer, who lives upstairs from the ex-occupiers. The Homeland Security agent was looking for Aubin and Tommy Doomsday, another former occupier, Hammer said.

The agent, Glenn Van Neil, told the Independent he can’t “comment on an open investigation.”

The agents appear to be probing unspecified suspicious deliveries to the FBI’s state headquarters on State Street between Wall and Grove.

Van Neil’s was the third such visit to the Atwater Street house that Aubin said he knows of. He said he’s not going to talk to the feds: “I think they’re just trying to propagate more fear and paranoia to take down the Occupy movement.”

Two other former occupiers have already spoken to the feds. Broderick “Moose” Lee said an FBI agent and a Homeland Security agent came to his home in New Haven a couple of weeks ago and talked with him for about half an hour. They asked him “vague” questions about the FBI building on State Street, Lee said. It had something to do with a CD that was apparently dropped over the wall around the building, he said.

Lee said he hadn’t even known the building exists. “I don’t think they found what I had to say all that interesting.”

Doomsday sat down with the G-men on Wednesday. He said he got a call from the FBI Tuesday morning, and set up an appointment for them to meet him at his home in Seymour on Wednesday afternoon. (Doomsday has left Atwater Street.) They drove to a Mexican restaurant. The conversation, over nachos and guacamole (on the feds’ tab), was “anti-climactic,” Doomsday said. He confirmed that the agents were asking about the FBI building in New Haven, but declined to give details because the feds had asked him not to.

“Don’t Worry”

The latest federal-agent visit to 92 Atwater took place at around 3 p.m. on Monday, said Hammer. Here’s what he said happened:

Hammer, who’s 26, and his dad, cycling enthusiast Paul Hammer, were headed out to Paul’s car to drop Andres at Southern Connecticut State University, where he’s a graduating senior.

Outside, they ran into “two people who looked like they were with the census,” Andres recalled.

The man and woman had clipboards and were talking to one of the Hammers’ downstairs neighbors, a woman who lives with Aubin. They wore regular street clothes, “not black suits and dark sunglasses,” Andres recalled.

The man, who turned out to be Van Neil, approached Andres as he headed towards the car, where Paul was already behind the wheel.

“I’m with Homeland Security, can I ask you a couple questions?” Van Neil said, according to Andres.

“I thought it was a joke,” he recalled. “I thought I was being punked or something.”

Van Neil asked if Andres knew Doomsday. “I said, ‘Yeah, I know Tommy.’”

Van Neil asked if Andres knew Doomsday’s whereabouts. “I said no. I really didn’t know anything.”

Van Neil asked how he could contact Doomsday, when the last time Andres saw him was.  Andres told him what he knew, which was not much.

The agent then asked about Aubin. “He asked me the same questions,” Andres recalled. “I said, ‘I really don’t know anything.’”

“The tone that he was asking me everything, it sounded like he was a concerned parent or something. The whole experience was really odd. Either he was trying to psych me out and play the ultra-friendly cop or officer—or I’m not really sure what was going on.”

Van Neil handed over his card and told him, “Don’t worry. Nobody’s in trouble. We’re just trying to find them,” Andres recalled.

Andres said he doesn’t have any idea why the feds would be after Aubin and Doomsday.

“They’re the opposite of violent. They’re pacifists,” Andres said. “They’re radical in terms of ideas and wanting to see change, but they’re pacifists. They’re great guys.”

“I Have No Reason To Talk To Them”

“What’s the worst thing I’ve done?” Doomsday said. “Kidnap a reporter and plant a garden?”

He said the FBI called him on Tuesday. “Well, basically they said they’d like to talk to me and specifically they said they’d like to talk about Ben.”

He arranged to have them come to his house in Seymour, because he doesn’t have a car to meet them, Doomsday said. “I am a pedestrian.”

Doomsday said he wasn’t concerned about the meeting even though “the FBI doesn’t just go talking to people.”

“I’m not worried about it because I don’t think I’ve done anything that might be important to them,” he said.

Doomsday said he hasn’t lived at Atwater Street for a few weeks. “Shit got weird over there so I just bounced out,” he said. “Ben brought in people he didn’t really know about. They freaked out and mutinied.”

But when he heard that federal agents had been stopping by there, Doomsday said, he told people at Atwater, “Don’t be weird about it. Give them my number.”

Aubin had the opposite reaction.

He said he happened to be leaving for North Carolina on Monday and took off only about 20 minutes before Van Neil and his colleague showed up at 92 Atwater St. He got a call from someone staying there, who let him know the agents had come by.

“This is the third stop that I have heard about so far,” Aubin said. “We’re definitely all concerned about what it is they’re fishing for, because we have no idea.”

On his way to the airport, his cell phone kept ringing with a “restricted” number calling, Aubin said. He assumed it was the FBI. “I took the battery out.”

“I have no reason to talk to them,” Aubin said. He said the authorities are still trying to sow seeds of suspicion within the movement for social change. “It’s just more evidence for why we’re trying to change things.”

Nachos And Guacamole

A 3:15 p.m. phone call to Doomsday’s Seymour home found a “freaked out” girlfriend who said she had come home to find Doomsday missing.

Reached by phone a half-hour later, Doomsday (pictured) said he was fine: “No Guantanamo for me.”

He said a female FBI agent and a male Homeland Security agent had come and picked him and taken him to the Hot Tamale in Seymour, where they split some nachos and guacamole.

“It was pretty chill,” Doomsday said.

Most of the conversation was just chit-chat, Doomsday said. He said he figured the feds were “profiling” him, watching his body language and the way he spoke.

The agents asked if Doomsday knew of anything violent that was going on, he said. They asked questions having to do with the FBI building in New Haven, but asked him not to talk too much about it.

Doomsday said he didn’t have any information to give them, which seemed to disappoint them.

Doomsday said he doesn’t know why the feds called him up, specifically. He said he assumes it’s because “I’m one of those frequently talked about assholes.”

“I don’t know shit,” Doomsday said. “I don’t know what the fuck they want from me. I legitimately don’t.”

Doomsday said it was “definitely a relief” to have the conversation over and to see that it apparently had nothing to do with him.

And the federal agents paid for the nachos, which was fine by Doomsday. “I think the place personally is a little pricey.”


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posted by: davecoon on May 10, 2012  9:55am

Try the hair salon.

posted by: FrontStreet on May 10, 2012  9:57am

Given the myriad of social and economic problems in New Haven, I’m sure the federal government has better ways to spend it’s time in New Haven than playing hide and seek with Occupy organizers.

posted by: William Kurtz on May 10, 2012  10:13am

To borrow some phrasing, all I know is what I read in the Independent but nothing I have read here warrants identifying Mr. Aubin as a ‘leader’ of anything.

My own snarky observation pales next to davecoon’s so I’ll leave it out.

posted by: EarlyBird on May 10, 2012  10:24am

Well, gentlemen: Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

posted by: Schlemihl on May 10, 2012  11:29am

I’m still wondering if this is real or if New Haven Independent has been bought out by the Onion.

posted by: Adam Wascholl on May 10, 2012  12:33pm

Great, free publicity for our community :)


posted by: HhE on May 10, 2012  1:02pm

This is what happens when one plays at being a revolutionary; the real counter revolutionary forces take a personal interest in you. 

Like self describing yourself as “cadre.”” and “Back at camp, Aubin and others helped move a new black flag to a more prominent position in the center of camp.

The flag is a symbol to the world that “we’re willing to move forward with tactics we haven’t previously used.” All tactics are on the table, he said. Physical violence against people is not an option, but destruction of property may be, Aubin said. Otherwise, “that wouldn’t be a full diversity of tactics,” Aubin said.

A black flag is often used by anarchists as a symbol of defiance, the opposite of a white flag of surrender.

“It’s not a threat,” Aubin said. “It’s an invitation to have a conversation” about tactics. Occupy New Haven is “putting word out to other radical communities,” he said.” isn’t going to get you noticed?

A friend of a friend wanted to get on the FBI’s Hackers Watch List.  Once he did, he knew he was because the FBI “interviewed” him.  He wasn’t so keen about being on their watch list after that.

posted by: Curious on May 10, 2012  3:19pm

Didn’t Aubin used to run a thrift store or something?  It’s going to be hard to get people to take him seriously as a responsible adult if he keeps pulling these kinds of antics.

posted by: HhE on May 10, 2012  4:11pm

Yes he did:  a thriving enterprise that did not charge any money.  It needed free rent to open, and when that ran out, it did too.

I’m going to take a pass on their revolution; it is far more lame than the status qua.

posted by: Dean Moriarty on May 11, 2012  1:30am

New Haven’s version of Occupy went off the rails shortly after it began.  The prime focus quickly became laying claim to the Green, instead of seriously trying to effect change.  What did it all accomplish?  Very little (and I’m being kind) other than turning people off to the whole “idea”. Attacking and bringing lawsuits against the very same people who accommodated them, and costing the City monies. Guess that’s in the past now, folks seem willing to forget what this has and is still costing the City.  Anyway, this current turn is not very surprising.  If I was able to read some thinly veiled comments about “property destruction” on their FB page I’m sure the FBI and HS was interested too. How fortuitous that Aubin “happened” to be leaving the state twenty minutes before HS visits.  Right. Interesting to see where this leads.  You can’t swim in the deep end if you’re wearing water wings.

posted by: Ex-NHPD on May 11, 2012  4:42pm

Cricket has left the building.

posted by: Nhv.Org on May 15, 2012  12:31am

Wanted.  For unnecessary use of masks in Tommy Mac’s photos.  More political theater, potentially written by the less talented Norman Shakespeare, who is a virtual unknown.