More than a dozen activists gathered on the Elm Street courthouse steps Monday morning, preparing to go inside to observe a New Haven man’s appearance on charges of interfering with a police officer at a July 8 counterdemonstration that went awry.
They had company. To their left, down the courthouse steps, stood six police officers including a patrol supervisor and a district manager.
Across the street on the Green, also keeping watch were two assistant police chiefs and at least seven motorcycle officers.
There was no protest staged on the steps. The activists came to show support inside for Dramese Fair, the man who made the court appearance. But unlike on other similar visits, they didn’t bring signs or stage a rally.
If this were two weeks earlier, that police presence probably wouldn’t have materialized. But now something has changed: Police have declared that they will pay more attention than ever before to postings on social media, and act accordingly. Police Chief Anthony Campbell has vowed to up the social media game after the July 8 counterdemonstration — held to protest a recruiting event for a white nationalist group called the Proud Boys — developed into a short outburst of violence and a massive police response.
Police want to make sure they don’t get caught by surprise and have an event get out of hand the way it almost did on July 8, Assistant Chief Achilles Generoso said Monday as he and fellow Assistant Chief Racheal Cain stood among the officers on the Green.
“We want to have enough people on hand that we can react to whatever the situation is, but we’re not going to react unless it’s warranted,” police spokesman Officer David Hartman elaborated. “The police presence doesn’t have to be in your face. We can be waiting in things wings. If things go peacefully, our objective is not to interact at all. People want to talk to us, that’s fine. If people behave, we’ll do what we can to accommodate their rights.”
When police saw that no demonstration was materializing Monday, most of the officers in fact dispersed to attend to duties elsewhere. Dramese Fair’s case, meanwhile, was continued. (He maintains his innocence and said he intends to fight the charge.)
The activists took note of the increased police presence. “I feel very protected,” one of them, Barbara Fair, remarked wryly.
Fair was there because Dramese Fair is her nephew. Fair herself has a court appearance scheduled for Wednesday for her own arrest that same day at the same event for allegedly interfering with police. The word has already gone out on social media for supporters to show up again at court. Expect to see the cops in the vicinity too.
No word yet on whether this will mean an uptick in business for the Jack’s Hot Dogs cart.