(Updated) Josh Smith, one of eight named plaintiffs in Occupy New Haven’s suit against the city, said it’s time to fold up the tents and declare victory.
Smith announced Wednesday on the Occupy New Haven Facebook page that he’s pulling out of the case against Mayor John DeStefano, Police Chief Dean Esserman, and The Committee of the Proprietors of Common and Undivided Lands at New Haven, a.k.a. the “Proprietors of the Green.”
At a Wednesday evening “General Assembly” meeting at the Occupy camp, Smith found no one else who agreed with him that it’s time to quit the Green.
Smith’s announcement came just the day after he and seven other plaintiffs associated with the protest encampment won another 11th-hour victory in their quest to continue occupying a portion of the upper Green.
With a six-month anniversary party planned for this weekend at the camp, Smith told his fellow occupiers that’s enough.
In a lengthy post on Occupy New Haven’s Facebook page, Smith said Occupy should take down the tents. “The longer we stay on the Green, the more damage we do to our cause.” Read Smith’s full statement at the bottom of the article.
“The police aren’t the enemy and the city is not the enemy. The 1 percent are, and the banks and corporations that control this country and drive it into the ground are,” he wrote.
The announcement provoked a lengthy discussion, with few occupiers supporting his idea.
At a 6:30 p.m. Wednesday General Assembly meeting on the Green, occupiers split into two groups at the request of a TV reporter: those in favor of packing up and those in favor of staying. Smith was left standing all alone on one side.
“Come on, Smitty!” occupiers among the two dozen on the other side shouted, urging Smith to change his mind.
“We love you, Smitty!” they called out, when it was clear he wasn’t budging. A couple occupiers gave him hugs.
Asked about the fact that he wasn’t able to get any takers for his proposal, Smith said. “I feel like there’s a lot of takers outside of here.”
Smith, who’s from Norwalk, has supported Occupy for months, but has camped only one night on the Green. “I totally support the movement,” he said.
As the meeting moved on to planning Sunday’s six-month anniversary festivities, someone called out, “What do we do when we’re under attack!”
“Stand up, fight back,” the occupiers shouted back.
“Change tactics,” Smith said quietly, with a rueful smile.
Here’s the statement Smith posted on Facebook:
This has been a tough decision, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I’ve proposed to my fellow activists that we take down the physical camp and clean up on the 15th, after our anniversary celebration. Six months is longer than any other occupation made it, and that is a formidable victory. I think we stand to regain a lot of our supporters (and gain more supporters) if we pack up the camp and make sure the Green gets cleaned up, which I’m 100% willing to help with on Sunday.
A lot of people from local and regional community organizations are hanging back right now from helping us because of the whole controversy, and the longer we stay on the Green, the more damage we do to our cause. I think that our ranks will easily double or triple if we can get off the Green and prove that we will continue on in our struggle.
We can thumb our noses at the city and be prideful and arrogant, or we can move forward with greatly increased support to fight the 1%. If we want physical reminders of corporate greed and the rift between the rich and poor in this country, we can put things everywhere that can accomplish the same thing without all this controversy, and if we act quickly, we can do it on *our* terms, and not “King John” DeStefano’s terms.
I understand that we have a dilemma because we don’t want to see our homeless occupiers left behind. To remedy this, we can help Sara Ferah with the Existence Group’s plans to reoccupy in an alternate location, which I am also 100% willing to help with.
It should be noted that I’m not giving up on ONH. I intend to continue the fight, but I just can’t bring myself to say that we’re fighting the right people anymore. The police aren’t the enemy and the city is not the enemy. The 1% are, and the banks and corporations that control this country and drive it into the ground are. My message to fellow Occupy activists? Let’s regroup and get serious, like we were back in October. The American Spring is here, and we’ve got an awful lot of work to do.