Fifteen or so advocates for the homeless exercised their legal right to gather on the Green to make a point—about gathering on the Green.
The group, assembled by the Amistad Catholic Worker House, held a noon protest by the flagpole Tuesday to celebrate the temporary quashing of a plan to require people like them to get permits in advance before using the Green for political speech. They called on people to make sure another similar version of the proposed new rules for assembly on the Green never becomes law.
They made the point in song. (Click on the video for a sample.)
They brought a pamphlet of updated lyrics to versatile protest-music chestnuts like Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”:
This Green is your Green
This Green is my Green
From City Hall
To the Yale ivy
From the Dunkin’ Donuts
To the public library
This Green was made for you and me!
Once I was sleeping
On a bench by Trinity
I saw a bike cop
Standing beside me
I tried to sit up
But he just fined me
(I said) “This Green was made for you and me!”
Whenever the sun’s down
And the shelters are closed down
This is the one place
You can lay your head down
This law is messed up
So we’re shutting it down
(because) this Green was made for you and me!
City Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden drew up the proposed changes last November (read about that here) in order to set clear rules on use of the Green in the wake of the 2012 “Occupy New Haven” encampment. The rules would have banned sleeping overnight on the Green, required people to get permission 21 days in advance to hold events there, and in some cases require payment. That provoked a storm of outrage—including this proposal-burning at the Amistad Catholic Worker house in the Hill. Two weeks ago Bolden asked the Board of Alders to withdraw the plan from consideration for now to allow for a more deliberative preparation process.
Protesters on the Green Tuesday urged people to get involved in any such effort to make sure the Green belongs as much to homeless people as it does to Yale.
“A ‘livable city’ does not equate to hiding the poor,” said activist Mark Coville.
“I think it will come back,” Board of Alders President Jorge Perez said of the proposal in a conversation after the protest.
Perez said he welcomes a discussion about setting reasonable rules for the Green. “But people pay a lot of taxes in this city. I’m not in favor of a group that wants to use the Green for a few hours or two days to have to pay a fee,” he said. He said he also opposes barring people from the Green after 10 p.m. as originally proposed. “This is downtown. People are going to walk through there.”
“On the other hand,” he said, “we need some sort of balance between different competing interests that want to use the parks.”
Meanwhile, at the Green protest in favor of protests, Amistad House member Sarah Raven served homemade turkey soup and encouraged people to speak in an open mic in between group renditions of updates to “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” and “Can’t Turn Me Around.”
The singing wasn’t audible from the fourth-floor corporation counsel suite in City Hall. But Corporation Counsel Bolden could see the people assembled.
He didn’t sound in a rush to jump back into the controversy.
“At some point we’ll deal with it,” Bolden said. “There will be plenty of time for discussion at a later point.”