Eviction Halted At Occupy New Haven

Thomas MacMillan Photos(Updated) Forty minutes after they began dismantling New England’s longest-standing “Occupy Wall Street” encampment, police and public-works crews officially halted the eviction as word spread of a last-minute federal court order.

“The city has decided to allow Occupy [New Haven] to continue as is for the time being” on the Green, city Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden announced to increasingly raucous protesters at 12:40 p.m. Tuesday.

Bolden said he had just received word that an appeals court judge in New York had ordered a week-long stay in the eviction, until April 17. The stay applies to only eight people, but for now, Bolden said, the city will allow everyone to stay.

“We obey the law,” Police Chief Dean Esserman said at the scene. “We are the police.”

The eviction had begun at noon. The last-minute stay delays the eviction for another week.

Before the eviction was halted, two Occupy New Haven protesters ended up in handcuffs. One was arrested after jumping into a payloader bucket to retrieve his confiscated belongings.

High-Noon Showdown

At noon, police moved to dismantle the encampment, even as the protest group’s lawyer announced the court’s reprieve.

Occupy protester Ray Neal rushed a payloader as a city staffer began clearing away tents.

“You are breaking federal law!” a protester named Moose chanted through a bullhorn.

Top downtown cop Lt. Rebecca Sweeney stepped in at 12:10 to negotiate, surrounded by chants of “Cops go home!”

Several cops carried protester Sara Ferah away in handcuffs shortly before 12:30 p.m.. A witness said Ferah had been trying to pull personal belongings out of a public-works payloader.

Ferah “almost broke his neck. It was scary,” said homeless outreach worker Kenny Driffin.

Another man was arrested right around noon. He was a first-time Occupy supporter, according to an occupier named Molly, who said she helped him make a sign earlier in the day.

Bolden (pictured) huddled with the police chief at the scene to decide their next steps. Then officials announced around 12:40 that they were backing off.

It all made for a confusing scene on the upper Green, as long-anticipated dismantling of New England’s longest-standing encampment in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement began—and then stopped.

Pattis Pleads

As the noon deadline set by a New Haven-based federal judge passed, Occupy lawyer Norm Pattis was frantically trying to get word to officials that a judge in New York City at the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals had just apparently approved his request to delay the operation just as it was beginning.

Pattis said he got a call just after noon from a court clerk that a judge had granted him the stay and that the order was being drafted. He said he informed New Haven officials but they refused to wait.

It’s the second time in the past month that Pattis has successfully stopped the eviction of Occupy New Haven with a last-minute court stay. Click here to read all about that.

“The city is on notice,” Pattis said in a phone interview from New York City at 12:22 p.m. “They said they couldn’t wait. I don’t know what the rush is. It’s been six months. They couldn’t wait for the Second Circuit? It’s a scandal. It’s pretty amazing.”

“If they continue on at this point, they do so at their peril.”

Indeed, the eviction was proceeding apace on the Green, with protesters, informed of the news by Pattis, trying to stop it.

“Occupy New Haven says it has a stay. We have not been served. We haven’t seen anything,” mayoral spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton said at 12:25 p.m. So the eviction proceeded.

After it stopped, Benton reported: “Because we can’t tell the difference between the plaintiffs’ tents and everybody else’s tents, we are suspending the operation.”

Mayor: Camp Is “Obnoxious”

At a 2:30 p.m. press conference in City Hall, Mayor John DeStefano (pictured) said the city will not move against the camp until the legal situation is sorted out.

“The people of New Haven deserve the New Haven Green back,” DeStefano said. While the city has been “cooperative and supportive” of the camp for nearly six months, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for a few to monopolize” the space any longer.

A total of two people were arrested on Tuesday at the camp, DeStefano said. “I have no reason to believe the arrests weren’t appropriate.”

He said the city will be ensuring all fire, safety, and public health regulations are followed at Occupy.

“This has become an obnoxious use of the Green by a few people,” he said.

Open Preparations

Earlier in the day, with five minutes to go before a noon deadline for Occupy New Haven to leave New Haven’s Upper Green, Chief Esserman announced that an area had been set up for protesters to store their belongings until 3 p.m. if they didn’t have immediate transportation. Some two dozen holdouts prepared to be removed, if necessary, from the site.

Public works trucks were put into place on Temple Street to begin taking down tents and carting them away. An 18-wheeler pulled onto the Green, as public workers staffers and cops prepared to swing into action.

Police put up yellow crime-scene tape to separate the public from the encampment on the Upper Green.

The encampment has been in place since last October. A federal judge Monday ordered that the city can remove the tents and the protesters.

Meanwhile, Pattis spent the morning standing outside the New York federal courthouse trying to get the last-minute plea heard. With less than an hour to go, he said he wasn’t having any luck in court.

Pattis said he filed a request for a stay pending appeal just before 9 a.m. In a phone interview at 12:01, he said he had just gotten word that the stay had been granted.

Earlier Tuesday morning, Chief Esserman, Lt. Sweeney and Assistant Chief Luiz Casanova—who normally attend a weekly “CompStat” meeting at police headquarters—were instead among the city officials gathered on the Green, awaiting the anticipated noontime denouement.

Esserman said that police would make a general announcement at noon that they were enforcing the eviction order, then would go tent by tent to make sure they were empty before packing them up.

“No surprises,” Esserman said. “We’ll be coming in from Temple Street.”

“If they need a few minutes, we’ll be happy to give it to them,” he added.

Esserman also agreed to create the temporary storage spot. 

In the encampment, “Snake” had set up what occupiers jokingly called a “cop trap” (pictured above), featuring a dangling doughnut.

Snake also set out another homemade booby trap: Banana peels.

Moose said some occupiers anticipated being arrested when the cops came in. He said there was a loose plan for occupiers to link arms and stand their ground, but he wasn’t sure how many people would participate.

Compared to prior days when the camp was threatened with eviction, the crowd Tuesday was initially fairly sparse.

Driffin, who works with homeless people at Columbus House, had helped pack up nine tents in advance of the expected eviction.

Occupier Ray Neal paused for an interview with writing students at Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School as the campers awaited their fate—a fate that has been put off again, for now.

During the confusion, occupier Don Montano taunted police with a doughnut on a string. He led a crowd in a chant of, “One, this is a doughnut. Two, it is delicious. Three, you know you want to fucking eat it.”

A fire marshal removed three propane tanks from a tent, over the shouted protest-chants of occupiers.

Artist Robert Greenberg, a critic of Occupy, got into several arguments with occupiers, including with 26-year-old occupy supporter Andres Reyes, a former Marine.

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posted by: RCguy on April 10, 2012  12:20pm

this is great!
Hang in there.
I’ll be praying for both the Officers and the Occupiers.

posted by: HhE on April 10, 2012  12:21pm

Maybe if Judges and Lawyers had to pay the costs of their actions, we would see less legal nonsense.

Maybe if ONH could wrap their heads around the idea that they are doing more harm than good, none of this would be necessary.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on April 10, 2012  12:30pm

Why would a New York judge even be ruling on this issue?

I’m sorry, I’m all for free speech, but there’s a difference between protesting and essentially living for free on taxpayer property (and using taxpayer services).

posted by: robn on April 10, 2012  12:59pm

Good grief.

posted by: DingDong on April 10, 2012  1:16pm

If you get a link to the courts’ order, can you post it on the website?  Or a link to the Occupiers’ brief?

posted by: cnr146 on April 10, 2012  1:27pm

The “cop trap” is hilarious. Bravo!

posted by: westville man on April 10, 2012  1:30pm

correction :  If ONH had to pay legal costs and fees there would be none of this legal nonsense. Pattis is doing it for free, just like everything else this “movement” has been given. The City opened up pandora’s box when it gave them carte blanche in the beginning.
Now we can all pay for it.

posted by: streever on April 10, 2012  1:32pm

I saw a lot of respectful behavior from police AND occupiers earlier today when I stopped by, but I also saw something truly disappointing.

“Cop traps”? That just isn’t right. The officers there are simply doing their jobs, and don’t deserve to be heckled and treated that way.

I was really surprised to see that people had done this. Police officers that act with respect should be treated with respect: the same as any other person on earth.

posted by: smackfu on April 10, 2012  2:01pm

“Why would a New York judge even be ruling on this issue?”

There are only 13 federal circuit courts which hear federal appeals.  The 2nd circuit is in New York and covers Connecticut, New York, and Vermont.  It’s not a New York judge, it’s a federal judge.

posted by: davecoon on April 10, 2012  2:07pm

I, for one, would rather have Chief Esserman, Lt. Sweeney, and Assist. Chief Casanova at the weekly Compstat meeting. 
Sorry to say, Occupiers, but your occupation of the green, no matter how well intentioned, isn’t going to bring down the murder rate in this city.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on April 10, 2012  2:09pm

First ..Holy Crap!

Second..Have to give Norm and Irv and team a hand despite the fact that I want these people off the dam green. I think the legal team has done democracy a justice. But still come on guys, let this be the last one.

I watch the live feed and our cops were great! I do want to also give the Parks dept peeps a big hand. You guys get the job of cleaning this up and then the job of trying to get it all healthy again.

posted by: anonymous on April 10, 2012  2:48pm

What an enormous waste of money. You don’t start an eviction until you are sure the court has made a final decision. The NHPD could have waited until 6:00am tomorrow to do this.

posted by: Curious on April 10, 2012  3:14pm

Why did Pattis wait until 9am this morning to file his motion?  Was he hoping for a last-minute stay, to create more drama?  It sure seems that way.  I hope the cops take notice, and next time are sure of their legal standing before beginning an operation.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on April 10, 2012  3:20pm

They had a ruling yesterday afternoon to leave from our court. He went up first thing this morning (according to his FB page and filed it) Don’t think it was a drama thing.

posted by: William Kurtz on April 10, 2012  4:49pm

Which is it, “Snake?” Are you done with the “drag” that is Occupy, or still supporting the movement with “direction action” like dropping banana peels on the ground? Way to SUDS, bro!

Also, nice job of insulting the NHPD with ‘traps’ and donuts on strings. Like Streever said, these are men and women doing their jobs who six short months ago were politely asking you not to use controlled substances in full view of officers and other people on the green, and, I believe, bringing you coffee and pizzas from time-to-time.

posted by: Nhv.Org on April 10, 2012  5:12pm

Here is my video comment:  http://youtu.be/tx7_rihHHjY

posted by: David S Baker on April 10, 2012  5:48pm

A demolition scale BUCKET-LOADER?!  They completely ruined the “save the lawn / respect the dead” argument when they showed up with that thing.  Pick up the garbage and put it in the dumpster without the press fodder scale metal behemoth.

posted by: nh104 on April 10, 2012  7:07pm

Why is it that the city allows everyone to stay?

The only people the order covers are the ones, 8 people i believe, named in the filing. Allow them to gather up their belongings and then move everyone else out. Letting these other people stay only fuels the fire between the city and the jamboree, as shown today.

The city departments should also be on them day and night enforcing codes.

posted by: RCguy on April 10, 2012  7:09pm

Also—the people of New Haven deserve this.
We pretend to be Liberal Progressive Democrats
by voting for Rosa Delauro again and again. John Destefano too for that matter. We still are at war overseas and murder/crime is still prevalent locally.

We are lucky it’s only a few dozen causing these problems and not a few hundred.

Here’s an idea: We just ignore the Occupy Protest like we have been ignoring the War Machine.

posted by: alicepalace on April 10, 2012  7:56pm

I don’t know where the story came from that Sara was in that truck to get her own belongings. She was preventing the truck from rolling off with *other people’s* tents and possessions after the city had already acknowledged that the stay was valid. The city had started snatching up homeless people’s tents down by Elm Street while all everyone was guarding the compound. They released the one in the bulldozer but not the two in the dump truck.

posted by: Cliffoney on April 10, 2012  8:20pm

I don’t think that we can call this the New Haven Green anymore.  I mean, is there even any grass left?  And who is going to pay for the restoration of the Green?  The Occupiers?  I doubt it.  And who is paying for those porto-potties in the background of one of the pictures?  I would like to see a balanced story that details for me, and the rest of the New Haven tax payers, just how much of our hard earned dollars are going to this cause?  I stand by the Mayor 1000%  This has to end.  We cannot afford it anymore. 
So I challenge you, New Haven Independent, prove to us all that you are a non-biased news reporter - do a story on what this is costing the city.  How much in police salaries? How much is staff salaries? How much in court costs? How much for the toilets, trash removal, lost revenue from the dumpster on the street? Have the sales in the stores gone down because no one whats to come downtown anymore?  What is it going to coast to restore the green?.  I think when the true numbers come out, we’ll all be down there to help reclaim OUR city.

posted by: owlmanatt on April 11, 2012  12:22am

Cliffoney - I don’t know if being behind the mayor 1000% is proper here. I’ll remind you that we’re only in this situation because the mayor’s office let the encampment exist in the first place. It’s a problem of his own creation.

This started in early October…right before the election. A suspicious man might think he let them be so that a (potential) riot wouldn’t hurt his chances at re-election…even though it’d cost the city boatloads of money in the long run.

posted by: Dean Moriarty on April 11, 2012  1:58am

This has really gone past absurd.  A couple dozen (at best) people who claim to be “fighting” (although that’s not really a correct term since nothing’s been gained) for the downtrodden have managed to hold hostage a swath of land iconic of a city that is in dire financial straits. New Haven is paying their own legal fees, and that means us, the taxpayers in New Haven, while ONH has free legal representation courtesy of lawyers who are clearly having a ball making a name for themselves.  If ONH cannot see that they are being used then I guess that speaks for itself.  At one time I had respect for Norm and Irving.  Not anymore.  The result of this debacle is to create a situation that is detrimental to the residents of New Haven. Money, attention, focus and energies could be going to actions that could actually benefit the city rather than propping up the egos of would-be radicals. ONH had a chance to make a difference.  They blew it, accomplished nada in six months, and now look to portray themselves as revolutionaries. Sorry, Che Guevara is long gone and you all never even came close.

posted by: luckyykid on April 11, 2012  3:50am

Do you have any idea how much this cost the city in police overtime, public works, equipment, etc?  For what?  Ridiculous

posted by: JustinJonathon on April 11, 2012  6:04am

I am saddened. The Occupation message has become blurred and is now just about self-preservation of the few. The handful of people left on the Green DO NOT represent the 99%.

posted by: S Brown on April 11, 2012  8:20am

Just remove the porto-lets, and then arrest every occupier that tries to relieve themselves on the green.

posted by: Mister Jones on April 11, 2012  3:46pm

The photos above, and the Occupy video linked in the comments, show pretty clearly that there’s no grass left, just hard packed dirt and some mud.  So, while they can argue about the City’s $25,000 reseeding estimate, the fact remains that they’ve made a mess of it and damaged the ecosystem.