Occupy Plaintiff Drops Out, Calls For Closure

Thomas MacMillan Photo(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.

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posted by: Curious on April 11, 2012  4:03pm

Thank you Josh, for being reasonable and principled.  I hope that others follow your lead, both off the Green, and forward in actually doing something real to effect change.

posted by: Fairhaven#27 on April 11, 2012  4:16pm

Wishing you the best

posted by: acumen on April 11, 2012  4:56pm

Makes sense. Support that dude. 
I am surprised that judge dismissed the “damage to the area” argument and compared it with parade. I am comparing it with graffiti - also a form of free speech. To me the damage to the park equates with the damage to the movement itself. Instead of being a constructive force this group is now looks very destructive to me.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on April 11, 2012  6:50pm

Thank you Josh and I think your statement is spot on.

posted by: Dean Moriarty on April 11, 2012  11:49pm

Mr. Smith has always been one of the intelligent voices coming out of ONH.  I admire his courage in standing for his opinion on what direction to follow. If ONH wants to gain more supporters they’d be wise to listen.  If not, then they lose a voice that many people gave pause to listen to. Isn’t that how you grow a movement?  I wish you well, Mr. Smith.

posted by: streever on April 12, 2012  7:10am

I’ve had the privilege of knowing Josh for years—since he became a part of the cycling and advocacy community in New Haven—and admire the way he has conducted himself. I agree with his decision, and think it was very reasonable.

Josh sees the Occupation as about more than the tents, and is willing to leave the tents to work on the issues he cares about.

That isn’t to say I don’t admire the people staying. I don’t think that they are using the best method at this point, but, I do think they are good people, and I admire that they are sticking to their principles. I respect the passion and admiration they have to staying, just as I respect Josh’s different vision of the movement.

The only thing that I worry about is a real struggle—someone in the camp getting hurt during an eviction. I really hope it doesn’t come to that here. I worry about you guys!

posted by: nero on April 12, 2012  8:29am

An obviously carefully considered stance, Josh. I agree with your reasoning and sentiments. We successfully drew attention to the economic inequity in the United States, and now it’s time to refocus the movement and leave the encampment.

posted by: Curious on April 12, 2012  9:32am

Do they even realize the irony in posing for a television reporter while holding a sign that says “The revolution will not be televised”?

These are just wanna-be anarchists at this point, people who want to feel edgy and dangerous and revolutionary, but not really up to the challenge of actually doing anything but camp out on the Green.

posted by: davecoon on April 12, 2012  11:06am

Great photo, great caption. (top image)

posted by: HhE on April 15, 2012  9:44am

Maybe because Mr. Josh Smith spent only one night camping out, he does feel over invested in ONH’s stance.  Whatever the reason, his voice is the sweet voice of reason.