Protests spread to New Haven

“#OccupyNewHaven” has arrived in the Elm City.

The pro-equality and anti-corporation campaign, which plans to occupy the New Haven Green indefinitely starting Oct. 15, turned out 150 New Haven residents for a boisterous three-hour rally in Pitkin Plaza on Orange Street Tuesday evening. Participants decried money and proclaimed their economics-inspired grievances, seeking to draw attention to the “rampant inequality” in the United States, explained participant and organizer Ben Aubin, who insisted the movement be called “#OccupyNewHaven.”

The group is inspired by the efforts of Occupy Wall Street, an on-going series of demonstrations in downtown New York City that began Sept. 17. The central demand of those protesters is that President Barack Obama “ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington,” according to non-profit anti-consumerist organization Adbusters, a primary organizer of the rallies. Other similar groups have popped up in Hartford and Boston in the past month.

“Everyone has a reason to be upset with the economy, governments, corporations,” said Branford resident Meghan McGaffin, who was identified by two other participants as #OccupyNewHaven’s de facto second-in-command.

“I feel there is a universal discontent among the people, and when we gather together to share our problems, we send a message to the people in power that they’re making the wrong decisions.”

The group has no leader, Aubin explained, because concentration of power can lead to corruption. Still, six members of the crowd interviewed pointed to Aubin, who founded the Free Store in New Haven, as the de facto organizer of the group. The Free Store opened during summer at 55 Church St. and relied on donations to give away goods for free, said Martina Crouch ’14, who volunteered there over summer. She was one of two Yalies identified in the group. The other student asked to remain anonymous because he does not wish to be identified with the group.

All ideas of the group must be decided by consensus, Aubin said. In a separate phone interview late Tuesday evening, he said the group decided it would meet again at 6 p.m. on Saturday on the New Haven Green to decide how it will support the nation’s Occupy Together effort, of which #OccupyNewHaven is a part. It also decided it would commence its nonviolent occupation of the Green Oct. 15. Crouch explained that the Occupy Together effort seeks to connect ‘occupations’ in a “silk road” so that each supports each other.

“Money! Money! Money! That isn’t what gets us through the night,” chanted one #OccupyNewHaven participant who later declined to be identified for fear of public reprisal. “It’s love and care for one another that gets us by.”

The #OccupyNewHaven movement will help draw attention to and potentially re-open the Free Store, Crouch said, adding that it shuttered in August because it did not have money to pay for rent. The Free Store would benefit from increased donations and in turn, would help provide goods required for the occupation.

Part of the campaign’s current aims include soliciting socks and other cold-weather gear in preparation for the occupation, Crouch said. While Aubin said the occupation would be indefinite, Crouch and three other participants said it would run into difficulty as winter sets into the Elm City.

Over 750 people have been arrested in Occupy movements nationwide, which have sprouted up in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, among other cities.

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