New Haven’s Occupation now underway

Photo by Selen Uman.

The Occupy movement has come to the Elm City.

Occupy New Haven officially began Saturday afternoon, with around 1,000 people gathering on the New Haven Green. Protesters, armed with homemade signs, tents and guitars, marched around the Green for a half-hour before holding a rally in the center of the park to mark the start of the Elm City’s “occupation,” New Haven’s manifestation of the protest movement sweeping the globe.

Occupiers began to show up around 11 a.m., painting cardboard signs and chatting among themselves before the march began shortly after noon. The number of protesters swelled to its highest, around 1,000, during and immediately after the march, and by 4 p.m. had dissipated to a core group of around 300 people.

“I feel like the number of people that showed up the first day, it’s only going to continue growing,” said Amber Oestreich, a protest organizer from New York. “Hopefully we’ll make a statement here.”

While some critics have accused the Occupy movement of being unsure of what it wants, protesters showed up for a variety of reasons. Occupier Randy Laist said he came to express support for “humane and rational” social causes, while Jason Kulas described his top four demands as something to counteract the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, banking reform, the elimination of corporate tax loopholes, and income tax reform.

Lauren Phillips ’12 added that she would like to see better a better form of redistribution to address the fact that only 1 percent of American society possesses 42 percent of the nation’s wealth.

“I know a lot of people are complaining about [the protests] not having concrete demands, but it’s a general outpouring of frustration,” Phillips said.

Protesters carried signs reading “Billionaires, your time is up,” “The people are too big to fail” and “I lost my job but found an occupation,” while chanting “We are the 99 percent,” as police watched quietly.

New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman said Saturday afternoon that the protesters had been “great,” and that there had been no issues thus far.

On the second day of the protest, occupier Jess Bachinski said that unlike some of the other protests across the globe, Occupy New Haven has not encountered any resistance. Indeed, she added that one policeman came and introduced himself to protesters, asking them not to call him “officer” and saying he supported the protests.

An hour after the protests began, the first of around 30 “Occupy Occupy” counterprotesters appeared, drawing support from students at Yale and four other Connecticut universities. Michael Knowles ’12, chairman of the Yale College Republicans and one of the organizers of the Occupy Occupy New Haven group, said he spoke with some of the protesters.

“No single occupier — and I spoke with dozens — could name a single solution to the problems for which they had assembled; most couldn’t even name the problems,” Knowles wrote in an email Saturday after the counterprotest. “Some of the protesters were quite nice, but even the most reasonable was unable to discuss basic economics, public policy or what they were protesting.”

Elizabeth Henry ’14, another Occupy Occupy organizer, said that the counterprotest went “wonderfully” and that they were successfully able to make their statement that the Occupy protests are “misguided and unproductive.”

She added that her interactions with the Occupy New Haven protesters were mixed.

“Some of the Occupy protesters just wanted to yell at us,” Henry said. “However, there were also some protesters who were genuinely interested in engaging in civil dialogue with us, and I think we were successful in getting them to consider a different side of the issue.”

She added that she thought both sides could agree that they are upset with the current economic situation and “Washington’s failure to do anything about it.”

Oestreich, who said she will drop out of St. John’s University to work full time with the Occupy movement, has traveled the East Coast to help the different manifestations of the Occupy protests share ideas and information, and does not believe the movement’s lack of a singular message hurts the protests.

“We don’t want well-defined demands because that would [exclude] people,” Oestreich said, adding that the goal of the Occupy protests is to spark discussion first, and effect change later. She said that one of the few demands the group agreed on was taking corporations out of politics.

Saturday was “Global Occupation Day,” she said, with cities across the world holding similar protests. As for the future of New Haven’s protests, Oestreich said she is extremely optimistic given the large number that came out for Saturday’s march.

By Sunday night, there were around 30 tents on the New Haven Green. Protesters said the occupation has no plan to end.


  • RexMottram08

    “We don’t want well-defined demands because that would [exclude] people,” Oestreich said

    Hilarious, simply hilarious. Children and their fantasies!

  • redman

    These protesters are very uninformed. ““Billionaires, your time is up,” It only takes a net worth of about 1.2 million to be in the top 1% and that would include real estate. Also the federal income tax burden of the top 1% in income has increased from 25% to 40% in the last 25 years.

  • JohnnyE

    Hilarious pic. Epitomizes the cluelessness of this movement.

  • mj_y13

    @JohnnyE.. that photo is very misleading (yet again, YDN…) since you can’t read the whole sign.
    Check the video at time 1:30. That sign says “Steal a little and they throw you in jail. Steal a lot and…” It’s hard to read the last part but it does not say at all what the main picture implies.

  • River_Tam

    Occupy Branford College.

  • motorheadlemme

    If I was a 1% er, I’d be shaking in my boots. The point of this movement is that the “little” people, whether misinformed or not, are awakening to the realization that the magnitude of inequalities in this country are not just UNacceptable, but that they don’t need to exist in the first place! Corporations and politicians alike, will be held accountable for their actions and no longer will hurtful, blatantly unfair and discriminatory policies go unnoticed. This may take a hundred years, but the people will no longer allow ‘capitalism’ to profit off our backs. Now the people know what it means when someone gives himself a million dollar bonus…it means some hundreds of people somewhere in this great country, have lost their houses, have had their pensions cut, health insurance discontinued etc. That’s where this million dollar bonus comes from. It has to be taken from someone else. Like our natural resources, MONEY IS FINITE. Paper money will only last so long before the economic system we have will collapse. But the point is there is only so much wealth to go around and the rich are only rich because they know how to take it. Most in fact, have been born and BRED into this mentality of being and staying rich. The money is not TRULY earned the same way a blue collar worker earns his or her money. (Read Hellhounds of Wall Street) Pure capitalists must feel some SHAME in begging (or was it a demand?) for government handouts. For those entities that have been bailed out using taxpayer money are in fact NOT true capitalists. The mantra of a true capitalist society is “grow or die” is it not? If you get squeezed out of the market, you’re finished right? Apparently not. So like those on social welfare, corporations are ALSO parasites on us all…those in the middle are being sucked dry by the bottom feeders AND those skimming quietly on the top. How can anyone truly win in this scenario when all the wealth is taken? Perhaps, a more balanced capitalism is on the horizon? One that accounts for the TRUE costs of pollution, social inequality and simply better money management. Is it possible?

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