Occupy New Haven perseveres

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Photo by Cynthia Hua.

Despite Tuesday morning’s police crackdown on occupy protesters in New York, the organizers of New Haven’s occupation say their branch will not disband.

Occupy New Haven, which began with a march of around 1,000 people on the Green exactly a month ago today, held a march Tuesday evening to mark the anniversary. But the day’s events took on greater significance for the group given the New York Police Department’s clearing of Zuccotti Park — where New York City occupiers have camped for nearly two months — early Tuesday morning despite protests from angry members of that group.

City officials said they have no such plans here in the Elm City. City Hall spokesman Adam Joseph told the News in early October, at the start of the movement, that the city’s primary concern is its safety, adding that the city teamed up with organizers by providing portable toilets. He reaffirmed that view on Tuesday.

“In New Haven we have a 373-year tradition of public assembly on the New Haven Green — as long as the occupiers are conducting themselves in a safe and responsible manner, we’re fine with that,” Joseph said. “It’s city and police policy that as long as everybody is following the rules, following the law, we support it as a city.”

New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman added that the police department has no plans to force Occupy New Haven participants to leave.

But some New Haven occupiers said they found the events in Manhattan to be troubling.

A group of around 10 protesters gathered outside of Phelps Gate early Tuesday morning to watch a live stream of Occupy Wall Street’s removal.

“I do think what happened [in Zuccotti Park] will affect the movement as a whole,” said a protester who identified herself as Somalia Horn. “It puts a lot of pressure on other cities and on their police departments to try and truncate the movement.”

At around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, police awoke protesters with notices telling protesters the park was going to be cleaned, giving them some time to collect their belongings. Police blocked roads leading into the park and brought in bulldozers, riot gear and sound cannons, according to the Occupy Wall Street website, clearing the park by 6 a.m.

“Obviously I’m disappointed. I don’t find [the removal] to be justified,” Occupy New Haven participant Ronnie Neuhauser said. “There are a lot of tactics used to get protesters to leave with no good justification.”

The Elm City’s occupiers, however, were not as concerned with the protesters’ removal from the park as they were with the well-being of one of their own, said occupy participant Faith Stillman. A New Haven occupier in a wheelchair known only as Sara was at Zuccotti Park, Stillman said, where she was allegedly pushed out of her wheelchair and kicked on the ground during the police cleaning.

On Tuesday afternoon, Stillman said Sara’s status is currently unknown, adding that the New Haven occupiers feel “outrage” at the situation.

But New Haven Occupiers are not letting the day’s events hamper their plans. Occupy New Haven organizer Ben Aubin said that the group still has a lot of positives to offer, and that anybody is welcome to join and learn about the group.

The movement’s continued support was evident in Tuesday’s march, which drew around 60 protesters. The march, themed “The Beginning is Now,” began with a reading of the American Civil Liberties Union’s guidelines for protesters and proceeded on Chapel, York and Elm streets before returning to the Green 30 minutes later.

After the march, protesters announced that the Yale Law School would be offering free legal training in Sterling Memorial Library. Other occupiers left for the Occupy Morgan Stanley event — in which protesters demonstrated outside the financial firm’s prospective employee information session at the The Study at Yale hotel on Chapel Street — held at the same time and sponsored by Yale’s working group for Occupy New Haven.

Occupier Chris Garaffa said he believed events in Manhattan would “galvanize people,” and pointed at Tuesday’s march as proof. Neuhauser added that the protesters’ removal from Zuccotti Park would only bring more people out for Thursday’s set of worldwide protests celebrating the movement’s two-month anniversary.

“I don’t think [the removal] will stop much because the movement is liquid now, it’ll move to other places,” Neuhauser said.

Occupy Wall Street began on Sept. 17 and has since attracted worldwide attention.

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