ZELINSKY: Occupy’s time is up

On Point

New Haven set a deadline of Noon last Wednesday for Occupy to leave the Green. In case you haven’t noticed, the tents are still up. And they will remain for another week and a half, by court order.

Almost every mayor in America — including self-proclaimed liberals — knew what do to with Occupy encampments: Avoid more violent confrontation by sending the police in at night. Give the Occupiers no advance warning. Throw everything out, evict the squatters and be done with the mess.

But not Mayor John DeStefano Jr.

Instead, for the past month, the mayor played a game of political footsie. First he asked the Occupiers to move to a park. They refused. Then he set an approximate deadline of mid-March for them to go. They refused. Then he set a definitive deadline, noon on the 14th. And guess what? They still refused.

The predictable result of DeStefano’s bungling: The Occupiers — otherwise small in number — bused in supporters from out of town. The mayor gave them the opportunity to marshal their resources and resist eviction. And they took him up on the offer.

Then Occupy New Haven’s lawyers filed an injunction against a potential eviction in federal court. Fifteen minutes after DeStefano’s supposed Wednesday deadline, a judge granted the Occupiers a two-week stay until their case can be heard, thereby ensuring the continued life of the tent city.

The open secret: Even if the court had ruled in the city’s favor, DeStefano would have done nothing. I saw few police on the Green that Wednesday at noon. The deadline was a bluff and Occupiers called it. The mayor was caught flatfooted, saved only by the court’s stay. City Hall now lacks all credibility.

The mayor needs to learn a simple fact of governance. Some problems can only be solved decisively. Occupy New Haven has become a lifestyle for the so-called protestors, a lifestyle they will not willingly abandon at City Hall’s tepid request.

DeStefano’s constituents don’t like his milquetoast act. I talked to onlookers Wednesday who described themselves as liberal. Many supported Occupy’s message against income inequality and nontransparent elections. But, consistently, they want our public space back. Occupiers should not be allowed to monopolize the Green indefinitely.

The official cluelessness runs beyond the mayor. Also on Wednesday at the Green, I spoke with Doug Hausladen ’04, alderman from Ward 7, which abuts Occupy New Haven. He said he “didn’t know” if the Occupiers should be allowed to live on the Green, but he “sure liked having them here.” Hausladen refused to speculate on whether Occupy hurts or helps local stores in New Haven, despite representing a district of small businesses. And he had similarly ambiguous thoughts about the encampment’s safety at night.

For the record, last Tuesday, a registered sex offender was charged with raping a woman in an Occupy New Haven tent.

Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson ’12 was not on the Green Wednesday, but I reached her by email. She doesn’t think Occupy is a public safety risk either. When asked if Occupy should be allowed to remain, she merely noted that the mayor has not consulted her and her constituents have not been in touch.

Ward 1 includes the Green and the tents. Apparently, Eidelson can’t hold an opinion until she takes every student’s temperature. Where is the candidate the News endorsed for being principled and genuine?

The city’s government needs to face the facts: The Occupiers are a nuisance and a public safety hazard. Their numbers and resolve will only grow with passing weeks and continued feeble behavior from City Hall.

Meanwhile, ordinary New Haveners have had enough.

When the court rules for eviction — as it should — the mayor must act.

Nathaniel Zelinsky is a junior in Davenport College. His column runs on Mondays. Contact him at nathaniel.zelinsky@yale.edu.

Comments

  • Sam

    Well put. This column, like Occupy’s departure from the green, was well overdue.

  • btcl

    love you Nate Zelinsky

  • Ciarrai

    DeStefano comes off as a real pussy in this, doesn’t he? What’s with this guy? It has “become a lifestyle.” Good point. A registered sex offender raped a woman last Tuesday in an Occupy New Haven tent last Tuesday? That ought to be a tipping point. I can’t understand the mayor’s indecisiveness. Why can all the other cities deal with the Occupy sites and New Haven just lolls away the time and opportunity to do so. Really poor performance, Mayor DeStefano. Sheesh.

    • Jess

      women are raped at yale every semester. should we shut yale down?

      • River_Tam

        OMG YOU’RE TRIVIALIZING RAPE !11!!!

  • Jess

    Interesting how conservatives are most concerned with preventing sexual violence when it coincides with their goals of squashing protest movements they don’t like.

    • RexMottram08

      Conservatives are pro-rape. That’s a new one!

      Yale is liberal Disneyland. Occupy is the liberal slum. The failure of either to prosecute rape is decidedly out of the hands of conservatives.

      • River_Tam

        > Conservatives are pro-rape. That’s a new one!

        Sadly, it’s not.

      • Jess

        seriously? do you read this newspaper?

        conservatives are not (necessarily) pro-rape, but they are anti-many things that fight rape–for instance, actually calling rape “rape”, actually admitting that rape happens, actually prosecuting rapists for rape, etc.

        • River_Tam

          > but they are anti-many things that fight rape-

          Anti many things that you say “fight rape” but actually do nothing of the sort.

        • RexMottram08

          Jess,

          GM and Ford are waiting on line #4 to hear about your new engine that runs on wishful thinking.

      • inycepoo

        Yale may be liberal Disneyland, but we still have N. Zelinksy here.

  • penny_lane

    Call in the cavalry! We have a nuisance on our hands!

  • theantiantiyale

    Maybe we should evict the DeStefano Jr?

  • ilovelovedontyou

    Actually, I would be interested to hear if anyone has objectively studied crime on the green before and since Occupy. As a result of involving a lot of homeless and unemployed people in its community and its own ‘security teams,’ I would not be surprised if crime has decreased.

    • RexMottram08

      If a crime is committed but the police aren’t called, it’s still a crime.

      • ilovelovedontyou

        you missed my point. their internal security could be serving as a deterrent, plus by giving purpose to and occupying the time of (yes, it’s a pun) many of those who might be otherwise be drawn to crime, they decrease the likelihood that a crime would be committed.

        • inycepoo

          New Haven has only experienced one murder so far in 2012, and it’s already end of March. That’s not commonplace. Correlation may not be causation, but it’s a valid point nonetheless.

  • the_rivers_of_babylon

    It’s interesting to see such contempt for the proper rule of law from Zelinsky.

    • Frashizzle

      RULE OF LAW?!? While one is granted the right to peaceably assemble, Occupiers are crossing the line between protesting and trying to claim public property. Keep in mind that many of the ‘protesters’ aren’t even citizens of New Haven (meaning that they don’t pay taxes to maintain the park).

  • jamesdakrn

    While I agree that Occupy is a bunch of retards, I feel like writing about Occupy is like talking about Kony.

  • molca

    http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/New-Haven-Occupiers-Help-Victim-of-Assault-144041006.html

    pertaining to the “public safety hazard” claim.
    it’s a pity chief higgins didn’t cover this.