After more than six months, Occupy New Haven may finally leave the Green following Tuesday decisions by a federal appeals court and a state housing court.
A panel of three judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld District Court Judge Mark Kravtiz’s ruling that the city could legally remove protesters from the Green after a court hearing Tuesday morning. After an appeal to a state housing court was rejected Tuesday afternoon, the city is free to resume its eviction of Occupy New Haven, which was interrupted last week when Occupy attorney Norm Pattis won the group its third stay.
“Once again, the court’s action today was decisive. The plaintiffs have no meaningful chance of success,” City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton said in a statement on the court of appeals ruling. “The city of New Haven has respected the rule of law and we expect that members of Occupy New Haven will do the same.”
City officials declined to comment further on the case or say when they might act to evict the Occupy encampment, although police officials asked protesters to leave by 8 a.m. Wednesday.
After questioning Pattis, the panel of federal appellate judges ruled that the city had constitutionally valid restrictions on First Amendment expression on the Green. They denied his request for an additional stay and said the city could act as it pleased.
Tuesday afternoon, protesters said they could still succeed in an appeal to the state housing court by arguing that the city broke Connecticut’s anti-lockout law last week when it began to remove protesters from the Green. But that appeal, filed by Occupy attorney Irv Pinsky, was rejected by housing court judge Terence Zemetis for being incomplete.
Pinsky could file the appeal again Wednesday morning, but the housing court does not open until 9 a.m., an hour after police asked protesters to leave. If Pinsky is unsuccessful, members of Occupy New Haven will be out of legal avenues to remain on the Green. Pattis has said he will not appeal the appeals court’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
After the appellate panel issued its decision, protesters began to disassemble some tents at the six-month-old Occupy encampment. While many protesters packed away personal belongings Tuesday, most said they would sleep overnight on the Green on the tents that remained.
Tuesday’s ruling came amid calls to leave not only by City Hall, but also by many New Haven residents and some members of Occupy New Haven itself.
Josh Smith, who has been involved with the protest since October and is one of eight plaintiffs listed in the original lawsuit against the city, asked fellow protesters in a post on the group’s Facebook page last week to consider leaving the Green following the group’s six-month anniversary celebration on Sunday. Occupy New Haven’s real enemy, he said, is the “1 percent,” not the city or the police, and he said he would drop his name from the case.
Nearly all members of Occupy New Haven have said they will continue to remain on the Green until forced off by the city. Still, members like Danielle DiGirolamo and Ray Neal, both plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city, said they will continue protesting with or without an encampment.
Pattis first came to Occupy New Haven’s rescue in mid-March, when officials were set to evict protesters after talks between the two groups had failed to reach a consensus. Just as city officials prepared to remove campers, Pattis successfully received an injunction for the campground from federal judge Janet Hall that lasted until Kravtiz could hold a hearing.
Before his hearing on March 28, Kravitz extended the stay preventing Occupy’s eviction to April 9 in order to give himself time to consider the case and issue a written decision. After deciding in City Hall’s favor, he asked city officials to wait until noon on April 10 to remove protesters.
Just before noon, however, Pattis successfully received a third, week-long stay from the appeals court in order to allow the court to hold a hearing to review Kravitz’s ruling. Word of the stay arrived minutes after city bulldozers arrived to remove the encampment.
Occupy New Haven is the longest surviving Occupy encampment in the Northeast.