March 28th, 2012 | City

Federal judge hears arguments in Occupy case

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Photo by Selen Uman.

Federal judge Mark Kravitz heard arguments from Occupy New Haven, City Hall and the Proprietors of the Green today in a court hearing that will decide the fate of the protest movement.

Occupy attorney Norm Pattis argued before Kravitz that the regulations that govern the New Haven Green, where the Occupiers have camped since October, are ambiguous. Pattis says the authority behind those regulations is ambiguous, too, and denies that the city can remove tents he says of as a manifestation of the First Amendment. But city lawyers, along with head Proprietor Drew Days, maintain that the rules for the Green have always been clear and that the city’s request for Occupy to leave is compatible with the Constitution.

After the hearing, Kravitz explained his decision to allow the protesters to stay on the Green for another 10 days. He said he needs this time to determine his opinion, and that protesters will be allowed to stay on the Green at least until 5 p.m. on April 9.

Protesters originally settled on the Green in mid-October in full cooperation with the city, which provided portable toilets for the encampment and secured the location with police officers. Adam Joseph, at the time City Hall’s spokesman, said the city did not plan an end date for the protest’s presence on the Green, emphasizing that the city’s primary concern was public safety around the Green. That changed earlier this month, when the city outlined a proposal asking Occupy to leave the Green by mid-March.

As a March 14 deadline imposed by the city for the encampment to be removed, Norm Pattis filed a last-minute lawsuit against the city and the Proprietors — a centuries-old group that maintains ownership of the Green — and successfully convinced federal judge Janet Hall to allow protesters to stay on the Green until after the hearing.

Following today’s hearing, Occupy New Haven member Ray Neal, who Pattis called as a witness, said he thought the city presented weak arguments but was still unable to determine how the hearing had gone. He said he would continue to protest with Occupy New Haven, whether or not Kravitz rules in their favor.

Occupy New Haven, which began on Oct. 15, is the last Occupy encampment in New England.