Among those who post messages on the social media sites that members of Occupy New Haven favor, rumors last Monday night of a possible eviction from the Occupy New Haven encampment set off what one user termed “a mass panic.”
By late Monday evening, calmer voices had prevailed. So, following an emergency meeting Tuesday night at the downtown New Haven bar and restaurant The Cask Republic, representatives from the Occupy New Haven movement appeared at city hall on Wednesday at the invitation of city officials. There, they took part in what attorney and occupier Irving Pinksy, who accompanied close to 30 occupiers to the meeting, termed a planning session.
“In terms of reasonableness, on a scale of one to 10, it was an eight,” Pinsky said of the session.
“The occupiers have always wanted to talk with the people in power,” Pinksy said. “Basically, what happens when you have a populist protest, generally they want to meet with the government all the time.”
A seminal concern, according to city hall spokesperson Elizabeth Benton, was what would happen to the ONH encampment on the upper green this spring. Then, she noted, other groups, such as the Festival of Arts & Ideas, would want to use the same space. She also mentioned the surge of spectators New Haven expects March 11 for its St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Other activities Benton cited that would arrive with warmer weather include picnics and sports such as Frisbee that the presence of the occupier encampment, which now engulfs much of the upper green, would preclude.
“How can we make sure that the green is a place [that] everyone can use?” she asked rhetorically. “The tents right now are taking up nearly the entire upper green.”
In the long term, she said that the city’s preference was that no structures occupy the green around the clock, as the tents on the ONH site now do. Yet, she said no city official had come to the meeting with a pre-determined date for the encampment’s demise in mind.
Rather, she said city officials planned to investigate alternate sites within the city where the occupiers might locate—perhaps, she said, places where the occupiers, who have expressed an interest in sustainability, could grow food.
Benton said the proprietors who officially control the green were invited to the Wednesday meeting, but that their chairman, who was away from the city, was unable to attend.
“We’re been in touch with the proprietors throughout the [occupation],” she said.
Benton, who described the tone of the meeting as collegial, added that representatives from ONH will meet with the city again this week.
Said Benton: “There’s no pre-determined plan. No decisions have been made. There’s no one set idea that we’re looking at.”
Occupier Pinsky saw the potential for collaboration between the occupiers and others who want to use the green. For instance, he thought that the occupiers could play a role within the Festival of Arts & Ideas. “I do know how artistic the [ONH] community is,” he said.
“They did not seem to have their feet in cement,” Pinsky acknowledged of the officials who called the occupiers to city hall for the meeting. They included administrative officials, the fire marshal and police from the city and Yale University Police Department.
A broader question that last Wednesday’s meeting did not convene to address is what direction the Occupy movement will now take.
Apolitical as a group, many of the ONH’ers feel disenfranchised. Some individuals plan to participate in the presidential political process by voting for third party candidates. At present, ONH'er Josh Smith supports the Green Party’s Jill Stein, Chris Garaffa plans to vote for the Party for Socialism and Liberation's candidate Peta Lindsay and, as a protest vote, some ONH'ers plan to vote for the performance artist Vermin Supreme.
And, in recent weeks, more than one ONH’er at local events has been seen wearing the symbol of protest most closely identified with the tech-savvy group Anonymous—the mask dedicated to the British revolutionary Guy Fawkes with its sly, knowing smile.