Occupy New Haven by John Magnesi

08 Jan 2012 1:39 PM | Posted by GNHLHA


By John Magnesi



“Top 1 % - Y U N O  Pay Taxes ? !”; “I’ll Believe Corporations Are People When Texas Executes One”; “Lost My Job, Found an Occupation.”

Those are just a few of the types of sentiments reflected on signs that have been seen in the “Occupy Movement” that has swept this country and that has seeped into New Haven’s own “Occupy” encampment.   This breakthrough uprising has changed the political dialogue in the country and has given new hope to progressives who envision a better future and who recognize the need to challenge unresponsive entrenched elites in a time of great economic turmoil. 

The Occupy Movement seemed to start almost spontaneously in a gathering on Liberty Square in Manhattan on September 17, 2011.  An encampment of the dispossessed arose at Zuccotti Park right there in the heart of American corporate capitalism, New York City’s financial district.  One big difference between this sudden and unexpected uprising and the protests of the past, is that many of the assembled activists chose not to leave the park where they had staged their protest but instead they brought their tents and sleeping bags and attempted a permanent takeover of a tiny piece of ground in a city and by extension in a nation where the social, economic, and political hierarchy had abandoned them.  They used their First Amendment rights to assemble and to voice their concerns in a non-violent manner about the betrayal of the American people by those at the top of the economic pyramid.

 About one month after the initial Wall Street protests in New York City, our own New Haven activists launched a march on the Green in New Haven on October 16, 2011.  Estimates by some suggested that at least 1000 people came out to protest the current financial and political crisis.  They too echoed the sentiments of those encamped in New York City and in other cities around the country about the economic polarization afflicting this country.  They too were fed up with the corporately dominated social and political system and by the obscene concentration of wealth in this country.  The income and assets of those at the top of the income stream among the top 1% has so distorted our politics and our economy that the vast majority of Americans-- the so-called 99%-- have been forgotten and left behind with no life raft at all.

So what do the New Haven activists encamped on the Green want? According to information displayed on their website, they seek rights for the vast majority of the American people, the so-called 99%, to convene, to speak freely, and to demand social and economic justice from a system that is unresponsive.  On any given day they have posted signs, conducted marches, engaged in street demonstrations and other protests dealing with a wide range of social, political, and economic concerns.   They have expressed their anger at everything from outrageous multi-million dollar corporate bonuses paid to  executives (while their workers struggle to pay for health insurance),  to police misconduct associated with the arrest of Occupy protesters in other cities where activists have been unjustifiably pepper sprayed, subjected to excessive police force and even shot during efforts to destroy Occupier's encampments.

The Occupy New Haven group has expressed solidarity with the Occupy Hartford protesters whose encampment was  torn down by the Hartford Police Department at the behest of the Police Chief and the political leadership in that city.  The New Haven group has also declared its opposition to the upcoming Defense Authorization Act.  (It is alleged that the legislation may allow for the imprisonment of United States citizens without charge or trial in still one more example of misguided legislation and twisted values associated with President Obama’s continuing War on Terrorism.)

Recently, the New Haven Occupy group  joined in yet another march and demonstration.  In conjunction with the New Haven Central Labor Council, Unite-Here, and other community groups, the Occupiers  and others  held a rally at City Hall followed by a march to key locations on New Haven’s own Wall Street, calling for more jobs for local residents in a city where the jobless rate is stratospheric. 

The Occupy New Haven movement operates in a manner similar to other Occupy groups around the country.  There are no official leaders or official spokespeople.   Instead, movement members decide on their course of action in community gatherings called a "General Assembly."   Everyone has a right to be heard following a procedure agreed to by the group.   Decisions are made in a democratic manner.  Assembly events are open to all and meetings are held regularly -- usually on Wednesday evenings and on Sunday afternoons and there may also be other days when General Assembly gatherings occur. 

The process and conduct of Occupy New Haven is transparent and relies on direct democracy.  Their actions are non-violent but intended to change and disrupt a system that no longer responds to the needs of the people.   The group is supported by donations from numerous sources including individuals, the community, student groups, social justice organizations, and by trade unions.

Occupy New Haven shows that history is once again being made on the Green in New Haven.  To learn more, go to the group’s web site, www.OccupyNewHaven.org

Greater New Haven Labor History Association  •  267 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06513 •  info@laborhistory.org •

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