Occupy Hartford becomes the latest of the Occupy movements to face eviction, following Mayor Pedro Segarra’s memo this morning asking the small group, which has been camping at “Turning Point Park” since early October, to leave.
The fewer than 20 members who were living at the site at the corner of Broad Street and Asylum Avenue appeared cooperative Tuesday afternoon, despite one arrest, as they pulled down their tents and packed up their duffle bags.
Segarra’s memo cited reports of “violence and drug use,” and he gave group members a deadline of 6 p.m. today to leave or risk arrest. “While I respect the right of every citizen to organize, petition and protest, the reports of violence and drug use have detracted from the original message of the movement,” Segarra wrote. “Therefore, I am requesting an orderly end to the encampment.”
The eviction follows a report Thursday in which, according to Hartford police, a man entered the tent of a female camper, kissed and groped her before he fled. The Hartford Courant reported Saturday that Occupy Hartford campers asked police to move their camp to a downtown skateboarding park because of drug use, violent behavior and the sexual assault, but police said no.
Occupy Hartford’s eviction follows the evictions of other Occupy movements across the country. Protesters in New York City’s Zuccotti Park were forced out in mid-November, as were Occupy protesters in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in Los Angeles were also evicted by police last week. Reasons for evictions nationwide range from sanitation to safety issues.
Only a small number of protesters were currently camping full-time at Turning Point Park, compared with the approximately 70 who first appeared two months ago.
Occupy Hartford member William Davis, 25, told the Mirror in late November that a core of 15 people slept at the camp and felt determined to do so throughout the winter. He said campers were working on sustaining their tents through harsh weather by looking at alternative tent structures and solar-powered heating options.
But the tents and camping items will have to go, police said Tuesday. More than 20 police cruisers lined the lot before noon. No one could enter the camp, said one officer. Those who approached the camp to retrieve items were stopped by police, who negotiated a way for someone to bring their items out of the camp.
Hartford police Tuesday afternoon could not provide an update on a number of arrests or the number of officers at the scene. Police arrested one woman who resisted a few officers as she tried to enter the camp.
Segarra’s memo said the Hartford Police and Fire departments, as well as members of Licenses and Inspections, would inspect the park and monitor activity throughout the day.
The Department of Public Works provided a garbage truck that campers could use to dispose of items.
A man named Bryan — he declined to provide his last name — who said he occupied for a week in mid-November, came to retrieve a few of his items when he said someone from the camp called him about the eviction. Police stopped him from entering the camp and had one of the remaining campers bring his items out.
“I’m disappointed to say this, but it’s the right thing for this to happen at this point in time,” Bryan said.
When asked why he felt that way, he looked away to the camp and didn’t answer.
Hartford Police Capt. Joseph Buyak said the police didn’t want to arrest anyone. Both members of Occupy Hartford and Hartford police have said the two groups maintain a good relationship, and have had constant open communications.
“The relationship we’ve maintained [with the occupiers] has been nothing but cooperative,” Buyak said. “We don’t want any problems. If you look across the country, there’s been problems and we don’t want any of that.”
Bill Durso, 70, who lives near Turning Point Park in Hartford’s ArtSpace building, looked on from across the street as campers packed. He has opened up his apartment to the campers for showers, computer use and food, he said.
“They’re young, and people get the wrong idea about them,” he said. “I think it’s a shame. They have the right to do this and they have the right to express themselves. What they’re trying to do is just to do well for people.”