Anarchy. I title and start this essay with this word because it best describes the day I spent on and around the New Haven Green on March 28, 2012. This day was to be the “eviction” hearing date before a federal judge literally across the Green from the “occupy” site. I hadn’t intended to sit in on the court hearing, but thought I would “”occupy “occupy” ”and wander around the site to see what was to happen. I did wander around inside the site and talked to a few of the folks. Some seem obviously down on their luck and I try to be sensitive to that in talking to them. I introduced myself to one fellow and asked where he lived; he pointed to a tent just a few yards away and told me that’s where he lived. I asked how he was able to make ends meet and he said he was able to pick up odd jobs once in awhile. We parted with a handshake.
Then I talked to Jeff who I have seen and met several time in past weeks. Jeff seems to be a leader there on the site and I asked him one of my standard questions “… some in the occupy movement want to destroy American capitalism, is that your position?” His answer was “definitely!” I then asked another of my standard questions “… what would you replace it with?” Jeff’s answer “Anarchy!” and thus the title of this essay started to come into focus. Jeff was the most direct and forceful in his answer of all of the occupy folks I have talked to, including those at Zuccotti Park at Wall Street; others are typically more hesitant to answer these questions, but as a whole the assorted graffiti messages in the camps betray the underlying motive of Occupy.
I talked to a few others including a high school student on assignment for a class project.
It started to rain heavily and it was close to the court hearing time so I decided I would attend.
This is the setting; the occupy site is on the edge of what is called the Upper Green and is inside the Green. Directly across the street is Yale University. Directly across the Green but outside of it is the Federal Court house. Next to the Court House is City Hall. So the setting is cozy with all of the protagonists very closely co-located.
Given that New Haven is one of the few remaining occupy sites, I expected an overflow crowd at the hearing, but the actual head count was modest and many seats were unoccupied. Cameras were confiscated at the entrance so I have no audio or video to present, but here is a story from the local newspaper.
There were two witnesses called during the time I was in attendance; the first was Drew Days, the head of the group of five “Proprietors of the Green” that has perpetuated itself since the 17th century; the second was Robert Levine, the Director of the city Parks and Recreation Department. The questioning of Mr. Day and Mr. Levine was very interesting and brought to light the history of the Green I was not aware of; you can read some of that history here. The New Haven Green has a long history but is not city property although it is maintained and administered as if it were city property. The arrangement between the city and the five proprietors of the Green seems to be a traditional arrangement dating back to the 1700s, but has never been formalized. The proprietors, whose decisions about the green are final, are a self-perpetuating body whose power goes back to Puritan times, but has no administrative, maintenance or policing capability, and this was the thrust of the occupiers case before the judge as far as I could tell.
So it seems that the occupiers through their lawyers are attempting to create a sort of “no mans land” where no one has authority. After all, if the city has no administrative authority to evict, then it would also seem to me that they also have no police authority either. Thus the rape that actually occurred on the site several weeks back would by definition have to be un-prosecuted. I don’t know if the victim has pressed charges, but it would seem to me her case would have no standing in court for the very same reasons the council was presenting before the federal judge.
The rebuttal to the occupy strategy seemed to be based on a common sense, I’ll call it a “Common Law” argument, but I’m no lawyer.
So this hearing and the occupy strategy seemed an appropriate bookend for my anarchy theme.
My Friend Mick the Marine
In attending these type of events I try to reach young people and present them with an alternative point of view which they may not have heard. Mick is such a young fellow, an ex Marine sitting beside me in the court room. At the recess I had an opportunity to engage Mick in what I think was good and meaningful conversation, a two way conversation and not an argument; he talked to me about why he was involved with “occupy” and expressed some of his frustrations and concerns and presented himself quite well.
In turn I presented my case and concerns about the movement and why he perhaps should think about a different direction for his young and still developing life. One of my chief concerns is that “occupy” will morph into a violent mob and start going after the 1%, whoever they perceive them to be and with whatever means they choose. This is a legitimate concern based on events within the movement, and in similar uprisings in history. I also presented to him my case for supporting Wall Street and the American Free Enterprise Capitalistic system.
Mick told me that he is also a member of “Occupy Marines” and has taken an oath of non-violence and assured me that neither he nor the movement would become violent. I asked him to remember that oath if and when those around him become violent and walk away from it.
This morning I went to the Yale bookstore and picked up a copy of Mark Levin’s book Liberty and Tyranny and gave it to my new friend Mick. He received it with grace and we parted ways once more.
The judge will be returning his decision in a few weeks, it will be interesting to see how it turns out.
Other essays I have written on Occupy are:
Don Johnson – March 2012