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UPDATED: Occupy New Haven Needs Your Help Again Tomorrow

UPDATE 5:14PM EAST: I just heard from one of the attorneys working with Occupy New Haven, who tells me they may have just received another 10-day injunction, meaning they are safe for a little over another week. Will update as I learn more…

Occupy New Haven faced eviction back on March 14th, but thanks to a court injunction, they have been able to hold camp on the green for 2 more weeks.

But those 2 weeks are now up, and Occupy New Haven could be forcibly evicted from the green as early as tomorrow, Wednesday 3/28.

Please call New Haven city officials today and oppose the eviction of Occupy New Haven.

Occupy New Haven has not sat idly since their brush with eviction. They have been hard at work organizing a petition to stay on the green and a regional solidarity protest for when the injunction expires tomorrow. If you’re in the area, I strongly encourage you to go down to the green and show your support.

With the help of their unbelievably dedicated Occupy Supply liaison Richard N (known here at myFDL as richardgnista), Occupy New Haven is also working to enlist the help of area activist groups, including the local chapters of the Sierra Club and MoveOn. Combined with other community outreach efforts over the past week, I sincerely hope ONH gets a good crowd to bare witness to the eviction of possibly one of the most active encampments remaining in the North East.

Check out the poster (pictured right) for more information on tomorrow’s solidarity rally for Occupy New Haven.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow, the fight is certainly not over for Occupiers in New Haven. As Kevin previously wrote, there’s a bone to pick with the archaic and anti-democratic body known as the Proprietors of the Common and Undivided Lands at New Haven – a self-perpetuating committee of aristocrats empowered to ‘oversee the use’ of the New Haven Green, supposedly on behalf of the city’s residents.

The story of how the Proprietors came to be is quintessentially American in that it’s rooted in meritocracy and nepotism. From the New Haven Indpendent (emphasis mine):

In 1638, the tract of land settled by John Davenport, Theophilus Eaton and their followers (New Haven) was organized as a plantation and those who raised funds and materials for settlement were called “free planters” and retained an identity as “proprietors,” separate from the subsequent town organization. These “ free planters” held title to the soil of the colony and had the right and responsibility to divide and convey or use all their undivided and common lands, which they did until there was little left but the Green.

By 1723, an Act of the General Assembly confirmed the previous land grants made by the proprietors and recognized that the descendants of the original proprietors might claim all remaining common and undivided land “to be the proper Estate.” Furthermore, they were recognized to have “full power….to regulate, improve, manage and divide such Common Land in such Manner and Proportion as they shall see good.” However, it also provided that the power to divide and set out lands did not apply “to any lands sequestered for Town Commons…” In the 19th Century, the descendants of the old proprietors were a scattered and unrecognizable group. Therefore, in December, 1805, such proprietors as could be gathered in meeting voted to appoint a self-perpetuating committee of five members, with power to alienate the remaining property which still included more than the Green.

On the petition of the aforesaid Committee, the Connecticut General Assembly, in its 1810 October Session, passed a resolution that “the powers of the Committee given by them by said vote be, and the same are hereby confirmed and established, and that any alienation or conveyance which they have already made or which they may hereafter make in performances of those powers shall be good and effectual in the law, to convey the estate of the said proprietors therein to the grantee or grantees thereof.”

In 1868, the City Charter granted that year vested the Court of Common Council with the entire management and control of all public squares of the City and that provision continues in subsequent charters. In 1929, the Assembly passed an act repealing as obsolete certain statutes that had dealt with certain aspects, such as public notice of meetings, of action taken by town proprietors generally with respect to Common Lands. Nevertheless, the Committee of the Proprietors in New Haven has exercised its jurisdiction on the grounds that it continues to have title and control – – presumably because the Green is not and never has been a public square of the City, as are the other parks, and because the statute repealed by the Assembly in 1929 did not repeal its resolution of 1810. In short, the Committee views itself as holding the Green in trust for the people of New Haven. In so doing, it relies upon the resources of the Parks Department of the City of New Haven to issue permits for specified uses and events under rules prescribed by the Committee from time to time. Its members serve for life and is a self-perpetuating body. In other words, once a member dies or resigns, the successor is chosen by the remaining proprietors.

Flash forward to 2012, where a vibrant protest movement has planted one of its many roots in the city of New Haven – home to the prestigious Yale University and its illustrious faculty, staff and students – as well as rampant poverty, drug abuse and homelessness. Somehow, the city of New Haven is supposed to blindly enforce the will of the Proprietors as if they were some sort of well-connected mafia calling in favors to its squadron of crooked cops when they don’t like what’s going on on their turf.

Therefore, the question is: will the city enforce the will of the proprietors and stifle free speech in New Haven? Or will they reconsider their duty to the city, halt their eviction orders and question whether or not the proprietors have legitimate authority over the use of the public commons?

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Brian Sonenstein

Brian Sonenstein

Publishing Editor at Shadowproof and columnist at Prison Protest.

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