What began on a sunny autumn afternoon a little less than two months ago, ended on a dreary December day as the City of Hartford closed down the Occupy Hartford site on Tuesday, December 6.
Occupy Hartford began on Friday, October 7, when protesters set up camp in Turning Point Park at the corner of Farmington Avenue and Broad Street. The protest was a show of support for Occupy Wall Street, which had started in New York City in September to protest, among other things, the widening gap between America’s richest and poorest individuals.
Since the protest started, city officials and police officers have worked closely with representatives from Occupy Hartford to ensure that the protest was being carried out safely.
However, earlier this week, Mayor Pedro Segarra apparently decided that conditions at the Occupy Hartford site had deteriorated to such an extent that it would have to be closed down. In a statement released Tuesday morning, Segarra said, “While I certainly respect the right of every citizen to organize, petition and protest, the reports of violence and drug abuse have detracted from the original message of the movement. I am requesting an orderly end to the encampment, and that the Occupy Hartford members consider thoughtfully the next phase of their social movement and proceed in a manner that productively heightens awareness of the economic disparities in this country.”
On Tuesday morning, Hartford Police arrived at the Occupy Hartford site and told protesters that they would have to vacate the area by 6 pm that day. While protesters and supporters of the Occupy movement began collecting their belongings, Hartford Police surrounded the site with over 20 police cars.
Police at first denied members of the press access to the site but, following protests from several members of the media, limited access to the site was granted.
One arrest was made of a woman who police said crossed the barrier they had set up around the camp after she had been ordered not to.
Occupy Hartford leaders discussed the city’s notice and, while some argued that they should stay past the 6 pm deadline, it was finally decided to vacate the site.
Nancy Bowden, an Occupy Hartford supporter who stayed two nights at the site and loaned her camping equipment to other protesters, said the Occupy Hartford site should not have been closed down and that the problems at the camp were not all that different from problems in other parts of the city. She added that Occupy Hartford members will continue to meet and plan new protests. “The Occupy Movement grew out of a feeling on the part of a lot of people that something is going seriously wrong with our nation...I think many people [who support the movement] are more worried about their childrens’ future than their own,” she said.
Hartford City Councilman Larry Deutsch went to the site when he heard it was being closed down and said he would question city officials as to how the decision was made and why so many police officers had been called out.
But Deutsch said Occupy Hartford and similar protests across the country and around the world had certainly served a purpose. “The overall theme [of the protest] of 99 percent of the population being deprived of much of the country’s wealth has been brought to light. There is a harmful distribution of wealth in the global economy, especially in the United States and especially in Connecticut...For the first time in decades, the true role of corporations in the economic picture of the United States is being discussed both by the general public and in the press.”
Deutsch and about 20 to 30 other Occupy Hartford supporters were present when the 6 pm deadline came and Hartford Fire and Public Works crews began dismantling the camp. All occupants of the camp had vacated the site before then.
Shortly before the 6 pm deadline, a Hartford Police vehicle pulled up to the sidewalk on Broad Street across from the Occupy site. Several heavily armed officers from the department’s Tactical Unit exited the vehicle and ordered all bystanders to vacate the sidewalk directly across from the Occupy site or risk arrest.