At 11 a.m. on Saturday, Occupy New Haven hit a milestone: six weeks of peaceful demonstration on the New Haven Green.
The group says it wants what everybody wants: the ability to have a home, to make a livelihood, to have a family or a community, to live free. Occupiers want economic and social justice and are protesting for the basic rights of citizens: to convene, to express themselves, and to be heard. The group says it would like to see the end of economic injustice as a result of domestic and foreign policy.
Occupy New Haven’s Outreach Coordinator Megan McGaffin says New Haven Police have been "fantastic" in supporting the group’s efforts.
“They are respecting the traditional function of a town green’s use for social and public meetings and gatherings,” McGaffin says. “We don’t want to cause problems and we don’t want anybody to be harmed.”
What Occupy New Haven does want is to get the money out of politics.
“We know there are different ways to do this,” says the Branford wife and mom of two.
She does not stay on the Green, since she has a full-time job and a family to care for, but she has taken on the role of outreach for Occupy New Haven. She spent Saturday morning handing out informational fliers at the flea market on Ella T. Grasso Boulevard in the city.
Occupy groups began sprouting up in cities across the country six weeks ago, but in New Haven, where between 50 and 75 men and women spend their nights in tents on the New Haven Green, the mission appears to be more peaceful than in many of the other cities such as New York, where Occupy Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park protest was shut down last week. Even in Los Angeles, where protests have been peaceful, Occupiers will be forced to leave Monday at midnight.
'We Want to Help People'
This weekend marked an important one for Occupy New Haven, whose members protested at New Haven’s Walmart store on Black Friday. Protesters rallied to demand that Walmart treat its employees fairly and in remembrance of Jdimytai Damour, a man who was trampled to death at a Walmart in Valley Spring, N.Y., on Black Friday 2008.
“Mostly we want to help people,” says McGaffin, and this goal is being met through collaboration with local organizations. The group is planning a series of skills workshops to help local residents get back on their feet.
“They’ll be aimed at fostering independence and building the sense of self-reliance through making crafts and selling them to make money to buy necessities such as blankets. We’ll even be offering a bike repair course and a knitting workshop,” McGaffin says.
On January 5, a gathering of community groups will meet with Occupy New Haven to discuss specific ways to help the people in need in the Greater New Haven region.
“Anyone who helps people is invited to join us,” McGaffin says. “New Haven has more community groups per capita than anywhere else. We need to get together and find a common thread.”