Occupy Hartford: Marching through el barrio

Three police on horseback kept themselves at a respectful distance from activists near the Bank of America on Park Street. Saturday morning’s march had been billed as a family-friendly, law-abiding event, yet a speaker from Occupy New Haven threw around phrases that could be interpreted otherwise, at one point telling the throng to “seize the banks,” while the crowd stood opposite one. It is this uncareful rhetoric that escalates tense situations and alienates others who would have joined in. It makes one curious as to who this “99%” actually is if there is a lack of sensitivity toward those with children (this, in effect, primarily excludes mothers from the movement), those who can not risk arrest because they can not afford to be bailed out from jail, and those who can not risk injury because they lack health insurance.

Ignoring the weight words carry only further dilutes the message.

As the anti-Bank of America activists walked down Broad Street and Park Street, residents and shop owners, for the most part, looked puzzled. Sometimes the chants were about banks getting bailed out, but other times, the chanting called for an occupation of Hartford; little thought seems to have gone into what this might sound like in a neighborhood where many residents’ native countries have actually experienced occupation.

And this population along Park Street is not one Occupy Hartford activists should want to alienate. If anyone knows something about poverty, unemployment, rental housing, and medical bills, it’s Hartford locals. According to data from HartfordInfo.org, 42% of Frog Hollow residents live below the poverty line; the median household income for this neighborhood is just above $17,000. Almost all of the housing in this area is rental. The Park Street corridor might not have as much to say about student loans as some of the Occupy Hartford activists, but the residents could offer more insight about what it is like to live paycheck-to-paycheck and worry about whether or not the electricity will not be shut off that month.

Despite the lapse in judgement by a few, Saturday’s march remained peaceful. The police-to-activist ratio was something like 10-to-1, perhaps in part to the public announcement that civil disobedience was being discussed as a possible tactic. While activists stood across from Bank of America, one was inside closing her account, which was, after all, the purpose of Bank Transfer Day.

About 150 people marched through Hartford on Saturday

About 150 people marched through Hartford on Saturday

Activist leaves march route to stand in horse manure.

Activist leaves march route to stand in horse manure.