Occupy Hartford: Marching through el barrio

By , November 6, 2011 10:15 am

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.


30 Responses to “Occupy Hartford: Marching through el barrio”

  1. lobonick says:

    walking through the frog hollow neighborhood was quite nice.. $17,000.00 a year doesn’t go very far. in regards to the analysis at site of the bank protest, the message was slightly militant. however, at the point in the protest, the message needed to be somewhat strong.

    in regards to people joining the protest as it was going on. that is sort of hard for any individual to do. 1st one has no idea that the march is even going on prior to seeing it. secondly deciding to move with activists in terms of agreeing to make a movement towards ending one’s own economic oppression is sort of hard to do in a split second. but the march was visible, and hopefully got people in the neighborhoods it walked through to see that there are people who do not support continued economic inequality.

    • Richard says:

      Perhaps if a few signs were in Spanish well you can all guess the rest. Perhaps if more outreach was done to the folks who live here you can guess the rest. Maybe if OH took up the issues of the people who live in Hartford but after how many weeks and still not a peep in that direction.150 people on a warm Saturday in a city and state this size. Very few people have joined your movment folks either change your tactics or go on home and wash your dishes.

      • pearl says:

        hi richard, we miss you. the neighborhood was fliered in person in the days leading up. there were some spanish signs, as seen in the last photo in kerri’s nice collection here. anyways, point taken. we’ll be peeping in the direction of the hartford community within the week.

        • Really? Because since Day One I have been asking OH activists if they have come down to my neighborhood, and what I hear is “we’re going to work on outreach.” But aside from at the coffee shop, I have not seen anyone doing any outreach in Frog Hollow. None. Two signs in Spanish does not outreach make.

          When someone directly involved in OH asked another activist why they were not talking to people on Park Street, the response was utterly dismissive, which I suppose is to be expected from someone who has no sense at all of this area’s culture, by which I mean, actual financial struggle.

          Several weeks ago, I asked again: in a city with such a large Hispanic population, why are so few Latino/as involved? Why had no materials, already something like a month into this, not been translated into Spanish? The response: “Sure, we should do that.” Then, nada.

          Last week, I asked if they had gotten around to coming into the neighborhood yet. Is anyone stopping at the community center or library? Response: blank stare.

          So, when I start seeing coalition building and an attempt to communicate with people who don’t risk foreclosure so much as never having a shot in hell of getting a mortgage in the first place, then I’ll start believing.

          • Jay says:

            I think all these criticisms are valid. That said, please try to keep in mind that this is a seriously grass roots organization. There are no professional organizers here. There is no deep pocket group funding us. We are all trying to get up to speed quickly.

            If you want to fault OH, you can fault it for having more good intentions than experience. Outreach to everyone in metro Hartford is the goal, even if we don’t have a lot of spanish speaking folks here.

            Many committees are just getting organized. We hope that we can continue and become more able to move swiftly and spread the word strategically and with consideration to the varied cultures and historical perspectives.

            Be critical, be tough, be frank and honest, but try not to be cynical.

        • irateadri says:

          Hi Pearl. When I was at OH, I also asked that pamphlets, fliers, and the like be translated into Spanish so that we could do outreach in some of the communities most negatively impacted by the current crisis and this system in general. At least one white person in the camp actually scoffed at the idea.

          Occupy Hartford has, in my opinion, much to answer for. Kerri and Richard are spot on.

  2. Grateful for your reporting. There is an irony in the image of mounted police (paid for by tax dollars no doubt) protecting the bank’s property. On the other hand, governance seems sold out to the highest bidders, and the people are left with little to protect themselves and one another. Community is everything. Thank you.

  3. Earl says:

    Hey Kerri, I (others as well) would be happy to come hang out and speak at the comminty center or library any time! We need you frustration and motivation and everyone like you to make this movement work! There was a backside of teh flyers in Spanish but they may have not been put where they could have the most impact. If anyone has been excluded it is definitely not the message any of us want sent. I don’t speak spanish but my wife does, and I live in downtown. Lets make this happen!

    • There have been many offers to come to the neighborhood. Would love to see follow up on this.

    • Richard says:

      The backside of the flyer in Spanish announcing the demo is not what we are talking about as being outreach. As far as exculded why don’t you all try to include yourselves as I think Kerri, and Dave are saying into the real problems of the folks who will make your dreams happen. White activists need to learn how to listen to folks not talk and try to lead all the time.

      • Earl says:

        Dude, you are directing your anger in the wrong place. The occupy in Hartford just started, outreach is just starting and already you are throwong around wierd generalizations of race and activists. Most of us are new to activisim and feel this particular message of corporate greed and coruption is important. I am happy to meet with anyone who is actually interested and wants to be heard. I live on buckingham and have for years, please don’t think you are dealing with outsiders trying to force something on you

        • Richard says:

          First let me get one thing queer with you Earl. Us Queers find calling us Dude to be rather offensive so when refering to me I will have to ask you to refrain.

          That said let me say, yes the message of corporate greed is very important always has been and has always been an issue for my 40+ years of being in revolutionary movements. Also the same with old Uncle Scam, the blue, white and scarlett hypocrisy flying over head, the imperialist, colonizer expanionist, genocidal, warmonger, racist, sexist, and queerphobic USA.

          I am also very aware of the extreme poverty of folks on many street of Hartford that yes is connected to corporate greed. Care to tell me Earl how that is? How does places like The Hartford in simple terms help to make life misreable for the residents surrounding the Hartford’s campus? How does the bank of americka? You want folks to move their money to a credit union where is the nearest one to Park Street. To Nelson Street? To Barbour Street? I don’t have a car how can I get there? Is it opened on Saturday? If you want to talk the talk let’s take a walk. Stretching ones legs is good for ones mind.

          Ah I could go on and on but why? Let me ask before I go Earl do you know the language of the people? Now I am not talking about the Spanish language but to put it street wise the “whats happening?” Until you do unless you are coming to listen I would suggest you get a crash course. Sometime its better for new activists to listen rather than to talk. I found this to be true back in 1963 when I began my activist work and I find it true today.

          P.S No matter where ones home is one could still be an outsider.

          • earl says:

            I am all for having a rational discussion about how our views can line up to help Hartford, but I have no interest in being a lightning rod for your personal rants or therapy. You are semi-attacking the people who read this article and are saying they want to help. Clearly since you “know the language of the people” and are clear to cast others away you can take care of these problems yourself. Your view of who you think I am not really important to me, and trying to fit me into some mold you have is not helping anyone but yourself. By the way I know plenty of “queers” and not only do they not mind being called dude they would be offended by your comment. But if it offends you I will certainly respect your wishes. I had every intention of trying to reach out with a message that I think is an important one to people who read this blog. I kind of regret it

            • Richard says:

              Oh Earl don regret it. Our back and forth is but a minor bump on your new found pathway of social activism. Go out there and slay those giants.

              Farewell and god speed in your endeavors.

              • Earl says:

                Ha, Ok Richard fair enough. I appreciate at the very least that you took to the time to respond. We may not agree on everything but I bet if we someday met in person we would have more in common than we thought. Take care, I hope life treats you well

  4. Earl says:

    I want to point out I can spell properly most of the time. Sorry. I am very glad the march and rally was peaceful I think it is an important message to send. And people didn’t run for the hills when I played my guitar and sang which was also cool

  5. Earl says:

    I also agree that while I enjoyed Chris’s speech from New Haven that i didn’t agree with the “sieze the banks” thought or taking all the money and controlling it. To me its not about that, its about economic inequality and a tax and government structure that allows the rich to cheat the poor and ever shrinking middle class. Closing tax loopholes and putting the taxes back up to 50-60% for teh richest(they were 65% before reagan) would be a good start.

    • dave r says:

      I’m getting real tired hearing about how bad it is for the middle-class and college students. Tough shit, now y’all know how its been for the working poor and people of color for decades. Where was the middle-class while everyone below them has been screaming about economic inequality for years?

      • dave r says:

        Not directed at Earl..just a general frustration.

      • Richard says:

        Ha good point Dave. But real deal they are not even anywhere there yet. Then we think about around the world and as comrade Roland says, We in America are all the 1%. But I suppose that problem is too large to even begin to work on when the movement can’t even begin to outreach to the folks who really have to struggle here in Americka. Long Live A Global Wide Revolution!! Only Support For An International Movement Against Dirty Captialists and Pig Tyrants!!

      • Jay says:

        Dave, your point is fair, but if the middle class wakes up from their stupor and wants to stand in solidarity as a combined working class of people that demand rights, it seems worthwhile not to slap them in the face.

  6. Rebecca says:

    My experience as someone who marched on Saturday was that the residents of the Park Street corridor were welcoming and curious. Many reached out for our flyers, which as someone else pointed out, were printed in both Spanish and English. One area we realize we must continuously improve is our understanding of and outreach to the residents of Hartford’s neighborhoods, and we certainly do not wish to “alienate” those residents, as you implied. I can hear and understand the frustration about our lack of follow-through in this area. This occupation is a month old…the movement itself just turned two months old. Of course there are areas of development that must be addressed, and I assure you are currently being addressed, earnestly if imperfectly.

    Kerri, you mentioned a “lack of sensitivity” regarding mothers, those who cannot risk arrest,and those who cannot risk injury. I find that assertion (based on a couple of questionable comments by an otherwise empowering guest speaker) absurd. At no point during the march was there any undue danger of arrest or injury. If you asked the parents who had children involved in the march (and I am one of them), I’m sure you would find that the march was experienced as safe, legal, and a good opportunity for a social studies lesson.

    I don’t understand the antipathy that is so often displayed toward the movement, but it seems to be part and parcel of the big picture. All I can say is that the people I’ve met have aspirations to really change the status quo, and are wholeheartedly trying to do the best that they can, while learning all they can, and adjusting their tactics along the way. We can use all the help we can get, and I welcome discussions like this one.

    • In my experience, I heard several people along Park Street ask — and I’m paraphrasing to make this more polite — what all the white people were doing there. To me, that alone says something about lack of advance outreach. Stomping around in someone’s neighborhood and informing them the day of what is going on can seem very intrusive, and for some, unsettling.

      Park Street has thriving small businesses. Because of the march, several streets were blocked to vehicular traffic for the duration. I am wondering if anyone talked to shop owners in advance to see if they were cool with this, because, after all, these are not WalMart, McDonalds, and Home Depot, but independently owned restaurants, bakeries, a hardware store, clothing shops, etc. While the activists were not themselves blocking the streets, there had been public talk about the potential for civil disobedience and some suggested that 1000 people might turn out for the event.

      Rebecca, something to understand is that statements about “seizing” property can be taken as attempts to incite an illegal action. And if the police decide to respond too harshly to such a thoughtless statement, it’s not just going to be the person making that statement who pays the price. In an area with considerable foot traffic and with those being curious & taking pics, bystanders can easily be at risk. There is something that needs to be understood here: most of the activists who I have spoken to are in a position where if they are arrested, they will be bailed out, and they will likely suffer no long-term effects. But this does not apply to many residents, who can not afford to be bailed out, or who are on probation, or who might be here without documentation. And, it takes no political science degree to know, between a white person and a brown person, who is most likely to get arrested if the police on scene are not trained well. When going into any neighborhood, it is important to be educated in advance about what potential issues could arise.

      The point: take responsibility for the words that are used. If Sarah Palin and her ilk can be held responsible for the “target” rhetoric that some believe pushed a young man to kill and wound several people in Arizona, there is no reason why the left should not also be held responsible for the words that come out of their mouths.

      Here are some items that OH, if not already aware of, might benefit from reading:

      http://www.peopleofcolororganize.com/activism/organizing/justified-rage-unsafe-space-reflection-occupy-wall-street/

      http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/10/occupy-the-hood-and-how-to-boost-protest-diversity/

      http://www.womanist-musings.com/2011/11/occupy-movement-is-not-as-progressive.html

      http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/5666

      https://www.facebook.com/OccupyTheHood?sk=wall

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/14/occupy-the-hood-occupy-wall-street_n_1009850.html

      I would also suggest familiarizing yourselves with the issues that residents here are struggling with. Go to Asylum Hill, Frog Hollow, Parkville, North East, Clay Arsenal, Blue Hills, Upper Albany, Sheldon/Charter Oak, etc. and ask the people who live here what our economic concerns happen to be.

      It’s not antipathy. It’s critical thinking about a movement which is a good cause (economic justice), but which currently uses underwhelming tactics and has numerous problems that should be worked out.

      • Earl says:

        Wow, Kerri I thought we were on the same page about being excited about moving forward with a new movement and getting together for the sake eqaulity. I have been helping occupy hartford for the last couple of weeks and there is a lot going on in terms of trying to get the message out, meetings, etc.. It seems that there are some issues that clearly have been building up before that occupy movement came along. I do happen to be white and this may be trying to take the lead but I would love to come meet with anyone who wants to talk inequality and what some of us are trying to say with the protests. If you want this that is great, if not that is fine too but I am willing to make the effort. Stop trying to catagorize me with people you have had experiences with before. Some of the comments are just as offensive as the point some of you are trying to make. that being said I am glad I saw this article and that the discussion is being had….it may lead to something positive

      • Rebecca says:

        Kerri, I appreciate the time you took to include the links, and I can assure you I’ll take the time to read them. I’m speaking only for myself here, and not for OH, when I say that I am sorely lacking in context when it comes to Hartford and its issues. I have long been a fan of the city from a distance – but until recently, the only reason I’d actually venture into Hartford is for a hockey game or a comedy show. This movement is exciting to me globally, but also locally – it has the potential to finally bring together people from the city and people from the ‘burbs to work toward something truly meaningful. I’m excited about that anyway – are you? I want to learn and have found that everyone I’ve met through OH also wants to learn. My own personal story includes poverty as a child and a young adult. I grew up in Arizona, and am not a complete stranger to racial and economic issues. As an English-speaker, I would like some ideas about how to connect with Spanish-speaking residents about our movement.

        Most importantly, I urge you to not paint us with a broad brush – whether it be the “dirty jobless hippy” rhetoric (I have a master’s degree and a private practice) or the “privileged and spoiled white kid” label (I am in my 40s and, like I said, grew up in poverty). Please consider working with us, seeing us as allies – we want to work with you, and I personally would love to see all of Hartford’s residents included in the movement.

      • Richard says:

        Kerri

        “Stomping around in someone‚Äôs neighborhood and informing them the day of what is going on can seem very intrusive, and for some, unsettling.”

        Excellent point and should be well taken by all who march through any neighborhood. I would wonder if the white folks were invading.

        I have to wonder do they really get what you are saying. A few years back when the anti-war demo came down Park Street folks from SA and other groups were in the area knocking on doors, talking to the residents and merchants weeks before march day. So when the march happened everyone was in the know. Folks were cheering out their windows, and coming out of stores to clap. Out from a beauty salon folks join in with us and our rainbow flag for a block or so. Signs were in Spanish and our leaflet from the Queer community spelled out what it was all about and why we opposed the war. (just a bit of history for the newbies amongst us.)

        How about an inside joke, I almost was going to throw in the links to Occupy Stolen Land and the one about why folks left the occupy movement in Ottawa but dare say it would be too much for this crowd.

        Am still thinking on the sieze the bank moment? Just another show?

      • Jay says:

        I understand, as a white American male, I came in the world armed to the teeth with the weapons of privilege. Sexual, social, and geographic privilege. I understand that my life as an American is made possible on the backs of the third world.

        That said, if marching through the el barrio with OH was interpreted as anything but a sincere act of solidarity and love toward every other person looking for economic justice in the world, then I am the one being judged.

  7. Jay says:

    One more thing I would like to add, if I may go off topic. Your site is wonderful. I’m new to Hartford, and this site offers a unique perspective and point of view. Thanks for sharing this obvious work of love.


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