Last night, Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts told Occupy Hartford protesters they'd have to take down their tents by Tuesday morning. (Watch the video here.)
The protesters initially met city resistance on their first night last week at Turning Point Square, Occupy Hartford's homebase. Sgt. Frances Perrone told me last Wednesday at an early Occupy meeting that camping is prohibited in the park, and that anyone setting up tents there could be fined or arrested.
Peter Goselin, a Hartford lawyer who volunteers with the National Lawyers Guild, has been giving legal advice to the protesters. He told me last week in an interview that the city code doesn't have any clear definition of what "camping" actually is -- tents? coolers? tarps? sleeping bags? -- and so the protesters were allowed to keep their tents through the weekend until authorities could close the loophole.
Citing city "ordinance," Chief Roberts told the occupiers they could stay through Monday night, and tents were down by 10 a.m. on Tuesday. According to Goselin, there remains nothing in the city code that resembles any ordinance Roberts may be citing. But City Councilman Luis Cotto said in an interview today that it's likely the chief is referring to a building code that restricts "semi-permanent structures."
Cotto's been an Occupy Hartford supporter -- he spent a night in Turning Point this weekend -- and told me that if protest organizers and city officials aren't able to reach an agreement over the tents, he'll attempt to propose something at tonight's city council meeting. Hartford's chief operating officer, David Panagore, is meeting tonight with Occupy organizers at 5 p.m. to see about reaching a compromise. And a "solidarity rally" is scheduled for 7 tonight. The Occupy Hartford Facebook page had several wall posts calling for support for the rally throughout Tuesday morning and afternoon.
Regardless of the turnout, protesters say they'll stick it out in Turning Point as long as possible or "necessary," according to one protester. As in the Occupy Wall Street protests, participants plan to stay in the city and continue their protests indefinitely. But beyond city ordinances and grief from the cops, the protesters are going to start facing bigger challenges as the weather gets colder.
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