Hartford Mayor orders cops to shut down Occupy Hartford, protesters given 6 p.m. Tuesday deadline to leave.

Dozens of city cops and white patrol cruisers surrounded Occupy Hartford’s soggy encampment Tuesday morning to enforce Mayor Pedro Segarra’s order to evict the protesters because of “allegations of sexual assault and drug use” at the small park site.

Demonstrators who have been at the site at the corner of Farmington Avenue and Broad Street were stunned by the sudden change in attitude by the mayor and police, and insisted there’s no evidence of any violence or drugs. They were ordered to leave by 6 p.m. Tuesday or face arrest and prosecution.

“This is a peaceful group,” said JoAnne Bauer, who has been active in the Occupy Hartford action since it began on Oct. 24. Hartford Councilman Larry Deutsch showed up at the campsite and insisted there’s been no evidence to back up the claims of drugs or violence.

“There’s been no offense to decency,” Deutsch said. He questioned why the allegations of illegal activity aren’t “subject to a careful investigation and documented and then action taken by police.”

He said the sudden eviction order goes against the measured response the city had been taking toward Occupy Hartford for weeks. “All previous communications stated there would be respectful face-to-face negotiations and nothing precipitous,” Deutsch said.

The Occupy Hartford protest at “Turning Point Park” has seen nothing like the police pepper-spraying incidents in Oakland and New York City or the sudden dispersal of marches and camps in various cities across the nation. There was no indication Tuesday morning that any similar move was being made against the Occupy New Haven site.

Police officials at the Hartford scene Tuesday far outnumbered the dozen or so protesters who were still at the site at about 11 a.m. when the order was delivered.

In his letter to the protesters, Segarra said that “reports of violence and drug use have detracted from the original message of the movement. Therefore, I am requesting an orderly end to the encampment.”

“The bottom line is that everyone has to leave by 6 p.m.,” Hartford Police Capt. Joe Buyak told the protesters. “We’re not thugs or any of that.”

“We don’t want to arrest anybody. Who needs to be inconvenienced by the arrest process?” he said to Bauer. But Buyak also warned that, “We will do what we have to do.”

Bauer responded that there was no indication any of the protesters had been or would be violent and questioned the need for the massive police presence.

“We’re not going to let police get injured,” Buyak replied. “We have traffic concerns, and we’re looking to our own safety. … If you’ve paid attention to the news, to what’s happened across the country, we’re not taking any chances.”

Except for two reporters who arrived early, police were blocking news media from free access to the site. Buyak later allowed small groups of reporters to cross the police lines for brief periods. But people at the camp were told that, if they left, they wouldn’t be allowed back in.
Several of the protesters said one of their organizers who attempted to cross the police line to get into the camp was taken by police and put in the back of a cruiser.