Filed under: Action, Housing, Northeast, Police
Report from New London Mutual Aid on resistance to the eviction of a tent city in Waterford, CT.
Right around two years ago, in the dead of a particularly brutal Connecticut winter we crowdfunded a small amount of money to purchase foil insulation for the tents set up just beside the local shelter. We distributed a lot of it, both scavenged and purchased, both at our monthly aid events, but also worked directly with residents of the encampment to make their tents winter safe. Not long after this, the camp was raided and destroyed by the New London Police Department. We spoke out against the horrific cruelty of this action then, and have not let that outrage fade. We learned through back channels that the NLPD was frustrated by our criticisms because they were “just following orders” and “didn’t want to evict the people but had no choice.” Anyone with even a basic knowledge of history, and even just simple decency knows following orders is not an excuse to commit atrocities.
Many of those displaced from this encampment moved to a place a short walk away in the adjacent city of Waterford. This place became known as Tent City 2, or more commonly, TC2. It served as an informal overflow location for those that either weren’t eligible for space in the shelter, or did not feel safe inside the official channels for those experiencing houselessness. It has had its difficulties, but was, and is, an essential part of the broader community response to a seemingly deepening crisis.
There have been murmurs of closing the camp for a while now, but in recent weeks, things have really started to accelerate. Notices went up around camp, and residents reported receiving orders to clear out within 30-90 days. Naturally, this created tremendous anxiety among the residents, especially with winter and a possible second wave of COVID on the horizon. We put out a notice to the community on the 16th to begin coordinating a response.
The members of the TC2 camp began to discuss their options. It was quickly, and unanimously decided that the people would resist eviction. Several of our members are residents there, so we were able to coordinate with the camp very closely. We immediately began reaching out to our networks and organizing a multi pronged defense.
The police seemed to isolate one of our members, a resident of the space, as the “leader” and began trying to discredit them among the other residents. But because we weren’t born yesterday, we are familiar with the techniques cops use to demoralize and divide movements. Police, visiting daily, were asking around for this individual and telling residents that the removal was a “done deal” and it won’t do any good to fight.
We did an initial run of expropriated pallets to the camp to facilitate more effective physical resistance. But we knew much more would be needed. We reached out to every contact we could and started to create a buzz locally about the situation. A few nights later we loaded a heavy duty truck and a large trailer with dozens of pallets, several sheets of plywood, and a healthy amount of lumber. Under cover of darkness, a small team delivered and installed the first round of defensive infrastructure.
This was an initial action meant to send a message that the residents of TC2 are not alone, we put up half a dozen simple gated barricades. This is hardly an impregnable defense, but the goal was to show anyone who would try to evict TC2, that it’s supporters can take large scale action on very short notice.
With mounting public scrutiny, Waterford Police Department made a statement on their Facebook page telling their side of the story, using a photo of an abandoned segment of the encampment formerly occupied by a resident who suffered from a hoarding problem. This decision to represent the camp in that way was undoubtedly to build a false perception about the conditions there among their audience. We did not leave this unchallenged, and neither did a wide swath of commenters. Several people shared photos that are far more representative of the space, and tried to get ahead of the spin the police were trying to put on the truth.
The police, and others, started talking about housing being given to all the residents, and insisting this was not an eviction. They also tried to say only one person back there was causing trouble and resisting “help.” Naturally, this didn’t go unchallenged either. We hit up a contact of ours in the local conservative radio scene, Lee Elci, who has had one of our members on many times to discuss anarchist politics. This time, we had an opportunity to speak about the resistance to the coming eviction. We also made sure to highlight the dishonesty of WPD and the importance of doing the right thing regardless of what the law has to say. We addressed the issue of trash abandoned there, and the dispute between two jurisdictions on who’s responsible, so our member said on air, “I guess I’ll just have to do the anarchist thing and get my flatbed and do it myself while government argues with itself.” Since then, we have had even more interest in people helping the fight.
This brings us to the current situation. Members of the community, both linked to us and the broader radical scene, and people we don’t even know, have been talking about defense and expressing interest in supplying resources and material. We have been making arrangements for a trash removal day this coming week, and we proposed building a permanent structure to house and organize the influx in donations to the residents, creating the opportunity for a community run food pantry and clothing library. Usually, our free store events only happen once a month, but if we can have a physical space within the city, our ability to provide larger scale aid on a consistent basis will be increased dramatically. Our medic has spoken with the other residents about the idea, and they are receptive to it.
As this conflict intensifies, we are expecting the possibility of repression, so we are hoping to have as much infrastructure as possible in place before then. We are also hoping people continue to call the Waterford Police Department to express solidarity with TC2. Others have taken to maintaining a presence on their Facebook page and inboxing them, which goes to the chief of police. Those unable to provide direct support for the resistance are encouraged to put pressure on the system however they can.
Update as of October 1st: A former resident of the camp claims to be working with WPD. He stated that the police said if he has problems with anyone in camp, he can do whatever he wants with no trouble from them.
If what he stated is true, this is would fit in well with the shady tactics police use around the country and world to get what they want. We suspect that if this is true, any violence he may enact on residents will be used as justification for a fast eviction.
More details and photos to come.
-The mostly friendly anarchists of the New London Mutual Aid Collective