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Occupy anniversary marked in Brattleboro with candlelight vigil

BRATTLEBORO—The two-month anniversary of the start of Occupy Wall Street was marked on Nov. 17 with protests all over the world.

The day did not go unnoticed in Brattleboro, as about 30 people gathered for an early-evening candlelight vigil at the Wells Fountain.

The tranquility of last Thursday’s event stood in contrast to the police raids on Occupy encampments that took place in New York and other cities last week.

That violence wasn’t far from the mind of Carolyn Drumsta, a 2010 graduate of Marlboro College who is unemployed and living in Brattleboro.

“I’m trying to be grown up, but I can’t find a job,” she said. “That’s why I’m here."

This was the first of the Occupy Brattleboro events she’s attended since the Saturday protests began on Oct. 15.

Drumsta said her sister is attending graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley. “Her roommate got beaten up pretty bad at Occupy Oakland,” she said.

Standing near the Putney Road side of the fountain was Tress Zuverino of Westminster West. Her “Honk If You’re The 99 Percent” sign had tally marks on the back.

“I’m keeping track of the people who honk,” she said.

A stalemate

As for the actual occupation in Brattleboro, Anthony Gilbert, who began camping on the Common on Oct. 7, said the situation is at a stalemate.

After Gilbert discovered that the town did not have title to the Common and that the Centre Congregational Church did, the town halted its efforts to evict Gilbert. He has since been joined by several other campers.

In 1816, the Ellis family deeded the land where today’s Common sits to the predecessor of Centre Congregational. A meetinghouse stood on the site until 1842, when the congregation voted to tear it down and rebuild it at the church’s current site on 193 Main St.

Prompted by Gilbert’s assertion, town employees and representatives of the church have found no records of the church deeding the property back to the Ellis family or to the town, which cared for the property for the past 169 years.

At a special meeting on Nov. 6, the congregation unanimously voted on a measure to authorize the Church Council “to execute a quitclaim deed on behalf of Centre Congregational Church to relinquish any and all claims the church may have on the property.”

Despite the vote, Gilbert said the question of who owns the Common remains murky, since the town hasn’t formerly accepted the church’s request, and the descendants of the Ellis family might still be able to claim ownership.

But just in case the town decides to act to evict occupiers from the Common for violating ordinances against camping overnight on town property, Gilbert, who has some legal education, said he is getting the paperwork lined up to seek an injunction to block such action.

“I think the town is waiting to see if we just going to leave when the winter comes, but I’m prepared to go to jail, to not post bail, to not accept a plea deal, and to insist upon a jury trial,” Gilbert said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #128 (Wednesday, November 23, 2011).

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