Representatives from the Brattleboro Police Department -- from left, Carol Lolatte, Officer John Frechette, Captain Mike Fitzgerald and Chief Gene Wrinn --
Representatives from the Brattleboro Police Department -- from left, Carol Lolatte, Officer John Frechette, Captain Mike Fitzgerald and Chief Gene Wrinn -- visited the Occupy camp on the common in Brattleboro Dec. 12, to see if those living there needed assistance with social services. They found no one on the site. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer file photo)
Tuesday December 20, 2011

BRATTLEBORO -- Police removed materials from the Occupy Brattleboro encampment Monday, saying the remaining possessions on the Common were abandoned.

Brattleboro Police Chief Gene Wrinn said officers returned to the site and seized the remaining tents and possessions as abandoned property. Demonstrators, who had not formally been asked to leave the park by the town, had staged a protest at the park in between Linden and Putney roads since early October as part of a national movement against the influence of corporate money in politics.

"There was a bunch of property there, and it was abandoned and it was seized and secured," Wrinn said. "There was no one there today to ask to leave."

A press release from Town Manager Barbara Sondag stated Brattleboro received inquiries from a number of news outlets about camping equipment located on the Common. From Dec. 13 to 19, police conducted 19 welfare checks where the encampment was located.

"During these welfare checks, which were performed at a variety of times throughout the day and night, it was determined that some of the tents located on the Common were being used for storage. Nobody was located living in these tents on the Common during these welfare checks," stated the release.

"Based upon the results of these welfare checks, the Brattleboro police determined on Dec. 19 that the camping equipment remaining at that time at the Common had been abandoned. The property was then removed from the Common, inventoried, and secured."

No one has claimed any of property currently held at the police station as of Monday evening and no charges have been filed.

Anthony Gilbert, formerly of Ann Arbor, Mich., had occupied the Common since Oct. 6 and was the only demonstrator remaining on Sunday night. He said none of the possession seized was his and he was sleeping in a tent left behind by a fellow protester known only as Famous Josh.

Gilbert said he understands what the town did Monday.

"In fact, I'm surprised they didn't do that at their first opportunity to do that, which could have been at any moment I was gone to go use the Internet or something," he said.

"But then again, I'm still not convinced the town owns that land. They say they do," he said, referring to his initial argument for remaining on the Common because it was, according to Gilbert, owned by the Centre Congregational Church and not the town.

Church members voted on Nov. 6 to relinquish any claim of title on the property to the town. Gilbert, however, told the Reformer he is continuing to review the case.

"I have to do some more research and find out if there is a restriction on a different deed or not," he said. "It really depends on whether or not I find the deed restriction or not. If I find the deed restriction, then I guess I'm going to move back on the Common again."

Town officials initially spoke with Gilbert about no-camping rules in Brattleboro parks, but he remained in a small tent behind the gazebo for more than three months. Other protesters have rotated in-and-out of the camp since October.

With the encampment taken down, Gilbert will return to his old tent now located in an undisclosed location in town.

The nationwide Occupy movement began on Sept. 17 in New York City's Zuccotti Park and grew to hundreds of larger cities and small towns.

But many of the sites, from Manhattan to New Orleans, have been cleared within the last few weeks. Others, such as OccupyMaine in Portland, Maine, are engaging in legal action.

Chris Garofolo can be reached at cgarofolo@reformer.com or 802-254-2311 ext. 275.