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Hygienic Art trying to evict resident artist at the center of online dispute

New London — Public pressure caused in part by the circulation of private text messages has led to the attempted eviction of one of the artists living at Hygienic Art in downtown New London.

The action against Harrison Love, 35, comes after the board at the Hygienic deemed his behavior to be a “serious nuisance,” one of the few ways a landlord can legally remove a tenant during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hygienic offers six apartments above its art gallery at affordable rates to artists. Love moved there in October 2020.

Love was issued a "notice to quit" and given until Feb. 14 to leave or face Superior Court eviction proceedings. He has not yet left and said he needs time to collect himself.

Love has been the subject of complaints of disturbing the peace at the Hygienic building at 79 Bank St. but more notably the target of online allegations of harassment and racism stemming from his texts to an acquaintance, Griffon Jones, in January.

Love admits the initial texts were “salacious” but overall innocent word play. Love had invited Jones and her boyfriend to dinner. Jones had refused and mentioned money was tight. Love’s response was “I’m treating you fools. And you got to tell me how to love you both…”

Jones, who has posted the entire exchange, said she was uncomfortable with the initial messages she deemed to be sexually harassing and let Love know. Some of the back-and-forth that followed allegedly included Love’s use of the N-word, which Love said was a reference to a Kendrick Lamar song, one of his favorite rappers.

Jones started posting Love’s messages on Facebook and said his responses raised alarms for her since she considered them to be harassing in nature and escalating. Others quickly rallied to her defense. Jones said she is a survivor of sexual harassment and sexual assault and lives not far from Love.

Love's online posts and messages led Jones to request to the board at the Hygienic that Love be removed. The request led to further backlash from Love. She eventually called police when the situation did not improve.

Jones said both the Hygienic and police had pushed for an amicable resolution between the two instead of action.

“Both institutions kind of failed me,” Jones said. “The community rallied behind me.”

Hygienic Board President A. Vincent Scarano said the nonprofit posted a statement to explain the Hygienic is merely a landlord and can’t simply vote to remove someone without following state law as any landlord would do.

“We are not a school or private club that can unilaterally expel its residents for any reason,” the notice posted at the Hygienic read.

The notice was a response to online threats of a protest outside the Hygienic that never materialized. Scarano said the Hygienic wanted also to make clear it did not condone any racism, sexism or harassing behavior.

“We’re trying to remedy the situation at the Hygienic,” Scarano said.

Love said the Hygienic's statement appeared to support the claims against him, which he denies.

Love admits his reaction to Jones' accusations, which has included him posting disparaging remarks and videos about her, possibly served to escalate the situation. But he said the false accusations against him have led to him being barred from several downtown New London bars and online death threats from what he called “cancel culture groups.” He said his apartment was also broken into and several personal items stolen.

“They’re trying to paint me as a racist, sexist person and I’m not,” Love said. “She’s acted maliciously to burn me in this community. My motivations for going online were to prevent or repair any damage to me or my family’s reputation.”

He said he is now exploring a defamation suit against Jones.

The drama, which had been playing out online for several weeks, culminated with Love receiving a summons for disturbing the peace on Feb. 13 and being arrested the same day for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.

Residents at the normally low-key environment at the Hygienic had complained about loud music in the middle of the night, painting and banging on doors of other residents and what police said was offensive behavior with other residents.

Love additionally was also arrested on a trespassing charge in Stonington on Sunday, which he said related to his attempt to find a place to sleep at his family’s Stonington Commons property.

“My family, because of this defamation, thinks I lost control of my mental state,” Love said.

Scarano said he hoped Love would leave without incident but said the Hygienic planned further court proceedings if he doesn’t.

G.smith@theday.com

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