Today is the first day of Occupy Albany, taking place in a state/city park just north of the Capitol building.
A few hundred people are in the park now, doing their first General Assembly. Some have planned to sleep over (in violation of an 11 p.m. curfew), which seemed to be OK with Albany Mayor Gerry Jennings.
Here's what he said this morning, on his weekly radio call-in show in WGDJ:
I told my (police) chief, "Do what you have to do, don't violate First Amendment rights, but maintain safety." I said to my chief, "Use your judgment. ... We don't make a lot of arrests for people that sleep in the park, and I don't anticipate a lot here either."That was this morning, by the afternoon a call from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top staffer had made the mayor less live-and-let-live.
First, a necessary detail -- the western half of the block-long-block-wide park is Lafayette Park, owned by the state. The eastern half is Academy Park, owned by the city.
According to Brendan Lyons of the Albany Times Union (above link), Cuomo acted quickly to nip the Occupy protest in the bud.
As protesters gathered during the day, and were visible and audible from the Capitol:
A person familiar with Albany's plans to react to the rally said Cuomo's secretary, Larry S. Schwartz, called Jennings Friday morning and said that State Police, who control half of the park that is owned by the state of New York and the city of Albany, would remove any protesters who did not comply with a curfew. The position of the governor's office was in contrast to an earlier plan by Albany police to leave the protesters alone if they were peaceful, even if they stayed overnight.Jennings, a Cuomo ally, changed his tune after that:
Late Friday afternoon the mayor said he had directed city police Chief Steven Krokoff to enforce the curfew, which could include physically removing and arresting protesters if necessary.I don't know how many people planned to sleep over, but I guess it's nowhere near the whole 300 or so who are there now. They could easily fit their tents and sleeping bags in Academy Park so it would not be a state issue.
"What I told Steve is enforce the law," Jennings said. "We have a curfew. I expect it to be enforced. We don't expect a lot of issues."
Now, thanks to Cuomo, they will be rousted and may end up sleeping in a holding cell tonight.
Aside from his control-freak personality and hyper-sensitivity to criticism, Cuomo has political reasons to essentially oppose the Occupy movement.
In his first budget this year, Cuomo chose to force austerity on state workers and localities and school districts who depend on state aid, while adamantly refusing to consider extending a modest income tax increase on millionaires.
Occupy Albany protesters gathered Friday in a park across from the State Capitol, and some turned their dissatisfaction toward Governor Cuomo's stance against renewing a tax on millionaires.Cuomo probably did not appreciate the OWS rally Tuesday at a NYC event where he got a "game changer" award from Huffington Post -- well-known because of Naomi Wolf's BS arrest -- that focused on his refusal to support extending the millionaires tax.
The 100 or so protesters gathered in the city park near the Capitol had various concerns; clean energy, jobs, and for some, Governor Andrew Cuomo's opposition to renewing an income tax surcharge on millionaires, which is set to expire at the end of the year.
Joe Seeman, who brought his eleven year old son along to experience the gathering, says the governor should change his mind.
"Governor Cuomo needs to ask himself does he want to get re-elected," said Seeman. "We want the millionaires to be taxed instead of cutting back on teachers."
We'll know how this plays out in a few hours, but one thing we know already -- Cuomo is more an advocate for the 1 percent than a friend of the 99 percent.