Police defy order from Mayor, NY Gov, to shut down and arrest Occupy Albany
This is a breath of fresh air. Democratic New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, who should know better, wanted Occupy Wall Street protesters out of the park at the NY State Capitol. If they refused to leave, he wanted arrests.
He pressured Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, who had earlier said he had no problem with the occupiers camping out, and Jennings changed his tune. Orders also went out to New York State Police. Cuomo and Jennings both said, “Get them out of here.”
But the police said no, and stood by the occupiers.
“We were ready to make arrests if needed, but these people complied with our orders,” a State Police official said. However, he added that State Police supported the defiant posture of Albany police leaders to hold off making arrests for the low-level offense of trespassing, in part because of concern it could incite a riot or draw thousands of protesters in a backlash that could endanger police and the public.
“We don’t have those resources, and these people were not causing trouble,” the official said. “The bottom line is the police know policing, not the governor and not the mayor.” (via)
There are two parks, side by side – one owned by the state, one by the city of Albany. When Cuomo had initially stood firm on an 11 pm curfew for the state park, Jennings had said he was cool with the occupiers tenting in the city park.
But Cuomo wasn’t. We’re not sure what his beef is, but since taking office he’s been governing as GOP-lite, axing spending and taking a hammer to union rights, using austerity as an excuse.
It’s not just that Cuomo has taken big bucks from the Wall Street banksters… he’s pretty much a member of New York’s power elite himself. He’s refused to extend a millionaires tax – in a classic “let them eat cake” moment he responded to the 72% of New Yorkers who support an extension, “The fact that everybody wants it, that doesn’t mean all that much”. It’s a tone-deaf move which has earned him the nickname “Governor one percent“. And with them freaking out, I suppose it makes sense that he would freak out, too.
Cuomo put pressure on Jennings, and Friday night Jennings issued the order: Curfew would be enforced.
The occupiers helped out; at the 11 pm state park curfew, they moved across the line dividing the parks onto city land. The Times Union’s state police source says they had a civil disturbance unit standing by… but with that accomodation, they decided to stand down, rather than provoke a possible riot.
It also helped that the occupation was a mixed crowd of young people, elderly, and families with children.
“There was a lot of discussion about how it would look if we started pulling people away from their kids and arresting them … and then what do we do with the children?” one officer told the Times Union.
Jennings told the NY Post’s hippie-bashing Fred Dicker, “Some of the governor’s people were pretty firm about our not doing this, letting them stay in the park, but basically, we had allowed this before . . . and my counsel said we’d be opening ourselves up to civil liability if we forced them out”.
Albany’s District Attorney was also involved in defusing the issue.
Meanwhile, Albany County District Attorney David Soares on Sunday said that over the weekend he had conversations with Jennings, Albany Police Chief Steven Krokoff and State Police officials about his concerns regarding prosecution of “peaceful protesters.”
Soares said protests at the state Capitol are common, and historically anyone arrested for trespassing generally faces a low-level charge that’s later dismissed.
“Our official policy with peaceful protesters is that unless there is property damage or injuries to law enforcement, we don’t prosecute people protesting,” Soares said. “If law enforcement engaged in a pre-emptive strike and started arresting people I believe it would lead to calamitous results, and the people protesting so far are peaceful.”
This is what happens when people work together. When people act out of respect for the constitution rather than in fear of chaos. When official’s first reaction isn’t. “OMG protests we better start arresting everyone”!
Nobody ever said Democracy wasn’t messy. But it sure beats all the alternatives.
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