Since the start of Occupy Albany, there’s been a rift between Albany’s municipal government and the state of New York. While Cuomo had wanted the protestors removed immediately, the Mayor’s Office, police, and the Council wanted to give them the right to stay and demonstrate in Academy Park. It even gave them exceptions, allowing them to camp out and stay out past the curfew established by law.

Tonight, as All Over Albany recaps, they crossed over to Lafayette Park with the knowledge that the cameras would show up and the State police would enforce the law by removing protestors. About 24 (maybe more?) were arrested, then immediately released.

This is where I get fed up and tell you to go home.

Rather than re-write what I already wrote in response to one of the protestors, a well meaning fellow who I think has just lost perspective like so many others, here’s a quick image snap:

The optimist in me says it’s all just misguided. But the cynic in me was waiting for this moment all along, where it exposed what’s really behind this. It’s an attempt to join, not an attempt to thumb the nose at authority.

Democracy and politics is about compromise. It means that some things happen in government that many of us won’t agree with. I’m not suggesting things are perfect and/or shouldn’t be changed. Far from it. We had an economic system that arrested a handful of people for the obvious Ponzi schemes but let the rest of the financial system run rampant with abuses of speculative economics that cost people jobs, homes, and potentially their very lives.

But that doesn’t mean you in Albany are being oppressed. You’re not. You live in one of the areas that’s actually more sympathetic to the cause. As mentioned previously, you had police, politicians, and scores of others show up to support you.

The chants that broke out of “this is what oppression looks like!” reeks of people that lived thousands of miles away from New York City and never even spoke to anybody East of the Mississippi River that still act like 9/11 happened to them. It’s intellectually dishonest and a cartoonish disservice to real liberal politics and concerns, rife with ideas and policies that could make this country better.

Instead, we make “freedom forts.”

Thanks, guys.

*****

In response, right as I was finishing this up, Sean responded on FB:

“Protests are supposed to be attention grabs. The whole thing from the start has been an attention grab. That’s, like, the point. Continuous escalation. Yes, we could just sit there in the part of the park we’ve been allowed but the point is to continually escalate. That’s how these things…work.”

But that’s just the thing: is it for the cause or for yourselves and being there? Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat because the Jim Crow laws were a violation of civil rights and a great injustice. The people of Libya and Syria took to the streets because they were tired of tyrants trampling on human rights and dragging them from their homes and throwing them in prison without due process.

The comparison may not seem fair but it’s apt. Those are acts of bravery and defiance, not of attention-grabbing. They were and are done for a very specific cause or injustice, not because they weren’t already being arrested.

I don’t know. I guess my whole thing with the Occupy movement as a whole is that as a liberal, I want to believe, but they keep making it so goddamn hard. Is this what my Republican friends that get called RINOs felt with the Tea Party movement?

  • http://twitter.com/SeanPCollins Sean Collins

    The oppression we face here may not be remotely comparable to what is done overseas, but it’s oppression nonetheless. I try not to engage in those kind of hyperbolic chants, but arresting folks for sitting in a park, violating no law other than some arbitrary curfew that isn’t even on the books and by the State’s own admission is passed down through what amounts to oral tradition is oppression in the most basic form.

    What happened tonight was the state succeeded in arresting 24 people, moving another 80 people 40 feet outside the park, doing the same thing on the sidewalk adjacent to the park. The point was to draw to light the ridiculousness of this posturing from the State, particularly the Governor. I find that more cartoonish that some 40 state troopers were sent to arrest these nuisances and then release them less than an hour later. Clearly, the law isn’t that important.

  • EZ

    Kevin is 100% right. The Occupy protests need to focus on what the hell they are doing. Proving that laws are stupid has nothing to do with the “We Are the 99%” mantra and has nothing to do towards making that change that you all so desperately want. Want to make a difference? Protest the Governor’s budget by having a sit-in if it doesn’t include a millionaire’s tax. Get arrested for that – it makes your cause relevant and more sympathetic to everyone who may be watching. Not for jaywalking, or breaking curfew or for littering.

  • Chuck Miller

    The primary reason why Rosa Parks didn’t give up her bus seat wasn’t because the newspaper cameras were there to document it. No more so than the four men who sat at the Greensboro Woolworth’s lunch counter did, or the person who dared stand in front of the oncoming tanks at Tiannamen Square. At this point in time, you’re right Kevin. The Occupy Albany protests went from a vocal charge against Andrew Cuomo, and morphed into an attention-grabbing stunt with no direction and no clear line of progress. They may as well have been protesting the absence of a Wegman’s in the Capital District.

  • Another Kevin

    So when this demonstration began, there was no rule, regulation or law on the books indicating a curfew in Lafayette Park, and there had been precedent established under previous administrations when protestors were allowed to camp in that park without arrest. Governor Cuomo, however, finds all this noisy First Amendment stuff embarassing — and so while his efforts to strongarm a municipality into surpressing free speech and assembly failed, he took care of the ‘problem’ on the state side of the park by making up a curfew and ordering the State Police to make arrests based upon his personal, made-to-order ‘law’. And you’re OK with that? You don’t think that kind of thing is disturbing or dangerous?

    This might have been a much smaller and less newsworthy event had the state simply allowed Dr. Russell to challenge the curfew as he intended…but perhaps recognizing how indefensible the curfew-by-caveat might be, they arrested him well before 11 PM for building an ‘illegal structure’ (which is pretty damned funny, really — we’re talking about foamcore signs taped together, which apparently would have been legal as long as he didn’t let them touch the ground.) The much larger gathering in Lafayette Park last night wasn’t conceived until after Russell’s arrest on the silly ‘structure’ charge prevented the state from having to legally defend its hastily-invented, arbitrary curfew.

    This would have happened with or without news cameras present. The fact that they showed up (and were threatened with arrest as well) is great, because people deserve to see that their governor is perfectly willing to put the State Police in this embarassing position and to arrest people for simply being on state property (which is actually our property, is it not?) beyond a certain hour that he — not the people, not the legislature, but the governor, unilaterally, set.

    With all due respect, your perspective on last night’s events is misguided and flawed — you seem to imply that this action was created for news camera consumption, but that’s a supposition that’s unprovable and thereby unfair. The presence of news media does not establish causation, and by choosing to view last night’s arrests through that lens you’ve lost sight of the much more serious matter of a governor who is willing to create law from thin air and enforce it with the people’s resources, ignoring all relevant First Amendment issues, in order to save himself and his wealthy backers and cronies from a minor embarassment.

    • Anonymous

      “So when this demonstration began, there was no rule, regulation or law on the books indicating a curfew in Lafayette Park, and there had been precedent established under previous administrations when protestors were allowed to camp in that park without arrest.”

      Not true. The ability to establish curfew was in the books. It wasn’t clearly defined but rather was stated that it can be posted or at the Commissioner’s discretion..which used to be 8pm and was now 11pm. That’s true of all state parks under OGS, not just Lafayette.

      See, that’s the thing. I’m not really disturbed about it, because the protestors were already allowed to be in Academy Park and have been for weeks. Which is what made this so wonderful: there’s checks and balances that allowed for this sort of thing, and even when those aren’t 100% fool-proof, there’s other things that WILL allow for it. An effort had to be made to show “oppression” and then a chant broke out. It comes across – and I won’t be the first to say this – like Occupy Albany felt like it wasn’t cool enough because the cops were on their side, so they had to find other cops that wouldn’t be.

  • http://barre.me -S

    > they crossed over to Lafayette Park with the knowledge that the cameras
    > would show up and the State police would enforce the law by removing
    > protestors.

    That’s nonsensical; if the police knows one thing, as was shown in Oakland for example, is that it can certainly wait 30 minutes until the 11PM show is done airing to start arresting people. That’s anti-protest 101, especially facing a non-belligerent crowd. It happened during the news *because* that’s exactly what Cuomo wanted to show to the good people of NY. The protesters, on the other hand, wanted to show that you can get “arrested” for something as STUPID as a curfew, so it’s a win-win… except of course the later is probably lost on everybody, since parks are really A HUGE DEAL in this country, apparently. *sigh*

    • Anonymous

      “The protesters, on the other hand, wanted to show that you can get “arrested” for something as STUPID as a curfew, so it’s a win-win… ”

      They wanted to show that you can get arrested for breaking a law. SIGH

      I don’t think it’s stupid that you can get arrested for breaking a law, and I don’t think a curfew in a park is really all that stupid. I do think it’s stupid that an exception was granted so they jumped through hoops to try to get arrested so they can prove that…uh…you can get arrested if you try really hard? And that Cuomo’s kind of being a dick about it, which we already knew.

      • http://barre.me -S

        Kevin, I’m not going to argue this curfew for 3000 words.

        FUCK CURFEWS.

        You are too smart not to realize that this irrational focus on curfew laws is just so that nobody, especially the news, bothers spending *any* time elaborating on the real issues. So instead of that, we get comments after comments online rambling about parks, hay, tents and the legality of curfews. WHAT THE HELL? When did people completely lose perspective? Laws are not set in stone and disobedience is a perfectly valid way to question them. This is *what* it is about, financial institutions and large corporations now standing above the law, hand in hand with part of our leadership. *That* needs to be changed, obviously, but you guys are STILL arguing about curfew laws, alleged bad smell, and trampled grass?? For crying out loud, do you see the disconnect here? Talking about inane park laws just ensures that the debate is *never* elevated. Fuck curfews. People should NOT have to even question where and when they should peacefully protest, this is maddening!

        • Anonymous

          I think you’re confusing me with someone else in regard to hay, smell, tents, grass, and other stuff. Because that’s not an issue with me.

          What bothers me is that this has become a BS movement with intentionally vague and a woefully misguided sense of inclusion of all that results in a cartoonish atmosphere of drum circles, political posturing, and guys ranting about going back on the gold standard in lieu of addressing very real and very specific problems: the issue with the millionaire’s tax, the lack of oversight and regulation that caused the mortgage crisis, the bailouts, the hacking away at government with an axe by Tea Party Conservatives elected to government, and the elimination of funds to things like education when we need it most.

          Those are real things and specific issues that should be protested or included with the protest. Instead, we focus on things like “99%” and “1%” and embrace the language and message of anarchists – seriously – and try to paint it as a true liberal movement.

          Except it’s not. Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Albany are about the people there, not about the people that suffer and have suffered the most, no matter how much is said to the contrary. As a result, it has become a movement of empty rhetoric, and Occupy Albany specifically jumped the shark last night.

          So my problem is just the opposite: it’s not the media that isn’t focusing on real issues, it’s the Occupy movement itself, which in its haste to get as many people as possible has opted to issue a vague mandate that says nothing more than that things aren’t the way that they could or ideally should be. It’s intellectually dishonest and, to be quite frank, damaging to the cause of the left in this country.

          I don’t care about the integrity of the curfew. But my point is that to say that the curfew is not legal or that it doesn’t have precedence is undeniably false. It is silly that Cuomo and Jennings have got in a pissing match over this, but what’s sillier is that the Occupy Albany movement have allowed themselves to become unwitting props in a pathetic dick-waving contest between entitled egomaniacs masquerading as reformers. And it has nothing to do with the message, or what the message should be, at all; and it sure as Hell isn’t “what oppression looks like.”

          • http://barre.me -S

            Yes, I agree with this list of specific issues, but as long as you keep talking about curfew laws, this is not helping either. It is time to go back to the roots, this country sucks at public protesting, the simple act of expressing one’s anger or profound discontent, in public, for extended durations, should be a given.

            The “cartoonish atmosphere of drum circles” is coming from the media, it’s convenient and cliche, you don’t have to propagate this image, for it is just as irrelevant as curfew laws. “This is what oppression looks like” is also a gimmick that doesn’t deserve much echo in my opinion either. Trim the outliers on either end of the global message. I think of activists (like PETA for example) as the end of a social rubber band. They do extreme things to stretch it; it is not that they necessarily want their end of the band to be the status-quo, but since we are all on that rubber band, stretching it further *also* moves the position of people in the middle towards social progress. That’s how you benefit indirectly from it.

            I do not share everything OA/OWS has to say or the solutions they support, but that doesn’t mean people can’t unite and share empathy towards the general message of economic injustice. Nobody bothers going in the street anymore; as of now, they are filling this role and I’m happy with that.

          • Anonymous

            -S, I mentioned curfew laws because that’s what was violated and that’s what was focused on. They made an effort specifically to break the law in opposition to Cuomo. Am I not supposed to mention that?

            It’s also very important to note that the Occupy demonstrators have insisted and continue to insist that the curfew itself is illegal. They might believe that, but it’s flat out false. There’s no need to be to be specifically designated by a sign or by a standalone law when it isn’t at all and never has been. Cuomo used the law in his favor, but he didn’t and isn’t breaking it. There’s a HUGE difference there and it needs to be acknowledged.

            Civil disobedience is breaking a law to prove a point or because you think the law itself is unjust. Not breaking the law and then claiming – incorrectly – that the law itself doesn’t exist. That just further discredits the cause.

        • http://twitter.com/EdLassX Ed Lass

          If I’m hearing you correctly–and feel free to correct me if I don’t have this right–it sounds like you’re saying something a little bit like this:

          The cause is just, therefore the tactics are justified.

          But are the tactics justified? Do the ends justify the means? I mean, which financial institution is harmed when you destroy a park in downtown Albany and make a part of town a little bit less livable? Is there a corporate executive somewhere going, “Oh, God, no, what have they done to Academy Park? How can we let this continue?”

          I would suggest this:

          If the cause is just, adjust the tactics to match.

          • http://barre.me -S

            No, the proverbial “corporate executive” doesn’t give a damn about the park, and so should we, *the park is not the goddamn point*. Talking about the park is a waste of time, so please, people, move on, grass grows back (little known fact). Academy Park is, of course, not being *destroyed* and there are many other parks around, *including* the other-half which is perfectly “livable” if people are missing this very specific part of town so much (and no, they aren’t denied access). This sudden enthusiast for curfew laws and access to *half* of one of our many parks in winter fools no-one, they are poor excuses to justify that you don’t want to see these people doing what they are doing. The physical location where people should be able to protest publicly is irrelevant, for you should be able to do it peacefully where you want.

          • http://twitter.com/EdLassX Ed Lass

            You think I’m trying to fool you? You think my convictions are held less sincerely than yours? My man, you need to listen to differing perspectives. The park IS the point, if not for you, then at least for me. The park is my point. Do you understand? My city center is what I care about, and I do so as truthfully as you care about all your beliefs. I don’t know why you think my beliefs are “sudden.” I’ve been an advocate for Downtown Albany for years. It’s true that there hasn’t been a massive tenement movement until recently, so maybe I’m saying things that I didn’t need to say before. However, my beliefs are consistent and sincere. The park is the point.

        • Karl Schlegel

          Sebastian,

          As someone who is familiar with the parks in question, I can tell you that there have been enough times that I have avoided them walking home from work even around 7pm. The curfews are in place so that the police can remove deviants, vagrants, and homeless who harass and intimidate local residents and businesses. We’ve had several burglaries in my office nearby that have been attributed to the people who hide out in those parks. The first weekend of the Occupation someone decided to use the basement entrance to our office as a bathroom, I presume due to it’s hidden view, and left the evidence behind for us. There had also been many complaints from residents on Elk Street about the extensive noise created by the drummers late into the night.

          You’re too smart not to realize that curfews aren’t just about subduing protests, but the safety, security, and quality of life for local businesses and residents.

          • http://barre.me -S

            No, sorry, I disagree. It’s time to put things in perspective, Academy Park is not the Thunderdome, or the jungle. It’s just a park. And yes, I certainly don’t like burglars or people peeing on my street either, but this is so *so* small compared to the issues at hand here. Complaining about drum circle noises while accepting bailouts, a terrible health care system, a housing crisis and critical economic injustice without much a noise is just not working for me, I can’t take this seriously anymore. It also chills me to read “the curfews are in place to remove deviants, vagrants and homeless”. Seriously, I wish you saw the irony of removing people asking for more social equality… so that the police can efficiently cleanup people victims of such injustice.

          • Karl Schlegel

            I think the real irony is the Occupation kicking the homeless out of “tent city” in Academy Park.

            I don’t disagree with you that change is needed, particularly when it comes to campaign finance reform, but these tactics and the idea of camping out in a park to exact reform seems useless to me.

            Let’s talk when the Occupy “Leadership” or the General Assembly denounces those who decided to make the curfew the issue by the stunt of getting arrested as little more than distractions that threaten to sink real reform that is needed. Until then, this movement will be defined by the actions of the fringe. Blame them, not me, for this distraction. I think that’s exactly what Kevin’s point was (correct me if wrong, Kevin).

          • http://barre.me -S

            > I think the real irony is the Occupation
            > kicking the homeless out of “tent city”
            > in Academy Park.

            Karl, you’ll have to back this one up with some facts. Not only did I clearly read wayyy early on in the OA boards that the presence of homeless people was to be expected and treated with due respect, but I’ve seen these people you would so call “on the fringe”, in Academy Park, benefiting from the food or donations. To be fair, I’ve also seen a couple of them be “removed” by the APD to protect OA because they were drunk and/or acting violent.

          • Karl Schlegel

            One and the same; those are the homeless who regularly sit/sleep in Academy Park or Lafayette Park with 12-packs of Beast Ice and harass people. Those are the homeless of Albany I’ve come to know in my 3.5 years working on Elk Street, walking through those parks twice each day.

            My “fringe” comment was strictly limited to those whose acts seem to do little more that seek attention through whatever means. They will define the movement in the public eye until any leadership can step up and can direct the message, which seems to be a frustration you share given your comments on how this spectacle has become the movement.

          • http://barre.me -S

            On TU today: The governor could appoint Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as a special prosecutor to supersede Soares (i.e. expecting him to make more arrests). Here is what Schneiderman had to say about your “fringe”: “I think the wrong way to look at this is that it’s some strange group of fringe characters,” Schneiderman said. “I think the right way to look at this is that it’s the tip of an iceberg of very widely felt public sentiment, that there’s been a lack of accountability and that we’re not even trying to live up to our national aspiration of equal justice under law”.

            Word.

            http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Could-a-legal-ploy-scuttle-protest-2269452.php#ixzz1dn6QQU6J

          • Karl Schlegel

            You continue to apply my use of the word “fringe” to a lot more than was ever intended; I meant a radical minority within the movement, not the entirety of protestors (as Schneiderman was speaking about, for context). Please go re-read my initial use of the phrase.

            Frankly your insistence on twisting my words for your own use, in some attempt to spit them back in my face is unnecessary. I have been simply trying to point out that unless some centralized and focused leadership steps up then this movement will continue to be defined in the media and the public by the worst actions of it, by the radical factions within it. I have never made the Occupy movement as a whole out to be some terrible thing, as you seem determined to believe I have.

          • EZ

            Kevin, I think it’s time to rethink the replies layout. Or am I the only one seeing this as one super skinny post?

    • EZ

      “The protesters, on the other hand, wanted to show that you can get “arrested” for something as STUPID as a curfew, so it’s a win-win….Talking about inane park laws just ensures that the debate is *never* elevated”

      Actually, it’s a lose-lose. If the above state is your position, then why are you focusing about inane park laws instead of elevating the debate? Why didn’t you wait ’til after the 11:00 news to break the law? I’m sure the cops would have obligingly arrested you at 1:20 AM. People who want to support the movement don’t really care what half of what park you are located in, they want to see what creative things the movement can do to get this country on the right track.

      I have a feeling that the Occupy Albany group was making a desperate attention grab, I mean Oakland and NYC are alway in the news, even Occupy Vancouver is better at stealing headlines. Occupy Albany should only be around for one reason, to put pressure on those in Albany who make laws that unfairly tip the balance of the nation’s wealth to the obscenely rich. If you want to get arrested so that your name will be forever attached to the movement, go to NYC. If you steal a rich kid’s bicycle, you can be there in a week. If you walk you can get there in 2.5 weeks, much sooner if you have exceptional hitch-hiking skills.

      • http://barre.me -S

        “Why didn’t you wait ’til after the 11:00 news to break the law?”. Get back to me when you are informed. People were in Lafayette Park before 11pm, Russell was arrested in the afternoon for example.

  • Karl Schlegel

    I think the unfortunate root of a lot of the problems with this movement is that there’s a complete vacuum of centralized leadership focusing attention on specific issues and defining the movement.

    Yes, I understand that a point of pride for the Occupy movement is that it is “the people’s movement” and that all decisions are made at general assemblies with input from all (or most). But without someone in particular to lead things, without any leadership at all, this movement is going to ultimately be defined by the most attention-grabbing actions of people within it.

    And that is the way the occupation will end; not with a bang but a whimper.

  • http://barre.me -S

    Surprise, Homeland Security Coordinates #OWS Crackdowns

    “According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.”

    The big “curfew-law” sleight of hand. With a baton at the end of it.

    • Anonymous

      Wait a minute: you mean to tell me that Homeland Security and the FBI gave advice to the New York City Police on an extended encampment of thousands of undocumented people in the middle of Manhattan that was initially organized by and has participants known to be associated with Anarchist and other fringe organizations?

      Fuck. You could knock me over with a feather right now.

  • Karl Schlegel

    Also, to FINALLY answer your question: yes, this is exactly how I felt about the Tea Party; problem is that they’ve been around long enough for the full hangover to set in, and all faith in any good coming from them was lost long ago.

    The party ended the day Christine O’Donnell was taken seriously as a candidate for elected office.

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