Sunday, October 30, 2011

Occupy Albany

Though I posted my support for Occupy Wall Street in a blog a couple weeks ago, I regret that I have not been able to cover any of Occupy Albany in person. I've been so busy lately I haven't even had a chance to walk down there.  (I live only 4 blocks from the protest.)  However,  I have some links to other sources, as well as some snippets of stories coming out of there. 

Occupy Albany began Friday, October 21st in Lafayette Park, across from the Capitol building on Washington Avenue.  They've been camping out there since.

A photo from one of the first days of the protest.
Later the first night, they marched up Lark Street.  They did so again yesterday, but I was too asleep to see it.  Here is some video from the first march, taken from my apartment window:

This was taken from the front entrance of my building.  A protester gave us his thoughts.

The second night of the protest, a fight broke, to put it more accurately, one of the protesters was attacked by a veteran who has recently returned from the Middle East.  Here is the story from the attacked man, taken from Occupy Albany's Facebook page.

"Lil' bit rougher night at Occupy Albany as I was assaulted by really two drunk vets pissed off that I would use am American eagle on a sign advocating "Free Speech". Despite telling me over and over how he went to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight for my right to be there protesting, the main one apparently decided he wanted to fight me to be sure I didn't have that right...

After ranting a bit and shoving cell phone pics of buddies he had lost in my fave, he sort of flipped when I told him I had spent the last 10 years trying to be sure he and all of his buddies were brought home ASAP, alive and well. So he jumped me and ripped my sign out of my hands and started to sprint through the crowd with it. I made the two step chase and he sort of tackled me. But, he was small and and I landed squarely on top of him with his face getting it badly from the sidewalk. I took minor scrapes to one hand. State cops got the one that didn't really attack me at the scene as the crowd stopped him from bolting. The one that mixed it up bolted through the crowd and was caught by a sprinting NY State police officer. He was so badly bloodied it took while to establish had had not been beaten en masse by the crowd.The crowd had in fact been great, getting me remove from the brawl and relentlessly chanting "We are non-violent" throughout. I then made an impromptu little speech about not being silenced by violence or threats thereof.

I was in process of filing a disorderly conduct charge when the cops asked me if I would consider talking an apology instead as he was just back from Iraq and apparently "not adjusting well". Apparently he is in town for VA hospital treatment. I told them I was happy not to make any more problems for the young guy than he apparently already had. Under the very close police supervision he begrudging shook my hand after staring silently and angry at me for about 30 seconds and just tersely saying, "Have a good night." Then the drunk got the best of him and he wanted to launch into more nonsense. Said something about how his father had worked at the holocaust museum and "was one of those liberal guys." At that point the police hustled me away to end whatever he was ramping up to verbalize.

It was sad. It is sad to see peaceful protesters attacked for advocating free speech. It is sad that this poor kid that went where he never should have been sent. It is sad tht he is apparently so screwed up. It is sad that there are so many more like him. I just hope when his hangover wears off, he realizes what I huge favor I did him by not pressing charges.

A YouTube video featuring an interview of the protester:

Here is a video of the attack itself:

It's sad that such an attack occurred in the first place.  But kudos to the Albany and New York State police that ended the situation quickly, and tried to resolve the conflict as they saw fit. 

Also on the Occupy Albany Facebook page, this was posted the day after the attack, in a post about the attack, by a woman by the name of Rachel Wood wrote this in the comments:

"Good, the people of Albany aren't afraid of you like the people in NYC" 

I responded a couple of comments down from hers, and I want to repeat it here:

"Rachel, this person of Albany fully supports the Occupy Albany movement, and is ashamed to share such a wonderful city with someone who would condone violence against those exercising their rights of free assembly.  You do not speak for the people of Albany."

The Albany Police Department also seems to disagree with Rachel Wood, as well as Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York State and Jerry Jennings, the mayor of Albany.  There is a curfew of 11:00 pm in the park occupied by the protestors.  Both the governor and mayor have asked the police department to enforce this, which the department has refused to do.  In an article by Andrew Jones of The Raw Story,  a state official was quoted as saying "We don't have those resources, and these people were not causing trouble.  The bottom line is the police know policing, not the governor and not the mayor."

As an Albany resident who supports the free exercise of the Constitutional rights and does not wish to see already high taxes increase a dime, this is welcome news.

And as an American citizen, I'd like to say that the experience of Occupy Oakland is repulsive.  Protesters were tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets and blocked by police in riot gear, including, in a bizarre reflection of the Albany story,  Marine Lance Cpl. Scott Olsen a recently returned 24 year old veteran who had served two tours in Iraq.  Speaking of the Marines and Occupy Oakland, one Marine soldier was quoted in an article as saying the force used by the police in Oakland is prohibited in war zones.

 A short video of the attack on Occupy Oakland by the police. 

You can send a letter to the Albany Police Department thanking them here, as well as encouraging them to keep up the good work.

For more information, you can visit the Occupy Albany website, their Facebook page and their Twitter.  There is also a LiveStream apparently, but I can never get it to work and it has obnoxious ads.  I say Google it.  Actually, I recommend searching Occupy Albany on YouTube if you are interested in more videos.

There is a list in the forums of items needed by the protesters.  As soon as I get some time, I'm going to check it out and bring down what I can.  It's getting cold and the weather is going on an unseasonable attack on these people.  While I thought the recent snow was so cute,

Thursday night.

Friday morning.

All these pictures were of The College of Saint Rose, being beautiful during and after a snow storm.
it's got to be difficult for the occupiers.  I was in a car going past the park last night and they were still out there.  I would imagine that if anything warm or dry can be donated, it would be appreciated.

On the other hand, an article published today by Daily Kos shows them to be in good spirits.  Maybe it's the inner warmth that comes from knowing you're doing something for good, for others, as well as yourself.

I hope everyone out there is safe during the storm.  And I hope you can make some contribution to the protesters at Lafayette Park.  And I hope you have a Happy Halloween, snowy (!!!) though it may be.

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