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Occupation Nation

Occupy Albany takes over Academy Park

by Cecelia Martinez on October 27, 2011

Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

With the immediate threat of ejection, arrest and other police intervention mostly subsided, the protesters participating in Occupy Albany at Academy Park are transitioning their focus, with many preparing to settle in for a long haul in cold weather and some adjusting their sights toward Gov. Andrew Cuomo after he reportedly pressured city and state police to enforce Albany’s 11 PM Curfew in the park. With more than 100 protesters occupying the park on a weekday evening, occupiers said the response has been steadily growing and that the reaction and support from the public has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Every once in a while someone will give us the finger or something, but about 95 percent of the response we get is extremely positive,” said Robert Magee, an Albany attorney who is part of the movement’s legal working group and was a part of the discussions with local and police officials about whether occupiers would be able to stay in the park after hours.

When asked if the occupiers’ sentiments toward Cuomo changed after the weekend’s controversy, Magee said “It did. It’s hard to say exactly how, but I think the way it was handled, it really made him look bad. Albany definitely has strong allies in Mayor Jennings, Chief Krokoff and David Soares.”

Magee said that for the time being the movement has commitments from local officials that they won’t be removed—as long as other laws aren’t violated and the protest remains peaceful—but that the concern continues. “I think it’s always going to be there on some level,” he said.

Some occupiers feel strongly about Cuomo’s intervention, one even posting a sign saying “Cuomoville” at one end of the tent area. Eddie Alkorabi, who lead a chant of “Hey ho, corporate greed has got to go” Tuesday evening, said that he personally had a message for Cuomo.

“Don’t take a bullet for Wall Street, take a bullet for your people in Albany,” he said. “The 1 Percent aren’t the people that elected you, we are.”

Hezzie Johanson, a member of the public relations working group, has occupied Academy Park on and off since Saturday. She said that, with the initial concerns of police intervention at bay, occupiers are able to focus in on the core philosophies and how they can effect change. Two new working groups have sprung up organically over the protest’s first four days, including the political and electoral reform group and one focused on art and music that is presumably in charge of the ongoing drum circle.

Johanson said that she doesn’t believe that there has been a major shift toward targeting Cuomo, but noted that because the movement is leaderless and consisting of many different types of participants, that some individuals may have different areas of focus.

“There has been a great willingness to participate and take initiative,” said Johanson. A poster with available actions, including possible locations for additional protests, is created through the general assembly and posted each day, but Johanson noted that the actions are not necessarily sanctioned or required, and that in the spirit of the movement, individuals choose how and how often to participate.

The food and comfort working groups will have their work cut out for them leading into the weekend, with cold temperatures and some rain expected. Working groups are also preparing for Occupy the Capital Day on Saturday, which will include a march, teach-ins and a statewide general assembly of the Occupy movement.

For more information, visit occupyalbany.org.