Arrests at Occupy Albany

occupy albany lafayette arrests 2011-11-12

One of the protesters being arrested.

State Police arrested approximately 25 Occupy Albany protesters in Lafayette Park shortly after 11 pm Saturday. The park is across the street from the Capitol and owned by the state -- the Cuomo administration instituted a curfew there in late October. This group of protesters had gathered in a deliberate attempt to see if there would be a response from the state. [TU]

As they were clearing the park, State Police said they would also arrest members of media in the park. Media members moved to the sidewalk, but then returned to the park and were not arrested.

Saturday afternoon, State Police had arrested an Occupy protester -- Bradley Russell -- in Lafayette Park for building an "illegal structure" there. Occupy Albany had sent out a press release Friday announcing that Russell intended to build the "freedom fort" as a protest against the state curfew. [TU] [OA press release, pasted after jump]

The Occupy Albany protest previously had been contained to the city-owned Academy Park, which is directly adjacent to Lafayette. Officials from the city of Albany and Albany County have said local police would not arrest or charge protesters staying in the city-owned side of the park.

Here's a tweet-by-tweet of how things went down Saturday night, with photos...


A Statement from Occupy Albany Regarding The Planned 11/12 Action in Lafayette Park

At 1:00 PM on Saturday, November 12, Dr. Bradley Russell -- a member of the Occupy Albany community -- intends to begin constructing what he's calling a "freedom fort" and moving his tent from the City of Albany-owned Academy Park to the adjacent area to the west, Lafayette Park, which is owned by the State of New York. While this is an individual action on Dr. Russell's part, Occupy Albany supports his right and the rights of any others who might decide to set up their tents on this parcel of state-owned property.
Russell contends that his move comprises constitutionally protected "expressive conduct" and says that threats of arrest leveled at anyone in Lafayette Park after 11 P.M. constitute an illegal impediment to the lawful exercise of the rights of free speech and free assembly.
The curfew cited by New York State authorities is not publicly posted in or around Lafayette Park. It has also been reported (by Jimmy Vielkind, Times Union) that the curfew appears nowhere in written laws or regulations. Representatives of the state have described the curfew as a tradition passed on verbally over time, but no evidence of it can be found prior to just a few weeks ago. While any such curfew might be subject to legal challenges, the fact that its very existence remains unproven raises the alarming possibility that the state police could be tasked with enforcing a gubernatorial fiat, not a law or regulation derived through proper and recognized process. Occupy Albany would consider such action an abuse of power and a breach of faith with the people of New York.
As a leaderless community governed by general consensus, Occupy Albany participants are free to join Dr. Russell in his action or remain in Academy Park. The choice of any number of people to follow either course should not be construed as a divide in our unity. Those of us taking part here have always had a diversity of concerns and responses, but we stand together on the basic principles set forth by the original Wall Street Occupiers -- most notably, in our outrage over the disproportionate governmental influence wielded by the 1% and the special considerations received by the richest individuals and largest corporations at the expense of our votes, our voices, our democracy, our well-being, and our futures. Whether in Academy Park or Lafayette Park, we stand with and for the 99% and we will not leave until significant change takes place.
# # #
Occupy Albany is built on the non-violent examples set by Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Together movement. The Occupy movement is organized to address critical issues about the nation's economic crisis, consolidation of wealth and power, and the ability of citizens to meaningfully participate in the democratic process.
*We do not have a spokesperson. We are a people's movement. We provide a contact address for ease of communication only.

Find It

Lafayette Park

Albany, NY


How's the destruction of the world economy and abolishing the first amendment working out for you guys?


"Representatives of the state have described the curfew as a tradition passed on verbally over time, but no evidence of it can be found prior to just a few weeks ago."

The same article by Jimmy Vielkind that they cite also says the following:

"An OGS regulation states no person shall remain on state property that "has been designated as closed by a sign or by the commissioner."

Read more:

So that's not quite accurate. And no, it isn't posted, but it also doesn't need to be, and that's designated by written OGS regulation (operative word: "or").

I'm wondering how the Governor will justify putting numerous State Troopers on the clock to arrest peaceful protesters at 11:00 on a Saturday night. Clearly, either overtime was paid, extra Troopers were brought in, or Troopers were diverted from other areas in order to effectuate the arrests. Is there really no better use of the State's financial and law enforcement resources? I understand that the protesters broke the less-than-a-month-old curfew. I also understand that at least some of the protesters did so as a "dare you to arrest me" tactic (something I disagree with). But let's acknowledge the real reasons for these arrests: these protesters dared to challenge Cuomo's authority, they dared to challenge his likely violations of the law (that pesky First Amendment), and Cuomo has been chomping at the bit to arrest them since the Albany P.D., in an extraordinary showing of community support, refused to.

Really, Kevin, you are actually arguing about curfew here?
*bangs head on desk*

I was one of the protesters who stayed as part of the meditation group on Lafayette grounds until the last possible moment before arrests were made. (I cannot fully risk arrest for family reasons, but I support fully those who were able to make that committment to their principles.)

Speaking strictly for myself, I believe there can be no possible justification for telling citizens of a state they cannot peaceably remain on that state's property.... no matter how unpopular it is with the powers that be. I was in the midst of simply sitting and being, a spiritual practice for some folks, myself included.

What right has any official to tell me that I cannot do that at any hour, for any reason? I hold that so long as I am peaceful and not denying anyone else access or undisturbed enjoyment of the space, no one has the right to deny me, or any of my fellow protesters, that ability.

I agree that the law is ridiculous in this case however the answer to that is not to break it. It might be long and tedious but you have to work with legislators to change the law. If you allow citizens to break any law they feel is unfair, that opens a gigantic can of worms. I think the protestors hurt their cause with this move. Previously they appeared to be law abiding citizens with legitimate concerns. Remove the first part and the second part is called into question as well.

I agree that the law is ridiculous in this case however the answer to that is not to break it.


The entire history of civil disobedience disregarded.

Thank you B, for that very relevant response to C. Allow me to add to it.

C, the Occupy Movement began in large part because the system of "working with the legislators" is BROKEN, and horribly so. We are not being listened to, and the fact that the curfew was imposed at all, a mere week before our Occupation of Academy park began is a testament to the fact that they don't WANT to listen to us, let alone work with us. Civil disobedience is, at this point, our only recourse. We are committed to keeping it peaceful, and this is a potential moral/ethical dilemma for some, and each must sort it out in their own terms. But asking them to simply "live with it until it changes" is antithetical to any protest, and working with a broken tool is never advisable.

Your statement indicates that you have great faith in your legislature, that you do not believe it is a broken tool, and that is commendable. But a great many Occupiers have found that it has failed us repeatedly, except when it is politically expedient for them. What Occupy stands for in general is not currently viewed as being expedient for them, politically or otherwise, and so our faith in the system is not so strong.

@ B and Erica- Agreed, there are times in history where civil disobedience worked and was necessary (sit-ins in response to Jim Crow) however there have also been a lot of movements that happened by working with the system and the public to make it happen (Women's Suffrage). The way I see it you have 3 options to get what you want.
1. Work with the system (get your people elected, influence the ones in office etc)
2. Get the public on your side and peacefully overthrow it
3. Violent overflow
I think breaking laws hinders all but the third one.

The system is based on laws and their enforcement so breaking them reduces your credibility. And as you stated you believe the system is completely broken so..

To appeal to the public (the rest of the 99%) you have to look organized and capable and make people really believe in you and your cause. Getting arrested does not make people confident in your ability to truly change things and many people are reluctant to associate with a movement that breaks laws.

And the third one, that's not what your movement wants, but people see you getting arrested and put you in the same category as people who would. Our culture is headline based. They will see you got arrested and likely won't bother to read why.

That's why I think this move hurt your cause. It's about knowing your audience and trying to be as influential as possible to accomplish your goals.


> Getting arrested does not make people confident in your ability
> to truly change things

Says who? On my side, it doesn't make me confident our leadership can handle peaceful protesting, especially by performing childish arrests.

> many people are reluctant to associate with a movement
> that breaks laws.

"many people" are reluctant to associate with a movement that would like to peacefully protest in a park? Can you detach the word "law" for a second and really examine the nature of what we are talking about here? Protesting. In. A. Park. Not setting cars on fire, not chaining oneself to the capitol building, not even a hunger strike. No, it's protesting in a public park. If somebody gets arrested, your reaction should be "for what?", not "screw him!", the nature of the law that was broken *is* relevant, specially in this context.

> And the third one (Violent overthrow ), that's not what your
> movement wants, but people see you getting arrested and
> put you in the same category as people who would.

Getting arrested peacefully (to the occupiers and police credit) puts you in the "violent overthrow" category now? Exaggeration much?

Laws come and go, it is my belief that they are not born equal and worthy of the same respect, especially when made-up. Good thing I'm not a lawyer. That curfew "law" materialized a few weeks ago and has been front page news to distract from the issues and act as a very convenient Sword of Damocles on top of the occupiers. TV loves it, because it's so much easier to spin than discussing or challenging why on Earth you would get cuffed for being in a park in the winter of 2011.

You should not have to fear where you can protest peacefully, end of story. Cuomo could have found or focused on any other equally ridiculous law, say limiting the choice of tent colors, *just* to be able to point out that: "Hey look at these bozos, how can they complain about laws and regulations if they can't even respect a park law?!". Enough is enough, such tactics are transparent and insulting, bigger issues are at stake, it is indecent to put park laws in the same bag as the regulations (or lack thereof) that have enabled the slow, quiet, systematic increase of economic injustice.


C, that may be the way you see it, but American history doesn't bear that out. Women's suffrage in the US came about in no small part due to large-scale civil disobedience, including the first instances of picketing the White House. Alice Paul was famously arrested for chaining herself to the gates. Since the two examples of large-scale systemic change you've mentioned both came about largely due to civil disobedience and related actions, can you actually give us an example where "working with the system" has worked?

You might want to spend some time with the Wikipedia entry on examples of civil disobedience.

@Sarah-I agree to disagree on whether or not Alice Paul we really the one who made it happen. I've read a lot of books about that movement and believe that though she contributed, it was the day to day campaigning that Elizabeth Cady Stanton Susan B Anthony and their followers did that really systematically changed people's minds.

@S -your entire comment assumes that people read why they were arrested and understand the history of that law. As I said before, it's a headline based culture.

Overall I think you are all missing my point. I never disagreed with any of their ideals just the approach. All of you are already supporters. Did their actions this weekend increase the number of people on their side? Based on comments I've heard elsewhere I would say it hurt more than it helped.

I have to admit, I agree with C - breaking the law just makes the protesters lose legitimacy with the general public, particularly those who may be less aware of what is going on with the Occupy protests. Whether we like it or not, image does, in fact, matter in our society.

I like the idea of a peaceful protest, but I can't help but wonder if these efforts and momentum could be better spent by more actively engaging in the political process. There was just a local election, during which several people ran unopposed. That was a missed opportunity for the Occupy movement in Albany, in my opinion. If you want to enact change, why not try from the inside? The group could act as a constituency and elect someone who better represents their interests - or at least someone sympathetic to their cause. That doesn't mean the group would have to give up the protest process, but it would be more action-oriented and possibly more effective in creating change. The change in society often occurs in pockets, a little at a time - and being involved in local politics could've been an opportunity to start that.

Thanks S, and Sarah M. It's good to know there are people who see through the whole "rule of law" red herring that's in play here, and why peaceful Civil Disobedience is so important. There are two questions to be asked in any situation like this (i.e. peaceful protest):

1) What does the law being protested *really* mean (i.e. who/what is it truly designed to benefit or control)?

2) Which specific aspects of question 1 are protesters basing their objections/disobedience on?

Answer these two questions rationally, and then mental boxes like "all laws should be followed" or even, "laws are made to be broken" fall away. All that's left is a personal choice according to personal morals/values/ethics as to what to do with that information.

The key idea here is that it is a personal choice born of individual thought, on individual issues, rather than latching on to opinion from some outside source, accepted without question (headline/media spin culture). As a whole, we humans have had a tendency to accept without question for far, far too long. Question authority. Question protesters. Question Everything. The consequence of not doing so is to sit around in the aftermath and wonder how things went so horrendously awry. Then the only questions left are "Why didn't we see this coming?" and "Why didn't someone do something sooner?"

Things in this country, and the world at large, *have* gone horrendously awry. Occupy is, to no small extent, people realizing their own power (and responsibility) to stand up and do something to prevent it from getting worse, and if possible, reverse the damage.

C & RC, Occupy IS involved in the political process. We have working groups that are figuring out how to "work within the system" as you suggest. Those plans are being put in place, along with solid strategies for being heard and operating in office should someone win that ability. Yes we missed the elections this year, but remember that Occupy Albany itself is only a few weeks old, and it takes months for anyone to be properly prepared to run for office. I'm not sure we would have had time to even get anyone on the ballot this year.

In the meantime, Occupy as a whole is a constant reminder to everyone who learns about us and our continued actions that there is a problem in this country, one that has been continually swept under the rug for decades. Occupy is the lump in that rug, and it's a big one.

Haven't you noticed that so often when some social issue is hot for a while in the media, what happens when it loses its flash and appeal? Everyone stops talking about it, media, politicians, regular people... everyone forgets about it and it just sort of.... goes away. Wrong. The issue didn't go away, it wasn't solved, it's just shoved off the stage. We cannot allow the issues of social, political, and economic injustice to get "shoved off the stage" any longer, because we are approaching meltdown now. EVERYONE, no matter what they believe, needs to be talking about this. And we all need to keep talking about it until we find a solution that works for everyone.

I think daring the Governor to arrest them and then doing exactly what they were warned would get them arrested was rather immature. Imposing and enforcing a curfew seems like a reasonable time, place, and manner "restriction" to me. Does standing on an adjacent plot of land really change their message? I my humble opinion, “No”. The protesters have a place where they are being allowed to share their message with the world and intentionally breaking the curfew and daring the Governor to arrest them just gives weight to some people's charges that the protesters are a bunch of whiney brats (not my words, but there are many that have that opinion from what I've read and heard).

1. Work with the system (get your people elected, influence the ones in office etc)
2. Get the public on your side and peacefully overthrow it
3. Violent overflow

What's being missed here is that civil disobedience actually does fall under "work with the system". If a law is unjust (or unconstitutional) you bring it to the courts by breaking it. Go over the legislators' heads.

The system is based on laws and their enforcement so breaking them reduces your credibility.

Breaking ridiculous laws (has this curfew in Lafayette Park, ostensibly existing to keep vagrants and criminals out after hours, ever been enforced before?) shouldn't hurt one's credibility among anyone with some sense.

Did their actions this weekend increase the number of people on their side?

You assume that's the goal. We are talking about issues. It's working. Now, we may not be talking about the right issues, but one step a time. These folks are learning how to protest, we haven't had good old-fashioned protest in the US in a long time, have to dust off the tools first. Cuomo is happy we keep talking about an idiotic public park law. We'll see if the discussion can be advanced.

If you want to enact change, why not try from the inside? The group could act as a constituency and elect someone who better represents their interests

Occupy as a movement has existed for what, less than three months, right? Occupy Albany even less. You have to screw in the bulb before you can turn on the lights. As Erica said, they are actively engaging in the process in many of the ways you suggest, you can read their message boards to see what they're doing, attending a general assembly is better.

Does standing on an adjacent plot of land really change their message? I my humble opinion, “No”.

Well, that's the point really, isn't it?

You can't connect that to questioning the curfew?

@Colleen: Imposing and enforcing a curfew seems like a reasonable time, place, and manner "restriction" to me

Elaborate please.

The last couple of nights I've heard them drumming and shouting, well past midnight, and I live several blocks away. It seems to me that this protest has taken an unpleasant turn from peaceful to unruly. I acknowledge that this is just my perception, being on the outside of it. However, I would caution the protesters: public opinion of the movement will turn against you if the trend of instigation continues.


the "occupy albany" protesters are in our park under direction of their own free will. by right of their citizenship. the whole point is that they don't need government's permission to "allow" them to stay there.

government has turned a deaf ear to the people, and now they get it in return.

to all of the those that have mentioned these arrests haven't accomplished anything, you should turn on the radio and listen.

i personally am getting an education on our state's laws, statutes, limitations, and how far politics can influence freedom. i challenge you to listen, and NOT be impressed with what this movement has accomplished already.

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."

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