While other Occupy Wall Street inspired protests have been criticized for their lack of focus, Occupy Albany is increasingly zeroing in on a defined demand–forcing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to drop his opposition to the popular “Millionaire’s Tax.” So far, Governor Cuomo has responded to Occupy Albany with an unsuccessful attempt to have the protests shut down.
Occupy Albany is taking place in Academy Park, roughly half-a-mile from Governor Cuomo’s office in the Empire Plaza complex. The protest began last Friday. In their first five days in the park, the Occupy Albany protesters have begun to unite around a call for Governor Cuomo to reinstate the so-called “Millionaire’s Tax,” which would affect New Yorkers who make over $200,000 per year. Some protesters even erected a sign labeling the Occupy Albany encampment “Cuomoville.”
“The fact that everybody wants it, that doesn’t mean all that much. … I represent the people. Their opinion matters, but I’m not going to go back and forth with the political winds,” Governor Cuomo said at a news conference earlier this month.
Over the weekend, Governor Cuomo reportedly had his top enforcer, Joseph Percoco, make a call about Occupy Albany. According to the Albany Times Union, Mr. Percoco asked Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings to arrest protesters who remained in Academy Park after an 11 pm curfew. Mayor Jennings and Governor Cuomo previously enjoyed a relatively cozy relationship.
Mayor Jennings, who initially said he would arrest Occupy Albany protesters, told the Times Union he backed down after advisors told him the city could be sued for selective enforcement of the park curfew since they previously allowed other demonstrations in Academy Park.
“My people advised me — they said, ‘Mayor, this is the best way to go,'” Mayor Jennings said.
Albany District Attorney David Soares has said he won’t prosecute any arrested Occupy Albany protesters.
In an interview, on former governor David Paterson’s new radio show Monday, Governor Cuomo brushed off Occupy Albany saying he is totally down with protest movements–and hip hop.
“I have total respect for the right of the demonstrators … It wasn’t too long ago, David, that I was out there myself, demonstrating with Russell Simmons on the Rockefeller drug laws. We had thousands of people show up in New York City, we had Jay-Z and Fifty Cent and we had a mini concert,” Governor Cuomo said.
Governor Cuomo also noted that Albany routinely plays host to protests.
“We believe in the right to demonstrate. … We also believe in the rule of law and we will enforce the law,” Governor Cuomo said.
The New York Post, in its inimitable style, described the Occupy Albany protesters as “about 200 mainly young, hippie-like demonstrators.” Governor Cuomo may need to get used to Occupy Albany, protesters say they’re staying in Academy Park for the “long haul” and won’t leave when frigid winter temperatures hit the Capitol Region.