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Photo: Karen DeWitt
Photo: Karen DeWitt

Occupy Albany keeps warm

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Weekend snow has not deterred protesters at Occupy Albany, a growing encampment across the street from the State Capitol. The demonstrators are firing up newly-acquired outdoor heaters and planning more actions, including future protests against the expiration of a millionaires tax and the possibility of state worker layoffs. Karen DeWitt paid a visit to the encampment and has this report.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Occupy Albany member Daniel Morrissey primes the starter on a propane fueled outdoor heater that he says will help keep the protesters at the camp in the Albany City Park, even during winter weather like the past weekend’s snow storm.

“We’re committed to staying out here to defend our rights,” Morrissey said. “We’ve got to keep the people warm so they can hang out all day, all night.”

The propane heaters will line a sidewalk area. Morrissey says they will not be inside any tarps or tents.

The demonstrators are also planning on experimenting with solar power, like solar pool covers, in an attempt to winterize the now more than 50 tents in the park, says protester Joanne Farrell.

“There are many solar products out there that are perfectly safe,” Farrell said.

Morrissey says meanwhile, around 80 protesters spent the night Saturday and Sunday have kept warm by filling up on a steady stream of donated hot soup.

“I ate seven soups yesterday,” said Morrissey, who says he’s touched by the support, much of it, he says coming from people who live in the suburbs.

“It’s really amazing to see,” he says.

As he spoke, cars passing the encampment honked their horns in support.

The demonstrators already have plans for the week. They will protest at the federal building on Wednesday to express support for protesters in Oakland California, who were tear-gassed by police and shot at with rubber bullets. On Friday, they plan to close accounts with Bank of America. And they have not forgotten state government related issues either, says Morrissey, who says demonstrations will continue opposing Governor Cuomo, who the protesters call “Governor One Percent” , for Cuomo’s support to end  an extra income tax surcharge on New Yorkers making more than a million dollars a year when it runs out December 31st.

Cuomo contends that only a federal tax on the rich is feasible, and that letting the one in New York remain will only result in an exodus of millionaires from the state to New Jersey and Connecticut.
Morrissey disagrees with that.

“It’s a ridiculous rational,” Morrissey says, with a laugh. “As if they are really going to move out of New York State.”

The group held a demonstration outside Cuomo’s offices a few days ago and marched to the governor’s mansion  on Saturday.

Joanne Farrell says some are also concerned about the prospect of lay offs of state workers. The state worker union, the Public Employees Federation, is voting on a second contract offer, after the first was
rejected, and the votes are due on Thursday. Governor Cuomo has said that if the contract is voted down again, he will terminate 3500 state workers to plug a budget gap.  

“Do they want more tents here?” asks Farrell, who predicts that the encampments numbers will increase if the lay offs occur.

“Because I’ve had 15 people ask me to reserve them a space.” said Farrell.

Unlike other cities' law enforcement, the Albany police and District Attorney have decided not to arrest or prosecute protesters. Governor Cuomo, after reports were published that said he initially tried to convince the City of Albany to end the demonstration, now says it’s up to City officials to deal with it as they choose.

The demonstrators will meet with city officials again on Tuesday to talk about their plans to keep the encampment going for the winter when the legislature returns to the Capitol.

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