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The Occupy Albany encampment in early November. Photo: Karen DeWitt
The Occupy Albany encampment in early November. Photo: Karen DeWitt

Occupy Albany arrests prompt legal showdown

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About a dozen Occupy Wall Street protesters were back in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan's financial district early this morning, talking and trying to stay awake. A judge ruled yesterday that the protesters could return to the park but could not set up camp, or sleep there.

They sat on the park's marble benches, occasionally chanting. About 30 police officers were looking on.

A new poll finds many New Yorkers are supportive of the Occupy movement, and a majority believes they should be allowed to remain in the parks 24 hours a day.

Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn't agree. He's directed state police to arrest demonstrators in Albany.

Protesters have camped out at the city's Academy Park since October 21st. Since this past weekend, dozens have been arrested for crossing into adjacent state-run Lafayette Park.
Demonstrators say they will keep challenging the curfew until the arrests stop. That's set up a three-way showdown between protesters, the governor, and the local prosecutor.

And now, the governor is being asked to appoint a special prosecutor to follow through with those arrests.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

For weeks, the Occupy Albany demonstrators have camped on land owned by the City of Albany, where police have declined to make arrests and the District Attorney says he won’t prosecute peaceful protesters.
 
But, over the past several nights, some of the demonstrators have crossed onto adjacent state land and have violated what the Cuomo Administration says is an 11 pm curfew. At the governor’s request, state police have arrested more than three dozen protesters on charges of trespassing. Occupy organizer Daniel Morrissey says  he expects the action, and the arrests, to continue.
 
“People do want to make their voices heard and observe their rights, especially to civil disobedience,” Morrissey says. 
 
But the Albany County District Attorney, David Soares,  says he has no plans to prosecute those arrested on state land, either.
 
Now, the leader of the Albany Republican Party is asking Governor Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor to follow through on the arrests, if the DA won’t participate.
 
GOP Leader Don Crary went to the encampment to make his request, and was immediately surrounded by jeering demonstrators.
 
He says the governor should appoint the state Attorney General to take over the cases.
 
“I’m calling on the governor to appoint the Attorney General as special prosecutor to handle all trespassing cases on both sides of the line,” said Crary.
 
Crary says he joined protests against the Vietnam War when he was in college in Schenectady in the early 1970’s. He says he believes in the demonstrators’ rights to free speech, but not at all hours of the day and night.
 
A spokesman for Governor Cuomo had no comment on the special prosecutor request. A representative for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also did want to comment.
 
Meanwhile, a new poll shows the majority of New Yorkers think the Occupy protesters have the right to remain in parks 24 hours a day, says Siena’s Steve Greenberg.
 
“57% of voters say ‘yes they should’,” said Greenberg. “40% say ‘no they should not’”.
 
The poll found overall support for the demonstrators dwindling, from 49% last month to 45% now.
 
And Governor Cuomo’s opposition to the protesters’ staying overnight on state land has not hurt the governor’s popularity. The poll finds his high approval ratings remain virtually unchanged, at 72%.

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