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Protesters outside Governor Andrew Cuomo's office Thursday. Photo: Karen DeWitt
Protesters outside Governor Andrew Cuomo's office Thursday. Photo: Karen DeWitt

"Occupy" protesters converge on Albany

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Hundreds of Occupy movement members from around the state descended on the State Capitol Thursday, chanting and voicing their disagreement with Governor Cuomo's economic policies. From the capitol, Karen DeWitt has this report:

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

The protesters held a rally in Lafayette Park across the street from the Capitol, where Governor Cuomo has ordered nightly arrest of protesters who are in violation of what the Cuomo Administration says is an 11 pm curfew.
Then they made their way inside the Capitol building, chanting “we are the 99%”, stopping in Governor Cuomo’s reception area known as the “war room”.  Cuomo opposes extending a state tax on millionaires that expires at the end of the year, a stance the protesters vehemently disagree with. Occupier Rosemary Rivera says Cuomo is paying too much attention to the needs of the rich, and not the rest. 
“We need to educate our children, we need to maintain our public structures, we need to save our bridges,” she shouted.
“We need to put our people back to work,” she said, to cheers.
For the first time, the protesters also set their sights on the State Senate, which is run by Republicans.  Rivera, in the call and response ritual known by Occupiers as “mike check”, says Senators are too beholden to the state’s Business lobby. 
State police presence was heavy, with dozens of extra officers stationed at key posts, including, outside the governor’s door.
No one was detained, but the governor has said state police will continue to arrest those who try to remain on state land overnight.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares has refused to prosecute anyone arrested by the state police, though, saying as long as the demonstrations are peaceful, he won’t interfere and would rather use his time instead to go after more serious crimes, like assault and theft. 
Soares says his approach has been working so far. Up until Cuomo began ordering the arrests, the demonstrators spend three weeks camping peacefully on city land. He says Albany has been a contrast to other cities, like Oakland California, where an aggressive police and prosecutorial crackdown has led to a backlash.
“Watching Oakland, if the decision makers had an opportunity to do it all over again they would not have done what they in fact did,” said Soares.
There have been calls for Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor to supersede Soares authority, and the governor has not ruled that out. The DA says he won’t argue if that occurs.
“That’s certainly within the prerogative of the executive, and we would respect that  decision,” said Soares, but he says he thinks local authorities know best how to handle the demonstrators. 
Governor Cuomo was in Albany but did not engage the protesters.
“Come out, come out and face the people that you left out,” the demonstrators chanted outside the governor’s offices.
Earlier, he said he was not phased by the planned demonstration, and had seen more demonstrators back in March, when the state budget was passed.
In a speech earlier in the day to the fall meeting of the State Democratic Party, Cuomo seemed to take a dig at the Occupy-ers.
“I’m not going to let them play politics where they try to divide upstate from downstate or white from black or rich from poor,” Cuomo said. “We are New Yorkers, and we are one,” said Cuomo, as Democratic Party leaders enthusiastically applauded.
Most of the Occupy demonstrators were gone by day’s end , back on buses to New York City, Rochester and Buffalo. But those in the encampment in the city park remained, and say they will not quit their nightly efforts to cross over on to state land, and continue to be arrested. 

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