As rain and snow began to fall Saturday afternoon, demonstrators from other upstate cities trickled into Academy Park to join their Occupy Albany friends in a show of support.
The regional gathering was part of a nationwide Occupy Your Capital day, where groups from numerous cities exchanged reports and ideas.
“It’s just a way of coordinating in person between the different regional groups,” said Hezzie Johanson, of Occupy Albany’s public relations working group. “This way we can start having a network of statewide participation in the movement, so it’s not just centralized in a bunch of different locations.”
As Albany protesters entered their ninth day of occupation in the park near the Capitol, its encampment grew larger and somewhat more weatherproof. Members hung tarps over many of the dozens of tents in Academy Park, swept hay onto muddy patches of grass and brought blankets, coats, scarves, umbrellas and anything else needed to prepare for the night’s storm.
Safety concerns grew just a couple of days after lighter snow fell in Albany, with notices going on trees and around the park asking members to move their tent to a safe place if they think there is danger of falling branches.
Early Saturday afternoon was not the fall weather campers would hope for. The wet snowfall began around 3 p.m. But red cheeks and noses and the sight of their own breath didn’t appear to slow down meetings of the general assembly and regional Occupy groups.
“We have some experienced winter campers here so they’ve been sharing their skills,” Johanson said. “And they’ve been doing some really intense preparing, especially for the storm that’s supposed to be coming tonight or tomorrow.”
Johanson spoke with members and visitors to the Occupy encampment from an information booth that had been set up in Academy Park. Just prior to 3 p.m., a line of marchers bearing signs and chanting “We are the 99 percent” came up the sidewalk in front of the park to prepare for a meeting of the general assembly.
march and incident
Before the day’s planned 2 p.m. march to the Governor’s Mansion, the first incident of a forceful counter-protest was sparked by a lone individual. Vietnam veteran Alfred Davis initiated a physical confrontation with some of the protesters, grabbing their arms and pushing into them while calling their occupation and protests illegal, Johanson said.
No members of the movement were injured or hurt, said Johanson. She said police asked if anyone wanted to press charges against Davis, but no one did at that point.
“We periodically have agitators that come through — just people on their own personal agenda and I think it was just another one of those things,” she said. “What we try to do is keep the focus away from them. It’s something that we as a group, because we’re so vocal and in the public eye, think is going to happen every now and again.”
By the time the general assembly gathered for consensus opinion on group reports and proposals, members were ready to welcome ideas from outside the capital and form a more cohesive and unified message on behalf of statewide Occupy groups.
On hand were units from Poughkeepsie, Glens Falls, and a few members from Saratoga Springs and Utica movements.
“Echo” and “Echo,” two representatives from Occupy Poughkeepsie, informed a crowd of about 100 that groups in New Paltz recently voted to have Poughkeepsie serve as the central point for all the lower Hudson Valley groups.
“Ergo, we are the center of Occupy Hudson Valley,” said one Echo. “We are here to show support, to network, to organize and to troubleshoot. We love you all. This is amazing.”
Occupy Glens Falls was also on scene at Academy Park and invited all locals within 100 miles of the Warren County city to join its working groups.
The point of Saturday’s Occupy Your Capital was not to make any overarching decisions for the movement in New York state, members said. Rather, it was a show of commitment and unity with the entire Occupy movement’s concern about economic inequity, corporate corruption, and the burden the 99 percent bears.
“Right now there’s no thought that we’re disbanding any time soon and we’re all ready to just endure,” Johanson said.
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Categories: Schenectady County