Occupy Albany had its first brush with the law Saturday afternoon, with two dozen more arrests before midnight.
State Police kept their promise from the first day of occupation and arrested protesters Saturday night who violated Lafayette Park’s 11 p.m. curfew.
For weeks, protesters have avoided arrest, remaining in Academy Park, which is connected to Lafayette Park and across the street from the state Capitol, under the protection of city Mayor Jerry Jennings and Albany County District Attorney David Soares. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been vocally opposed to the Albany encampment, which he has openly mocked, and has made it clear that he wanted curfews to be enforced in the state-owned Lafayette Park and city-owned Academy Park.
On Saturday night the state police got to enforce the Lafayette Park curfew.
More than an hour before the 11 p.m. deadline, more than 20 state troopers had assembled at the park. Some circled the sidewalk and others remained warm in large vans parked on Hawk Street that would eventually be used to cart prisoners off.
As the police waited for time to pass, about 50 protesters from the Occupy movement were actively chanting at the fountain in Lafayette Park, with their tents in Academy Park almost completely abandoned.
About 20 minutes before the deadline, a handful of troopers walked into the park and one armed with a megaphone warned the crowd of the impending curfew. He promised that the curfew would be enforced, as had been plainly stated to protesters the afternoon the occupation began.
Minutes before the deadline, about half of the protesters left the park, with most of them heading up to the sidewalk on Hawk Street where they could watch the unfolding events. They had a while to wait, though, as police came back into the park at 11 p.m. to inform people that they were violating the park’s curfew, but they did not arrest anyone. After backing the vans into the park and reading a couple more warnings, police began the process of arresting 24 people around 11:20 p.m.
Police and protesters were very calm during the process. Three or four troopers would methodically move through the group, arresting one peaceful protester at a time.
A few minutes into the arresting process, a few troopers forced members of the media to leave by telling them they would be arrested if they stayed in the park. Because not all of the media members were asked to leave, those who were pushed out came back into the park after about 20 minutes on the sidelines. They joined legal advisors from the group who were witnessing the entire event.
Legal advisor Robert Magee said the police had allowed them to stay to document the process and so they could clean up the signs afterwards. He said the police were very respectful and appeared to be handling the arrests peacefully. Magee said he felt the arrests were pointless.
After a while, the arrests slowed, as the police had to bring in more vans to take away prisoners. While moving prisoners out of the park there were some tense moments when protesters blocked the path out of the park, but they quickly moved out of the way when they learned it was a stiff offense to impede the actions of the police.
According to state police, those charged with trespassing were:
Dusty Catlin, 26, of Colonie
Raymond Carrasquillo, 43, of Schenectady
Nicole Higgins, 27, of Albany
David Panza, 21, of Albany
Andrew Kenefick, 26, of Albany
Vincent Cuti, 19, of Cairo
Christopher Scully, 23, of Troy
Daniel Morrissey, 24, of Albany
Rhiannon Hill-Catiln, 29, of Colonie
John Weidman, 22 of Coleman, Fla.
Spencer Cline, 51, of Albany
Soojee Eckardt-Rigbeg, 16, of Delmar
Daniel Kelly, 57, of Albany
Jennifer Kotary, 24, of Albany
David Dipasquale, 27, of Albany
Rick Borecki II, 27, of Colonie
Ruben Bruchez,36, of Cohoes
Nicole Parvis, 18, of Niskayuna
Sheila Fitzgerald, 24, of Troy
Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez, 29, of Cohoes
Charlene Lynch, 41, of Chesapeake, Va.
Joanne Farrell, 47, of Rensselaer
Walter Schoonmaker, 25, of Colonie
Michael Barr, 25, of Albany
Russell Bridge, 40, of Albany
State police said all those arrested were released on tickets to appear in City Court.
The first arrest on Saturday was of 39-year-old Bradley Russell of Albany, who was given a citation for trespassing. State police arrested Russell after they said he began arranging cardboard signs into a shelter he called “Fort Freedom” and refused to stop.
Russell was charged with trespass and released on a ticket to appear Nov. 22 in City Court.
Russell had previously stated that he would challenge the curfew, but after his arrest in the afternoon, he said he wasn’t sure he would risk getting arrested twice in one day.
In a release put out by Occupy Albany, organizers said the movement supported Russell’s actions. An individual speaking for the group characterized the decision to break the 11 p.m. curfew in Lafayette Park, however, as “an individual action.”
The release also highlighted the ambiguous nature of the curfew in Lafayette Park, which organizers said is not publicly posted and not codifi ed. “Gubernatorial fi at” is how they described the curfew enforced by state police.
In the hours leading up to the curfew, Occupy Albany members began preparations for a showdown, alerting the media and rallying more bodies to Academy Park.
Apparently not related to the Occupy movement was the arrest of a homeless man in Lafayette Park about 6 p.m. State police said they responded to the park after receiving reports of an intoxicated male swinging a hatchet.
Troopers arrested Spencer Cline, 51, who they believe was living in the Occupy encampment. He was charged with disorderly conduct, released on a ticket to appear Friday in City Court and was back in the park later Saturday.
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Categories: Schenectady County