Albany GOP official wants special prosecutor for Occupy protesters

A Republican Party official clashed verbally with Occupy Albany protesters today and urged Democrati

A Republican Party official clashed verbally with Occupy Albany protesters today and urged Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor to handle curfew violations by the demonstrators in a public park next to the state Capitol.

Protesters have camped out at the city’s Academy Park since Oct. 21. Starting this past weekend, troopers have made 59 arrests of those who crossed into adjacent state-run Lafayette Park, including 20 overnight Monday, testing Cuomo’s vow to enforce an 11 p.m. curfew there.

Most of those arrested face trespassing and disorderly conduct charges, but District Attorney P. David Soares said he won’t prosecute peaceful protesters.

Albany County Republican Chairman Don Clarey went to the encampment Tuesday to tell reporters that Cuomo should appoint a special prosecutor.

“The rule of law is at stake here,” Clarey said. “We need to enforce the law.”

Demonstrators surrounded him with signs bearing slogans such as “Got Lies” and “Robin Hood was right” and countered that they have a constitutional right to be there.

“The Constitution is the law of the land,” some chanted, making him difficult to hear.

Clarey said he had a free speech right, too, and they were violating it. A protester replied that since they weren’t the government they couldn’t do that to him.

Clarey also said he has no problem with their protests during the day and he was a demonstrator himself 40 years ago against the Vietnam War.

Mayor Jerry Jennings has allowed the group to set up about 50 tents in the city park since Oct. 21. Fire department inspectors did a safety check on Monday.

Protester Daniel Morrissey said city officials, police officers and firefighters are treating them respectfully, with the demonstrators working to keep the encampment in good shape.

Cuomo has vowed to enforce the curfew in the adjacent state park, and some protesters have vowed to keep crossing over at night to challenge that until the arrests stop.

More demonstrators from around the state, plus support from organized labor, are expected to arrive Thursday to join events including a march to the offices of business lobbyists and to the Capitol, Morrissey said.

“Albany is essentially the soapbox for the entire state,” he said.

Cuomo spoke with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday, before Bloomberg ordered the Occupy Wall Street encampment removed from a park in lower Manhattan, citing health and safety concerns. Bloomberg, an independent, said the decision was entirely his.

Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said today the governor “supports each mayor across the state’s ability to handle this matter as they decide.” He had no immediate comment on whether Cuomo would appoint a special prosecutor for the Albany cases.

Soares said today that his decision not to prosecute peaceful protesters was neither politically motivated nor a passive law enforcement stance.

“So long as we have no violence that is being perpetrated against law enforcement and no damage to state property, there’s room for peaceful coexistence here,” he said. “I support the right of all parties to assemble peacefully and express their points of view.”

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