Schenectady County

Charges dropped against a dozen Occupy Albany protesters

Charges were dropped against 12 of the Occupy Albany protesters who appeared in Albany City Criminal

Charges were dropped against 12 of the Occupy Albany protesters who appeared in Albany City Criminal Court on Monday.

About 100 people were arrested over the weekend on trespassing and disorderly conduct charges for failing to leave state-owned Lafayette Park by the 11 p.m. curfew. Albany County District Attorney David Soares has indicated that he will not prosecute the demonstrators — who are challenging economic injustice — simply for being in the park.

Protester Nicole Higgins said the prosecutor dropped the charges because the demonstrators were peaceful and did not destroy property or injure anyone.

Higgins said she feels strongly that she has to stand up for what she sees as the “systematic degradation of the working and middle class.”

She said it is not fair to let the “millionaire’s tax” on people who make more than $200,000 a year expire at the end of 2011. The tax brings an estimated $5 billion to the state, Higgins noted, at a time when the state needs money to rebuild areas that were flooded by Tropical Storm Irene, state workers are being laid off and college tuition is being raised.

“It doesn’t seem right to put it on the backs of the middle-class taxpayers,” she said.

Higgins said the Occupy Albany protesters should do more public outreach. “I think there’s a lot of misconceptions of us being a group of jobless bums, which is not the case,” she said.

Higgins herself is a registered nurse. She said many people are working full time or two jobs and have families and children but feel strongly about the movement so they take time out to protest.

Higgins also lamented the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court case that said corporations had the same free speech rights as people, the revolving door between business and those who regulate business, and the fact that wealth is in the hands of too few people.

The Albany County District Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment Monday.

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