On their second day in Academy Park, protesters of “Occupy Albany” began settling in for the long haul.
The park’s newest inhabitants spent Saturday learning protest songs, raking leaves, sprucing up more than 20 campsites, organizing their supplies and waving signs for passing motorists on Washington Avenue.
“As we’re occupying this we’d like to set the best example so that people can see what this movement is all about,” said Josh Twedtspoor, 30, of Cobleskill. He spent the early afternoon raking up leaves and had his sights on cleaning up the sidewalks in and around the park.
“It’s not about recklessness or lawlessness. It’s about creating our own order,” he said.
The attendance in the park during the day did not match the approximately 200 people of Friday’s general assembly, or a few hours later when a throng gathered as the park’s 11 p.m. curfew came and went.
Twedtspoor says he’ll eventually have to leave the park to go to work, but for now he is committed to staying. A veteran of the Occupy Wall Street movement, his supplies consisted of a tent, sleeping bag and toothbrush.
“I don’t think we’re missing out on much,” Twedtspoor said. “What’s happening is right here.”
The happenings in the park drew the interest of Vince Quackenbush, 60, of Albany, who stopped by to check things out. His cynical assessment was that he was watching the “callow youth” making the mistakes they need to made. But Quackenbush sympathized with the cause and had his own ax to grind about the role of money in politics, especially with the ability of corporations to finance campaigns.
His only hope for the movement is that it remain pure. He said, “The tea-baggers totally got co-opted by the Republicans. I hope they avoid co-optation, even by nice Democrats.”
New to this sort of event was Scott Barnes, 28, of Rensselaer, who has been following the Occupy movements around the country. “I got really excited about it. I’ve never really been the activist type to come out and do something like this,” he said. “Everybody has a different reason they’re here, but the biggest reason is overcoming the apathy that is in our country right now.”
Shortly after 2 p.m. a circle of musicians formed in the hope of rectifying a problem that presented itself on Friday night, when an attempt at playing “If I had a Hammer” failed.
“There were so many young people that didn’t know that song,” said Ruth Pelham, 62, of Albany. She and a young guitarist remarked on Friday night the need for a crash course in protest songs on Saturday. The result was a jam session that went back-and-forth between old folk songs and class rock ’n’ roll protests, like “Revolution” by the Beatles.
Pelham was very encouraged by the circle and said that this was a way to keep the movement alive. “The message continues from one generation to another,” she said. Pelham has long been involved with regional public music efforts.
Banging two sticks together along with the beats was James Bernhardt, 44, of Saratoga Springs. Earlier in the day he had been at a version of the Occupy movement at Saratoga Springs.
“It’s all coming together. People are finally realizing that there is a people’s movement,” Bernhardt said. “The only way there will be change is if we come together.”
While his number one priority was peace, he noted that everyone has been hurt by the harsh economic realities that have swept the country. “I’ve got a sister who lost her job and her husband lost his job ... They have three children at home and they’re about to lose their home,” he said.
It remained unclear Saturday whether the city police would enforce the park’s curfew, which they did not do on Friday night. The Occupy Albany’s legal group believed that Saturday could be different, as it said Gov. Andrew Cuomo was pressuring Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings to enforce the law.
The governor’s office did not return a request for comment.