So, Occupy Albany is no more. The police swept in armed with a court order and pepper spray, took down the tents and ousted the occupants. I stopped by the next morning with the intention of interviewing those who might have returned for a daytime vigil and found there were none.
The place was deserted except for three perky students of broadcast journalism who were practicing stand-up commentary for the benefit of a teacher armed with a miniature video camera.
“All you’ll find today are garbagemen picking up the remnants of the protesters,” one of them said into her microphone, making it sound as if arms and legs were strewn about the park.
Actually there were no garbagemen and no remnants either; this was just practice, the sort of thing a perky newsperson might say if the scene had been as expected.
Much of the ground of Academy Park was hard-packed and barren from the two-month encampment, but otherwise there was little sign of what had been. I spotted a child’s glove, a paint brush, an orange peel, a bicycle leaning against a tree. Otherwise it was swept clean.
A couple blocks away I bumped into Joe Seeman, an aging lefty activist who was not a camper but a daily visitor to the encampment and an enthusiastic supporter. He described the police dismantling of the camp as “nothing but a macho show of brute force,” which he said was “completely unnecessary,” given that the protesters were themselves peaceful.
I argued that clearly the protesters weren’t going to leave simply by being asked. He responded that they weren’t asked. The police just came in and bullied them.
“We were not causing a problem,” he said, identifying himself with the occupiers. “The only reason they moved us out is we were in the face of the political establishment, and we were not going to let them get away with anything. We were a threat to the political establishment and to the 1 percent that owns the political establishment.”
Which may be true to some extent but not to the extent he thought, at least in my view. I can’t imagine that the Wall Street giants who gamble with our national economy were much discommoded by Occupy Albany. The entire Occupy Wall Street movement that started small and quickly spread across the nation may have been a momentary worry, but that movement was busted weeks ago, and the Albany remnant couldn’t have been a concern to anyone but Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Jerry Jennings.
It existed as long as it did largely because of the implict support of District Attorney David Soares, who declined to prosecute protesters as long as they remained peaceful.
It came to an end, apparently, because Jennings and his police chief decided they couldn’t let it go on indefinitely, a park in the heart of governmental downtown turned into a permanent antiestablishment tent city run on anarchic principles of equality and populated by idealistic students, vagrants, welfare mothers, vegetarians and out-of-work poets. Please.
So elected officials argued the usual — safety — and sent in the cops.
As I was leaving the area, driving up Washington Avenue, I passed a guy striding down the street in the direction of the park carrying a sign saying “End Corp. Greed,” and I figured that was as good a three-word slogan as any for this movement, which will now become a tiny footnote in American history.
I wanted to wish him luck, but I had chanced a U-turn to catch Joe Seeman and gotten away with it and didn’t want to press my luck. I let him go on his way. Maybe he would arrive in time for the broadcast students to meet him and have someone real to interview.
“How do you feel?” they might ask, as television reporters always do, and he could give them a speech about the evils of greed.
Well, it was nice while it lasted, but as every commentator commented, it had little focus. I visited just two of the movement’s locations — Academy Park in Albany and Zucotti Park in New York City, which was ground zero, so to speak — and I gathered that the way of living and conducting business in the camps was itself the message.
That message was, all people are equal and everything is to be done communally, as in 19th century anarchist fantasies. It was lovely for a little while.