Ever repeat a word so much it loses it’s meaning, becoming gibberish? That’s where I am with “occupy”, it’s only a lingual click and kiss, though I’m no less sympathetic than I was at the start. The last time I mentioned Occupy Albany was in October, politically that’s prehistory, so what’s happened since then?
In October, it did in fact snow, something most of us in Albany forgot about because we didn’t see it again until just a few days ago.
November brought little in the way of inclement weather, easing the occupation’s namesake. As I understand, most of the tents were actually not occupied at night; the vast majority of occupiers, having jobs, families, and other responsibilities, erected them both as a statement of solidarity and to provide shelter for those who needed it and did want to stay the night.
The daily protests and regular meetings continued, and I stopped by when I could to see how things were going. One popular anti-occupy narrative claimed the camp was attracting the homeless who were causing problems. When I visited on the 5th, I saw some people I would knee-jerk classify as homeless, which I can’t confirm, but everyone was friendly and I didn’t hear of any reported issues. The man on the right, below, was nice to me and everyone else, and tried to get his reluctant friend into the photo.
November 11 is Veterans Day. I visited during the parade expecting some clashes; the occupy movement has been branded by the right-wing media as a leftist movement to rival the Tea Party, and the nationalism associated with Veterans Day should be likely to stir tensions, I thought. Aside from some dismissive comments overheard at the parade itself, the occupiers were left to respectfully express themselves, and they were even represented by marching with the Veterans for Peace.
On November 15, a splinter group led by Bradley Russell began challenging the invisible city/state boundary between Lafayette and Academy parks. This repeated nightly several times including arrests. On the 17th, Occupy Albany organized a rally and daytime march to the capitol building, with representatives from across the state including New York City joining.
By the 23rd, all arrest charges had been dropped and the protesters agreed to stop encroaching on Lafayette Park.
December brought unseasonably mild weather to Albany. Occupy Albany had an easy go of continuing their stay in Academy Park. But on December 2nd, the city inspected the camp levying 15 heath and safety violations, giving until December 22 to vacate. The protesters accepted a permit that lasted until the 22nd, but worked to improve conditions toward allowing them to stay beyond.
Many of these violations were on sanitary grounds which the occupiers previously responded to.
On December 5, Occupy Albany removed unoccupied tents and other items in response to the inspection. This didn’t help and the December 22nd vacation (as in “vacate now”, not “go on a holiday”) proceeded. The protesters had a surprise for the Albany Police Department, physically lifting their large last remaining tent off the ground and parading it around the streets of downtown Albany for over an hour.
The APD were extremely lenient and helpful during this march, blocking traffic and escorting the protesters along their several mile path during rush hour. The occupiers attempted to set their tent back down in the park at the end, resulting in our very own pepper spray incident, over which both sides are still arguing. The Capitol Confidential blog has good coverage, I’ll give a shout out here to Jimmy Vielkind who’s been on top of this story from the start, he’s the hardest working person Albany.
In the meantime, on December 20, Occupy Albany released a demand, which did nothing to quiet critics who railed against the occupy movement for having no demand.
So, without a camp, where is Occupy Albany now? They have solidified their message and organization and are continuing to speak out in furtherance of their stated goals. In the early days I said give them time to learn how to effectively protest and organize, which they seem to be doing, yet this is not the endgame. I hesitate to inflate the importance of the occupy movement nationally, but with the GOP presidential nomination race in full swing I find some dots to connect between Occupy and, say, the attack on Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital. Has the message of the 99% penetrated even the staunchly pro-1% Republican Party?
Most recently, Occupy Albany protested the Citizens United ruling by marching at the U.S. District Court on Broadway, complete with a “democracy funeral march”. One of their chants is “the people united will never be defeated” giving an Orwellian doublethink to “Citizens United”. It was 22 degrees and breezy, I didn’t want to stay for more than ten minutes.
You can view my Occupy Albany Photos in slideshows, I’ve broken them down by month: October 2011, November 2011, December 2011, January 2012. Many others have been covering the protest photographically too; Dylan Boyce, Sebastien, Happy Accidents, Tim Raab, dwlcx, MikeCNY; Sotto Voce at Daily Kos has some good photos too. If I missed you, leave a comment with a good link to your Occupy Albany Photos.
I’ll keep documenting Occupy Albany as well as I can.