Amid more than 45 tents, a makeshift commissary, a library of donated reading materials and a fully staffed information tent rests a message written in all caps with black marker on white tag board: “Welcome to Cuomoville.”
The healthy crowd of “Occupy Albany” protesters, ranging from as few as a couple dozen to a couple hundred depending on the time of day, have set up camp since Friday in Academy Park, across the street from both the state Capitol and Albany City Hall.
And while the group’s mission statement is in line with the anti-corporate-greed message of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City, the focus has quickly shifted to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose office has said state police will enforce an 11 p.m. curfew in the state-owned portion of the park.
Appearing Monday on former Gov. David Paterson’s radio show on WOR 710 AM in New York City, Cuomo said he respects the right of the protesters to gather, but said the state is obligated to enforce the rules.
Protests around the Capitol are nothing new, Cuomo said, pointing to the thousands of demonstrators who gathered when the state was considering a law legalizing same-sex marriage.
“We believe in the right to demonstrate. We also believe in the rule of law, and we enforce the law,” Cuomo said. “And that’s how the state handles it, and individual cities will make their own determinations.”
Occupy Albany participants insist they’re willing to stay in the park for the long haul, and it appears city officials are going to let them.
Mayor Gerald Jennings told the New York Post that Cuomo’s office wanted the protesters out of the park at night, but city precedent would allow them to stay. Protesters have settled into Academy Park, which is owned by the city; Lafayette Park sits to the west on the same plot of land, and is owned by the state.
“Some of the governor’s people were pretty firm about our not doing this, letting them stay in the park, but basically, we had allowed this before . . . and my counsel said we’d be opening ourselves up to civil liability if we forced them out,” Jennings told the Post.