Occupy Albany: Cops Refused Orders to Shut It Down
What a weekend October 21 thru 22nd turned out to be for night raids of Occupy Chicago, San Jose, Orlando, and Cleveland. Kevin Gosztola contributed his account for FDL yesterday on the mass arrests in Chicago, the report typical of his always excellent reporting and analysis; so I won’t add to it except to lament the taking down of the Chicago Occupation’s med tent and the arrests of, I believe, two nurses for, I suppose, attempted assault with lethal cottonballs.
There were probably other raids and arrests in other of the hundreds of occupations around the United States this past weekend, but, truthfully, even this reporter had no idea until today that 4 had been arrested in Seattle, and am somewhat chagrined I somehow did not learn until late this afternoon about the police refusal to obey orders from the powerful governor of New York and his lacky, the mayor of Albany, to shut Occupy Albany down.
Perhaps largely due to the advanced maturity of Albany’s District attorney, David Soares, state troopers, and the Albany police chief, Steven Krokoff, and his officers in resisting pressure from Governor Cuomo and Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings, who had ordered the kind of middle of the night raid, confiscations and arrests common to treatment of many other occupation across the nation and the world, at least 30 tents remain as of the time of this writing in Academy Park, public property divided in ownership between the city of Albany and the state of New York, and occupied by approximately 700 occupiers of Occupy Albany.
According to the Times Union , on the night of Friday, October 21st, Mayor Jennings, pressured by Governor Andrew Cuomo, ordered arrests of any occupiers who refused to leave the city-owned portion of Academy Park, which is across the street from the Capitol and Albany City Hall. Even a State Police civil disturbance unit had been quietly activated.
According to Times Union senior writer Brendon J. Lyons:
“We were ready to make arrests if needed, but these people complied with our orders,” a State Police official said. However, he added that State Police supported the defiant posture of Albany police leaders to hold off making arrests for the low-level offense of trespassing, in part because of concern it could incite a riot or draw thousands of protesters in a backlash that could endanger police and the public. We don’t have those resources, and these people were not causing trouble,” the official said. “The bottom line is the police know policing, not the governor and not the mayor.”
When state police joined the Albany police, occupiers calmly moved past the property line dividing city and state land. The crowd included elderly people and many others who brought their children with them, and, according to one officer, law enforcement was reluctant to start pulling people away from their kids, explaining, “…what do we do with the children?”
The Times Union managed to obtain a copy of a department wide memo in which Police Chief Krokoff advised his officers, “to be continually aware of the possibility that a small element may intentionally seek to draw us into conflict,” and directing, “”At this time I have no intention of assigning officers to monitor, watch, videotape or influence any behavior that is conducted by our citizens peacefully demonstrating in Academy Park….In the event we are required to respond to a crime in progress or a reported crime, we will do so in the same manner that we do on a daily basis.”
“We don’t have those resources, and these people were not causing trouble,” a state official said. “The bottom line is the police know policing, not the governor and not the mayor.”
On Countdown with Keith Olbermann on Current TV Monday night, Albany District Attorney Soares said no pressure from the governor or the mayor was put on him, and that a lot of credit should go to the protesters for their behavior.
“I believe we made the correct choice,” Soares told Olbermann.
Of course, as in many middle of the night raids of so many occupations across this country and around the globe, the meanest final assault on the occupation camps is the taking down and confiscation of all tents, equipment, belongings and food. Though I will, with great reluctance, bow to the message that when cops storm an occupation like that, they do so without enthusiasm and are just following orders, I can’t resist the visuals that play in my mind of hooded men with torches and of defenders of the “Fatherland” terrorizing neighborhoods of those most vulnerable in the darkest of night.
At least, in the amazing example in Academy Park, other law enforcement officials might learn not only when to obey orders from their political bosses, but when to disobey the fools as well.
Occupy Albany live stream: http://occupystreams.org/item/occupy-albany