Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

‘The Moral High Ground’: Defying Governor and Mayor, N.Y. State Police; Albany Police Refuse to Arrest ‘Occupy’ Protesters

Defying pressure from the governor and mayor to arrest  ‘Occupy Albany’ protesters, state and local police have refused to apprehend the peaceful demonstrators.

According to the Albany Times-Union, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had been pressing Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings to enforce a city curfew and arrest ‘Occupy Albany’ protesters. Jennings, in turn, last Friday directed Albany police to apprehend any occupiers who refused to leave the city-owned portion of Academy Park, near the state Capitol and City Hall.

To prepare for possible mass arrests, a State Police civil disturbance unit was dispatched. But the demonstrators complied with an order to move from the state-owned section of the park to the city-owned portion, averting arrests.

That placed the demonstrators within the jurisdiction of the Albany Police Department, which resisted pressure to arrest the peaceful occupiers. Part of the reason was that the APD didn’t want to incite a riot or an influx of protesters reacting to hypothetical arrests. But officers also didn’t want to damage relations with the community they are paid to serve.

Citing the fact that there were children and elderly people among the occupiers, one officer told the Times-Union that “there was a lot of discussion about how it would look if we started pulling people away from their kids and arresting them.” “And then what do we do with the children?” he asked.

The State Police expressed their support of the APD’s refusal to arrest people for low-level trespassing offenses. “We don’t have those resources, and these people were not causing trouble,” a State Police official told the Times-Union. “The bottom line is the police know policing, not the governor and not the mayor.”

It’s not just the cops. Albany District Attorney David Soares expressed his concern over the prosecution of “peaceful protesters.”

“Our official policy with peaceful protesters is that unless there is property damage or injuries to law enforcement, we don’t prosecute people protesting,” Soares told the Times-Union. “If law enforcement engaged in a pre-emptive strike and started arresting people I believe it would lead to calamitous results, and the people protesting so far are peaceful.”

As of Sunday morning, there were around 30 tents in the park, with APD officers seemingly turning a blind eye to the occupiers, who were technically in violation of the city’s curfew.



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