State police arrested 33 demonstrators Wednesday outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office in the second batch of arrests during the most heated budget session in years.
The protesters were led by faculty and students from the City University of New York, which faces a 10-percent cut in funding under Cuomo’s proposed budget. The five busloads of demonstrators drew parallels to the fight for fundamental union rights under assault in Wisconsin’s statehouse in Madison.
CUNY protesters and companion groups also decried proposed cuts in public school aid and social service programs.
“Tax the rich, not the poor; stop the war on CUNY!” and “Stop the war on teachers!” were among the chants during the half-hour demonstration. “Wisconsin, New York, the struggle is the same!” was another. Protesters wore tags that stated, “We are all Wisconsin.”
The Professional Staff Congress of CUNY said six students were arrested along with faculty members. The demonstrators remained seated until troopers quietly asked them to move, then helped them up, clasped the demonstrators’ hands behind their backs with a plastic band and walked to waiting vehicles, still chanting.
Protesters were charged with violation-level disorderly conduct for refusing at first to clear a path in their sit-in in front of Cuomo’s office. The 33 protesters were processed for arrests and were scheduled to be released with an appearance ticket for Albany City Court, state police said.
“There was no resistance,” said state police Lt. Anthony Oliver. “They were very cooperative.”
Cuomo wasn’t in. He was on his way back from presenting his budget at Syracuse University.
On March 2, state police charged 17 people in Albany with disorderly conduct as they were peacefully protesting Cuomo’s proposed cuts to programs for the poor while the Democrat refused to support an Assembly proposal to temporarily increase the income tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers.
Cuomo has presented a 2011-12 budget to the Legislature that would cut public higher education by 10 percent, after two years of similar cuts; would cut school aid by 7.3 percent; and cut $2.85 billion from the $53 billion Medicaid program. His $132.5 billion proposal to the Legislature also addresses a $10 billion deficit he said was the result of overspending and the recession
The Assembly and Senate propose only modest restorations, saying they realize the gravity of the state’s continuing fiscal crisis.
But Fran Clark of the Professional Staff Congress of CUNY called the state’s problem a “revenue crisis” that could be solved with the so-called millionaire’s tax.
“The revenue crisis all around the country is being used to undermine workers,” he said after the last of more than 175 protesters left the hallway outside Cuomo’s office and the ornate War Room.
Cuomo had no comment.
Democratic Sens. Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx and Bill Perkins of Harlem, both Democrats, joined the protesters at one point, the only lawmakers to do so.
Protests are common in Albany, especially in the days and weeks prior to the April 1 budget deadline. But demonstrations often funded by public worker unions and other interest groups stepped up their actions this year over the rare proposal to reduce spending, although not all met expectations. An outdoor rally by teachers unions Tuesday was billed to bring 2,000 teachers to Albany drew just a few hundred.
By MICHAEL GORMLEY,Associated Press
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.