Occupy Wall Street protesters took on Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday for fighting the state’s “millionaire tax” and ordering that demonstrators be evacuated from an Albany park at night.
The Cuomo administration last week decided to enforce the 11 p.m. curfew at Academy Park across from the Capitol, a state official and a trooper confirmed Friday. But Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings ultimately allowed the demonstrators to stay.
“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,” Jennings told the New York Post. “My counsel said we’d be opening ourselves up to civil liability if we forced them out.”
Some protesters Monday were angry with the governor.
“Gov. Cuomo’s new name is Gov. 1 Percent because that’s who he chooses to represent — the more wealthy residents of New York state, those on Wall Street, his backers and supporters,” said Victorio Reyes, 37, a community organizer with the Social Justice Center of Albany who was making video reports from the park. “We’re not going to stand for it.”
Cuomo insists the temporary surcharge on incomes over $200,000 should expire Dec. 31, as planned when it was created under Gov. David Paterson to address a fiscal crisis. Cuomo and other opponents of the tax say it and a new proposal to tax earnings over $1 million would drive tax revenue and jobs out of state.
Cuomo discussed the Albany demonstration Monday on Paterson’s WOR radio show, saying he has great respect for demonstrators and will leave mayors in Buffalo, Rochester, New York City and other sites of Occupy Wall Street demonstrations to decide how to act.
“This is nothing new for us. This is almost every session, and you couldn’t operate if you didn’t enforce the basic law,” Cuomo said. “Literally, you couldn’t operate the Capitol … and we’re going to do what we’ve always done, allow the demonstration, allow the protest, but enforce the law and the regulation.”
The governor had no further comment about the curfew.
“At this point, as long as the demonstration remains peaceful, we will allow it to continue,” said state police Sgt. Kern Swoboda. “Everyone is peaceful and letting it take its course.”
Rep. Paul Tonko, a Montgomery County Democrat, mixed in with the Albany crowd Friday evening.
“What I heard were a number of understandable concerns,” Tonko said in an interview. “They fight for social and economic justice, a concern about the middle class.”
Tonko said he supports President Barack Obama’s plan for a millionaire’s tax on the federal level, but believes a state tax could make New York less competitive with other states. Still, he said, the group must be allowed to continue its protest.
“Throughout our history, troops have fought for our right to express our opinion. It’s a unique American right,” Tonko said. “I think we are marked by that right and we ought to maintain it.”
Protesters Monday praised the state police for their cooperation. About 30 tents were pitched, free haircuts were offered, and a “People’s Library” on a card table carried a paperback copy of the Declaration of Independence and a book on “The Spanish Civil War.”
“They were here the first day in somewhat of a forceful position because they didn’t know what to expect,” said Chris Galleri, 26, a pro skier from nearby Averill Park, who was recovering from an injury. He said state police met with protesters Monday morning and said “we’re backing off so you don’t feel threatened.”
“They are just doing their job, man, and they’re a phone call away,” Galleri said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.