the removal of the tents and other accoutrements of the
“Occupy Albany” encampment from Academy Park on Dec. 22, 2011, across the street
from New York’s
Capitol, many people in the area believed that the “occupy”
movement was over.
took the Democratic mayor of the state’s capital city
a while but, with the continual urging of Democratic Governor
Andrew Cuomo to evict the demonstrators, Mayor Jerry Jennings
could resist no longer.
similar Occupy sites around the country were raided and
all of the evidence of the protests was removed, Albany
remained for several weeks one of the few places where
it appeared for a time that the peaceful protest would
be allowed to continue. After all, Albany County District
Attorney David Soares had said publicly that he would
not prosecute the arrests for trespassing, as long as
the demonstrations were peaceful.
ran afoul of both the governor and the mayor in taking
that position, but the first African-American district
attorney in Albany
County asked rhetorically how
he could teach his children about their civil rights and
the civil rights history of their country, if he kicked
peaceful protesters out of the park.
of Occupy Albany, including lawyers, had been negotiating
with city officials for a few weeks and were led to believe
that the deadline of Dec. 22 would not result in removal
of all of the occupiers’ belongings, and that there would
be further negotiations about a presence in the city-owned
few weeks earlier, dozens of demonstrators had been arrested
after the 11 p.m. curfew that had been set by the state
(Governor Cuomo) in Lafayette
Park, a state-owned park, which
abuts Academy Park. It was those arrests that were dismissed, when DA Soares declined
to prosecute the violations. It was widely believed that
the “curfew” was set arbitrarily just for the occupiers,
since no one could remember when the last time the general
public was not allowed in the park after 11 p.m.
morning of Dec. 22 passed without incident and the occupiers
believed what they were told by the city’s negotiators:
that negotiations would continue and there was a possibility
that they would be allowed to maintain a presence, with
perhaps a reduced number of tents. It wasn’t to be. At
about 2 p.m., city police and the city’s clean-up crews
moved in and began the process of taking down everything
in the park and removing it to a storage area, where occupiers
could reclaim their possessions within several days.
large tent was picked up by the occupiers and taken from
the park. With it, there was a march through the streets
of Albany, holding
the tent aloft. Later, the marching group reentered the
park, where a large crowd of occupiers and supporters
were cheering, along with a strong showing of police,
some on horses. The police immediately moved in to take
down the final tent, ripping and tearing the fabric and
rending the poles.
mounted officer was seen to reach down to his side for
something, brought it up and tore at a small piece of
it, took aim and pepper-sprayed several people in the
face. Though there was outrage over the assault, the crowd
remained, for the most part, peaceful. There were a few
next day, there were only a few occupiers in the park
(the mayor had stated on the day of the eviction that
occupiers were free to be in the park, but not to stay)
and some of the more cynical observers (that is, just
about all of the press) virtually celebrated the eviction
and wrote or broadcast their delight in being right about
the Occupy encampments around the country: Once the authorities
evicted them, they would disappear.
Albany, they did not disappear and they don’t appear to be vanishing
from their encampments across the country. They have changed
gears. They have changed locations. They have gathered
new friends and supporters (not that they didn’t have
lots of support already). Rather,
since the eviction, which was celebrated by the local
press, the core organizers have rented space in the city
to continue their work.
press, of course, played a major role in forming the opinions
of the average citizens, many of whom were vitriolic in
their opposition to the occupiers and their grievances
against the governmental and economic powers that be.
Even at that, there was a sizable percentage of people
who supported the Occupy movement, and they came from
all corners of the political and social world, so it is
helpful to look at that press role in the Occupy movement
across the country.
solid and in-depth reporting of the causes of the Occupy
movement, the press was reduced to reporting the way it
covers political campaigns: There is little about the
substance of the issues, even less about the proposed
solutions (if there are any), and it is all about the
polls and who is ahead, who is falling back. So it was
with the Occupy movement. The press, like the other giants
of Corporate America, was short-staffed and not inclined
to do any digging for the real story of the economic collapse
and all of the societal ills that spring from it.
Zipser, editor of The Guild Reporter, the quarterly
publication of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers
of America, summarized well the problem of the news business
in a front-page editorial in the Winter 2011 edition.
What follows is an excerpt of the union editor’s commentary:
big reason for the feigned ignorance of many Americans
about the reasons for the Occupy movement is surely the
failure of the press to cover it in any meaningful way.
In fact, that failure is one of the reasons that we got
to collapse in the first place. But there are millions
of Americans of all ages and places and stations in life
who do understand and, even if they did not participate
in the encampments, they are occupiers in spirit.
Albany, the Occupy Albany movement is calling on its supporters to
gather in the capital city on Saturday, Jan. 7, to show
that the movement is not going away and on that day participants
will demand “economic justice and political equality.”
Occupy movement has been launched across the country and
it will not be stopped by the evictions that seem to have
been coordinated by mayors and governors and law enforcement,
in every city where it existed. The press may not be interested
in explaining to its readers, viewers, and listeners the
depths of the problems of the nation, so it is up to every
American to learn about those problems, teach others,
and work with people of like mind (especially the young
people of Occupy), on strategies to replace those who
have created the problems, whether they acted as individuals
or through their corporations or through government, and
find a new way to do the work of society in a democratic
republic, so that there will be equity, equality, opportunity,
and security for all. It is now up to the people. It’s
up to you.
Columnist, John Funiciello, is a labor organizer and former
union organizer. His union work started when he became
a local president of The Newspaper Guild in the early
1970s. He was a reporter for 14 years for newspapers in
New York State. In
addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers
as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure
from factory food producers and land developers. Click
to contact Mr. Funiciello.