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Occupy Albany, Allowed to Continue, Rejects “Unfocused” Charge

October 26, 2011

ALBANY, N.Y. - "Occupy Albany" continues its encampment begun Friday in a park across from the State Capitol, and expects to get a boost from a Thursday solidarity march by community groups as well as an influx of protesters on the weekend.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been criticized elsewhere for being "unfocused." However, Stephen Pampinella, 27, says he and others in Albany's Lafayette Park are zeroed in on at least one thing: retaining the surcharge on the state's top earners, that's due to expire at the end of the year.

"It would seem logical to tax those New Yorkers who are benefiting the most from this economy to ensure that the rest of us can survive in this very terrible time of economic turmoil."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will not continue the surcharge, and an aide reportedly tried to convince Albany officials to clear the park last weekend. The police refused, and District Attorney David Soares says he won't arrest anyone who is protesting peacefully.

Some Albany protesters are calling Cuomo "Governor One Percent," referring to the top 1 percent of wealthiest Americans which have been the target of "Occupy" movements across the nation. Pampinella says the governor, who has been held in high approval by New Yorkers, is in for an awakening.

"We tend to think that his attempt to crack down on us over the weekend was very misguided and that people will begin to see who he represents. And so, we have a feeling that those popularity numbers and his approval ratings will fall fairly soon."

Like Pampinella, Harrison Watkins, 26, says he doesn't speak for all the protesters, and the group as a whole operates openly and democratically.

"Not all of Occupy Albany necessarily has an opinion on the millionaires' tax. A number of individuals do, and those individuals will be the ones participating in the march. And I include myself in that."

An 11 p.m. curfew is in effect for state-owned parks around the Capitol. Because the "occupiers" moved into the half of Lafayette Park that is city-owned, they appear able to maintain their tent city - and Albany city officials are reluctant to remove them.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY