The Daily Gazette
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Occupy protest evicted by police

Protesters tend to Anthony Hadden, 19, of Schenectady, who was pepper sprayed as Albany police forcibly removed an Occupy Albany tent from Academy Park on Thursday. Hadden collapsed to the ground with difficulty breathing and was later taken away by ambulance.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Protesters tend to Anthony Hadden, 19, of Schenectady, who was pepper sprayed as Albany police forcibly removed an Occupy Albany tent from Academy Park on Thursday. Hadden collapsed to the ground with difficulty breathing and was later taken away by ambulance.
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— Two months of continuous protests in Academy Park came to raucous end Thursday as city workers moved in and removed Occupy Albany tents.

Following the eviction, protesters took their cause to the streets and a handful of people were pepper-sprayed by police as protesters tried to return one tent to the park. Four protesters were arrested.

Since Dec. 6, the protesters have been occupying the park adjacent to the state Capitol with the permission of the city, which issued them a permit that expired Thursday. Around 2 p.m., workers from the city’s Department of General Services began removing the remaining tents under the supervision of city police.

Mark Mishler, an attorney for the Occupy Albany movement, said they were caught by surprise by the city’s actions. He said they’ve been talking with city officials for weeks but were served an eviction order Thursday afternoon. They tried to stop the eviction, Mishler said, but a state Supreme Court judge in Albany County rejected their requests, including one to just keep an information tent in the park without people sleeping there.

Albany police spokesman James Miller said officers moved in response to the court order. City officials have maintained that the permanent encampment needed to be taken down for health and safety reasons but noted that protesters could remain in the park continuously without tents.

“The city and the police department has gone to great lengths over the past two months to accommodate the protesters’ First Amendment rights. We were in constant dialogue with representatives of Occupy Albany that included the discussion of health and safety issues of those encamped in the park. The actions taken today were based on a court order and were appropriate. The order does not preclude anyone from continuing to protest in the park at anytime and the city will continue to respect Occupy Albany’s right to free speech,” Miller said Thursday night.

Occupy Albany lawyer Kathy Manley told the people around the tent that they could face obstruction charges if they blocked city workers, which would be a significantly more serious charge than the trespassing violations that protesters received for violating the curfew in the adjacent Lafayette Park. The Albany County district attorney has declined to prosecute the trespassing violations.

After all the tents had been removed except the information tent, police warned the remaining protesters to step away from the tent or risk arrest. The protesters then picked up the tent, which was at least 6 feet wide and 10 feet long, and marched it down to City Hall. The events were relayed via a live internet video stream and were observed by Gazette Photographer Patrick Dodson.

At City Hall, protesters were denied entrance by police, so they then began more than an hour of marching with the tent through the streets of Albany. They started up State Street, eventually reaching Lark Street via Washington Avenue, and then looped back down to the state Capitol. The protest took up at least one lane of traffic, with protesters taking turns holding up the tent and chanting. They eventually returned to Academy Park.

Not long after the return, police stationed by City Hall headed to the park and started to grab the tent. This resulted in a scuffle with protesters that involved pushing and the pepper spraying of at least four people by police, including an officer on horse back. The tent was split apart and protesters were pushed back as police formed a circle around the tent.

Police spokesman Miller said two protesters and two officers were injured and that officers pepper-sprayed two people when they became aggressive. Three protesters were arrested.

One of the protesters who was pepper-sprayed was 19-year-old Schenectady resident Anthony Hadden. After being sprayed in the face, he had trouble breathing and was shaking and was eventually taken away in an ambulance.

Miller said a television photographer sustained a back injury when he was struck while videotaping the confrontation. Police are trying to determine if the photographer was intentionally struck by one of the protesters or if it was accidental.

Any tents that were taken by the Department of General Services will be available to be picked up over the next 10 business days, authorities said.



December 23, 2011
12:24 a.m.

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It seems like aggressive confrontation was not the answer.

December 23, 2011
11:12 a.m.

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Well at least they will get to occupy the Albany County Jail in protest....Now if they could all just get down to DC and protest where it will make a difference.....

December 23, 2011
11:37 a.m.

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Shame on Jennings and Albany!

December 23, 2011
5:18 p.m.

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The best part of this is the kid pukin' on the ground from pepper spray is the same 19 yr. old Schenectady high student who lives in the YMCA and collects food stamps that the Schenectady Gazette gathered commentary from when "Occupy Schenectady" marched on GE. The Gazette served us well seeking solutions to the country's problems from this guy....

December 23, 2011
6:56 p.m.

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They should have arrested the lot of them for parading without a permit and causing a general disturbance. Why we bend over backwards for these law breaking individuals is beyond me. Our rights end where the current laws stipulate, and the police selectively enforcing the law does not do anyone any good.

December 23, 2011
7:57 p.m.

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Jennings and that idiotic city council are solely responsible for pandering to these people and allowing them to take it from a "protest" to an "encampment" on taxpayer supported City property. Andy Cuomo put his foot down and said NO to these people and those hoodlums never got a foothold on state owned parks. Hmmm, no problems and no occupying NYS owned parks.
Jennings' spineless leadership empowered them and he's responsible SOLELY for those BRAVE Police Officers being put in harm's way. Now the hoodlums are going to bring police brutality lawsuits and the taxpayers LOSE again!!! Are you kidding me, Jerry??!! Nice job! You should be ashamed!!! Don't even get me started on King David Soares, the DA in name only, who picks and chooses whom to prosecute and what laws to uphold!! SHAME on the lot of you!!!