Honoring three generations of family veterans by getting arrested
I have three generations of men in my family (my paternal grandfather, my father and my brother) who were told that going into the military and risking their lives meant that they were protecting my freedoms here at home, which include my First Amendment rights.
So when I learned that Governor Cuomo had arbitrarily assigned an 11 p.m. curfew on Albany's Lafayette Park less than two weeks before the start of the Occupy Albany in anticipation of this political movement, I could not turn down the invitation to stand up to this infringement of those rights.
I would also like to note that the issuing of this proclamation was one of the most expeditious actions taken by a governmental official this state has seen in I can't remember when. Finally, some fast action by a New York state official, just that made it worth going!
I told the crowd (my first time using the “people's mic”) that I was there to honor my grandfather, my dad and my brother by risking arrest and challenging this “rule.” I got a “wavy fingers up” sign from the assembled.
This arbitrary and capricious rule clearly infringes on the right to peaceably assemble, free speech and the ability to petition our governmental officials for redress of grievances.
So after the the state police gave the peaceably assembled three requisite warnings, we stayed in the park.
It was a long night. I didn't get arrested until 1:45 in the morning, the state police taking their sweet time arresting people one and two at a time -– and just the young ones at that. Middle-aged and “oldsters” were taken out last. I think they were trying to wait us out, hoping that we'd leave, which some did. I joked with the officers saying to them, “Take me! Look, I'm already in position -– I've already got my hands behind my back!” To which a couple of them smiled and chuckled.
I had time to go use the porta-potty (geeze I hate those things) and fix myself a snack at the food tent in Academy Park. I suggested to the crowd that we order a pizza –- and we did. The folks not risking arrest also went and got doughnuts and coffee, offering it to the police -– but just my luck the coffee arrived just as I was being cuffed. I think take-out Chinese food was also ordered.
It was at times surreal –- with the youngsters dancing the "Hokey-Pokey" over the sidewalk next to the park as they waited to be arrested and creatively making their point at how pointless this was. A few pointed out speeding cars passing us and a couple of jaywalkers. A clearly inebriated man wandered thorough the crowd on the sidewalk and they brought that to the attention of the officers. I kept thinking, aren't these guys missing a rape or a shooting somewhere?
But Cuomo has a lot of friends in the banking industry (friends in politics being defined as “donors” and major ones at that) so he has to do something -– he cannot just ignore it -– even though just about anything he does will make him look ridiculous.
I had a nice conversation with a couple of officers, recognizing that they may agree with us, but they have a mortgage to pay, kids to put through school and food to put on the table. One thanked me for my kind words and validation of his feelings. I talked about GE earning $14.4 billion in 2010, paying no federal income taxes, getting $1.9 billion of our tax dollars as a “refund” and then cutting 20 percent of American jobs between 2005 and 2010. He commented that he makes money though GE and I tenderly pointed out that while he makes money others get put out of a job. He got quiet and nodded his head thoughtfully.
So at 3 in the morning I was released with a court date of Nov. 29. It appears that the charges were increased for this action –- they added the disorderly conduct charge to the charge of trespassing.
The volunteer attorney for the group told us the rumor is that DA Soares was going to be taken off of the case and Cuomo is going to appoint a special prosecutor to handle this case. Apparently Legal Aid is most excited about taking this case to trial as a First Amendment issue.
In light of what has happened at Occupy encampments around the country, I can't say enough good things about the demeanor and professionalism of the state police. No protester was pepper sprayed, no tear gas canisters or rubber bullets were fired, and no officer even had a night stick let alone clubbed someone with it. No one, citizens or officers, were injured. The state police really presented a shining example of how to work with peaceful, protesting citizens to constabularies across the country.
And to my dad Robert, and my brother Thomas, and the spirit of my grandfather Letendre, I hope I did you all proud.