The seizure of the last remaining tent in the Occupy Albany encampment caused an impassioned tug-of-war between cops and protesters on Friday.

See AP/CBS coverage here. So did this require use of chemical weapons?

Despite national outrage, the heavy handed treatment of protesters continues while lawless corporations elude justice.

People are congregating in thousands of cities, willing to be arrested to push the envelope of public free speech so people will hear their message. OWS organizers preach tactics of non-violent protest going back decades. Arrests bring media attention and public debate. But do cops need to “put a hurtin’ on” these crowds to send a message?

Yes, say cops in Albany who believed they needed to charge the crowd on horseback and use pepper spray to subdue demonstrators trying to preserve the Occupy Albany “info tent” after a police eviction of tents that left this tent standing – for a time. During a later showdown, the police bum-rushed those holding the tent which resulted in pushing, falling and chaos. Eyewitnesses say they were trying to lift and relocate the tent as the police approached.

NY cops were hailed in late October as they ignored Gov. Cuomo’s orders to clamp down on dissent in Albany parks, seeking to enforce curfews by having hundreds arrested. The cops rightly disobeyed then, citing the number of old people and parents with young children in tow.

But Albany cops this time send a message of brutal force to Occupy activists, inducing excruciating pain.

Imagine if Cuomo instead negotiated a peaceful resolution to the tent issue, showing some basic accessibility to this constituent group, in order to consciously prevent injury, suffering and the eventual police brutality claims and lawsuits that drain taxpayer funds needlessly. Instead this will head to the courts to resolve multiple questions of free speech, public assembly and excessive force.

Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo surprised many by raising tax rates on upper bracket earners, a move some saw as a gesture towards the middle class.

But because he is so slow to recognize the legitimacy, import and urgency of the street/campsite aspect of the OWS cause, Governor Cuomo is writing a disappointing record of overreaction and brutality.

Add to this now the pepper spraying of protesters and the authorities actually bring even more attention to the courage of the resistors who refused to let go of the symbolic tent.

Hear first hand accounts from activists involved in the incident here.

NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg is credited/blamed for causing OWS numbers to surge after he raided Zucotti Park and trashed the belongings of occupiers. Already common lore is the idea that OWS got national media attention only after cops pepper sprayed marchers, meaning the authoritarian approach is bound to backfire in the age of live streaming because the world is watching.

Some are calling for Albany mayor Gerald Jennings to resign following the pepper spraying, and for reneging on assurances his office would provide notice before evictions and police actions. But it’s all of us who can contact the governor or the mayor to know we are watching in horror:

Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings:
Phone: (518) 434-5100 / Fax: (518) 434-5013
E-mail: mayor@ci.albany.ny.us

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (518) 474-8390
Web contact form here.
Facebook page here.