Cuomo says curfew arrests to continue in Albany

By Michael Virtanen

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 16 2011 1:21 p.m. MST

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, meets with his cabinet in the Red Room at the Capitol in Albany N.Y., on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011. Cuomo says arrests of Occupy Albany protesters at the state park near his Capitol offices will continue. He says the situation is "not ideal" with Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares refusing to prosecute those cases.

Mike Groll, Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. — State police will continue to arrest Occupy Albany protesters near the Capitol for the foreseeable future if they persist in violating an 11 p.m. curfew, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

Noting the situation is "not ideal," with Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares refusing to prosecute those cases, Cuomo said that for now his staff is monitoring developments. He declined to say whether he would appoint a special prosecutor or if he even has the authority to do that.

"We are taking no action now. We will continue to monitor the situation," Cuomo told reporters during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday. "Depending on what develops we may change our position."

State police have made 62 arrests since Saturday, including three Tuesday night, when protesters migrated into state-owned Lafayette Park after an 11 p.m. curfew. The park is directly across the street from the statehouse that houses Cuomo's upstate offices.

Most protesters are charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct, low-level violations. They have an encampment in the city's adjacent Academy Park and promise to keep challenging the state curfew until arrests stop.

Soares said he won't prosecute peaceful protesters, though that will change if they damage property or attack police.

Protesters maintained they are using their constitutional right to free speech in the parks. They have criticized the government, including Cuomo, for policies they say favor the richest 1 percent of Americans, including Wall Street bankers who they say damaged the economy with bad deals and went unpunished.

Cuomo said he supports New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to remove the Occupy Wall Street encampment from Manhattan's Zuccotti Park early Tuesday, something Bloomberg had discussed with him in advance. Cuomo said he made no recommendation but offered state assistance, which the mayor didn't take.

Cuomo added that he also supports the actions of other mayors toward the protests, including cities like Albany that have let them stay in their parks overnight.

"These are local decisions and I respect a locality's right to make a decision they think is most appropriate in their case," Cuomo said. Each has different factors, and Bloomberg cited the high density of people in Zuccotti Park and the possibility for danger, he said.

New York City police removed demonstrators as well as tents and tarps that are now banned there.

Asked what he will do Thursday with busloads of additional demonstrators expected in Albany, Cuomo said that's nothing new for the capital.

State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico, who attended the Cabinet meeting, was asked about the cost of 20 troopers coming to the park at night to make arrests. He said the total varies and they are staffing with troopers pulled from other parts of the region. He said the agency will pay overtime if it needs to, but did not say how much it was costing. "We think that it is important we maintain law and order," he said.

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