Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eviction: Albany

December 22, 2011
Just after 2:00 pm Tim Pool began streaming in Albany New York. What started out as an opportunity to test the Occucopter with a new omni-directional antenna immediately turned into an eviction feed.

The OccupyAlbany camp is a paradise compared to some. Wide sidewalks encircle the park proper. No mud pits, no planked walkways and the grass seemed to be none the worse for wear. As we joined Tim, the camp seemed to be a little confused as they had not expected an eviction until later in the evening. A few police officers stood at a distance while the Department of General Services {DGS} unloaded blue recycling buckets in preparation for imminent eviction tear-down. Those blue buckets were a humorous choice for packaging; they are about the size of a 4 gallon mushroom bucket. They did not look like they would hold more than a sleeping bag, stuffed.

Several of the occupiers were very vocal, displaying their anger in an ever escalating barrage of obscenity laced vitriol aimed at both police and DGS workers. More than a few in the live chat expressed dismay at the behavior of a few. This author is one of that contingent.

Some occupiers gathered their belongings and headed to wherever their stuff is normally housed while others tried to rally the remaining into effective action. It took some while for cooler heads to prevail; finally they reorganized themselves around the Information Tent. This tent, the DIY pvc structure type became the focal point as the afternoon wore on. A human chain formed and there were sporadic chants heard over the feed. DGS workers continued to dismantle the remaining sleeping tents, tag items and load all of it into blue recycling buckets and onto a large truck.

Eventually, there were two identical PVC style tents left. Two men holding signs were spotted inside one, refusing to leave; however eventually they did. That tent was dismantled and only the human chain protected Info tent remained. By then the crowd had been warned by the police they would be arrested if they did not disburse and allow DGS to remove the tent.  They were also told they could stay in the park and protest if they wished. To some this seemed like a good deal and the chain was broken.

However, several hardy souls remained linked in front of the tent, refusing to move. Some spark of inspiration hit the OccupyAlbany group seeing their friends about to be arrested. A group formed along both long sides, grabbed the poles and wrenched them out of the ground. A resounding cheer eminated from OccupyAlbany as the tent was hoisted in the air and marched into the street toward City Hall a half block away.

After an unsuccessful attempt at entering City Hall barricaded by police, the OccupyAlbany protesters took to the streets, marching through downtown Albany. As they proceeded through a neighborhood some ran ahead ringing the doorbells of residences along the way. Soon they were in the commercial district again, horns began honking and protesters politely moved to the sidewalk every time traffic backed up behind them. This went on for about an hour. The march returned to the park for a scheduled press conference just before 6:00 pm.

If OccupyAlbany was surprised by the daylight eviction, nobody forsaw what happened next. Three or more Mounted police, joined by more on foot. The mounted police attempted to wrest the tent from marchers from horseback. Tim was actually under the tent at the time. When police on foot joined the fracas, Tim was forearmed back by one of the officers. He quickly got out from under the tent and continued filming.

Meanwhile, the tent battle was won by the police. The sound of ripping fabric could be heard in the stream. Several protesters were pepper sprayed while they were under the tent. At the time of this writing an unknown number of arrests were made. One woman's arrest was caught on camera by Tim. Calls for vinegar or malox also went out among the crowd. The press conference went on as scheduled; the whole incident was over in minutes.

To add insult to injury in a very real sense, one local reporter agressively confronted an occupier introducing the next interviewee saying "The Judge said you could not have a tent here, you ran it around the state capitol; you are thumbing your noses at authority!" The press conference then devolved into a shouting match until it was mic checked by the original speaker.

Just at that moment, ambulance and fire sirens were heard as they arrived on scene, presumably to treat those who were pepper sprayed. However, they arrived five minutes too late; Occupy medics were already on it, washing the eyes and noses of the affected. Shortly thereafter Tim signed off as he was a little shook up but none the worse for wear.

Tim began streaming again a little more than an hour later as the OccupyAlbany marchers had moved to the police station chanting demands for the arrestees to be released. They also chanted "648, 648. 648 . . ." the badge number of the officer they believed pepper sprayed some fellow marchers. Just as several officers emerged on a small handicapped ramp, pepper spray canisters could be seen in their hands and being passed to other officers further down.

Tim was fortunate to move into position near an organizer and caught an exchange between a Lieutenant and the organizer on stream. At that time, about 7:40 pm, the crowd had been told the arrestees would be processed and arraigned within two hours in a courtroom in the police station. The charge details were apparently sketchy to the Lieutenant; however he gave his understanding as follows, "The Judge intends on opening the courtroom . . . it is not being delayed for any other reason than that the paperwork is not ready yet and the Judge is not here yet." He went on to say "It is my understanding that there is various charges but it involves a contempt and an obstruction. That is my understanding."

Tim signed off again shortly after the interview. Since the arraignment will take place post-publication, the updates will be in the comments, unless it becomes a big hairy deal again. In that case a subsequent follow-up post will be published.

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