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#OccupyAlbany Returns

WAMC composite photo by Dave Lucas

Local voices of the national Occupy movement came together over the weekend in Albany.

In October 2011, the anti-establishment, anti-corporate movement that began a month earlier on Wall Street reached New York State's seat of political power when an "Occupy" encampment sprung up in Lafayette Park, across the street from the state capitol.

The group, one of the longest-lasting of the various national Occupy encampments, showed solidarity on curbing what they interpreted as "corporate greed" and the influence of Wall Street.

Occupiers wore their welcome out in December 2011, when the city of Albany enforced a "vacate" order. Eventually, the group came to "occupy" indoor space, and took a "quieter" stance as members continued their individual activist pursuits. The locals have staged a few marches and events for various causes, including raising the minimum wage, but the public eye remains fixated and fascinated on that short window of downtown encampment, where occupiers even dared tangle with Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Members of Occupy Albany gathered at West Capitol Park in downtown Albany on a blustery Sunday afternoon for a fundraiser that also served to demonstrate the movement is still active, still viable, still trying to make a difference.

One in the group insisted "Occupy Albany was never over." Occupy member Sister Honora Kinney used the occasion to advocate for the waves of immigrant children from Central America who have been making international headlines, explaining she is sad and tired the issue is being treated in a bureaucratic political way.    "We see the dead children in Palestine and they basically tell you 'we can't do anything about that, it's sad.' We see the dead children in Syria and they say 'we can't do anything about that, it's sad.' Now we have an opportunity to do something nice for children. To sort of in a way possibly a little bit redeem America, because mostly the reason why these children are coming here is because we have sort of overtime helped make a mess of the places where they live. “

Kinney believes the immigrant children are America's future.  "These are the people that in the future can push your wheelchair. These are the people that in the future can pay for social security. People in the United States have relatively few children. Here's a marvelous opportunity, and I think Obama should act to welcome them all in, and if he's looking for a photo op, he should sit there and let a bunch of 'em sit on his lap."

Joanne Kathleen Farrell with Occupy Albany and Frack Free Nation is concerned about the plight of America's own children.  "One of the most poorest places in the country is Southern Ohio and the Capital Region. There's food stamp cuts and there are not the living wage jobs that people can get to support their families."

Occupier Tom Alloco says his illiterate parents emigrated from Italy, found good-paying jobs in America and raised a family in what contemporary culture would call "middle class comfort."  "Today you have kids with college degrees who can't find a job. You can't just say that's an abstract thing like globalization. Globalization is NOT an abstract thing. Corporations - we see this right her in the Capital District - really do send jobs outside of the area, outside the country, outside of the state, just to slightly increase their profit. You can quibble about words, but there really is a war on the middle class."

Alloco empathsized with young people looking for living wage jobs in what Occupiers say has essentially become a service economy.

Occupy Albany presses on as a symbol of liberal discontent, maintaining an online presence (https://www.facebook.com/OccupyAlbanyNY) as well as a brick and mortar one at 153 South Pearl Street. The extent of the movement's impact is still under debate. 

A September 2013 YouGov poll  (http://today.yougov.com/news/2013/09/17/poll-results-impact-ows/ )  showed that most Americans thought the movement was ineffective, but that protests in general can still be useful for social change.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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