A small band of protestors gathered quietly late Monday afternoon at the edge of Academy Park to celebrate the anti-establishment crusade that began two years ago, in conjunction with Occupy Wall Street.
The original "Occupy Albany" encampment was one of 2-thousand such encampments across the globe inspired by the sit-in in New York’s Zuccotti Park. It sprung up in Lafayette Park across from the State Capitol Building in October 2011. More than a hundred protestors, ranging from high school students to senior citizens, demonstrated in a show of solidarity bent on curbing "corporate greed" and the influence of Wall Street. Media immediately began to identify local voices of the national movement. UAlbany Activist Sharmin Hossain said then that Occupy had special meaning for all college students.
Occupier Daniel Plaat says the movement continues to leverage public opinion. In Occupy Albany's infancy, it was unclear whether State Police or City Police had jurisdiction over the crowd, since the state owns part of Lafayette Park and the city owns the other. The Occupation eventually nestled in the Albany tract, "Academy Park."
Bradley Russell was the first protester to be arrested in November 2011 after he assembled a structure he called a "freedom fort" in deference to a state-order to vacate Lafayette Park. In all, 24 demonstrators participating in "a peaceful but noisy protest" claiming they were exercising First Amendment rights were arrested by state troopers. Russell says if he could turn back the clock, he wouldn't do one single thing differently.
Albany County Legislator Doug Bullock is sympathetic with the movement: he believes its thrust still rings true today.
On December 22nd, 2011, as the cold and snow closed in, Occupy Albany ignored an order from the city to vacate the park... then, on Christmas Eve, police moved in to end the occupation, arriving in the afternoon on the day of the deadline, as they had promised. In some other cities, lawmen came without warning, in dead of night. By early evening, all the Occupy Albany tents were gone, save one taken intact by the protesters, who paraded it through the city. [Video]
In early 2012 Occupy Albany moved indoors, opening a storefront headquarters on Madison Avenue, where it briefly played host to the "Occutrip" bus ride - a handful of die-hard Occupy New Yorkers on a five-week tour of 16 Northeastern cities. Locals made headlines in May 2012 when 40 protesters demonstrated at the State Capitol for higher minimum wages. Occupy Albany has been relatively quiet since, but group members say they are ready to deploy a reoccupation, if necessary.