ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A thick crowd of demonstrators chanting and cheering about education funding and other issues gathered outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s offices in the state Capitol on Thursday, showing at least a temporary resurgence of Albany’s Occupy movement and attracting state troopers who began trying to clear the hallway and arrested dozens.
The doors leading to the governor’s offices remained closed, but hundreds filled the hallway and stairways Thursday after rallying in the grand statehouse’s so-called War Room nearby. They called for better funding for education, a permanent ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and an end to tax breaks for the rich.
“Hey Governor 1 percent, who do you represent?” they chanted. The reference to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans was a common theme in 2011 when protesters set up an encampment for weeks in a park across from the Capitol until police removed them.
On Thursday, a line of about a dozen troopers slowly worked their way down the hallway outside the governor’s office, lifting seated demonstrators, handcuffing them and taking them away. Troopers declined to say what they were charged with, though in past protests the people blocking statehouse hallways were charged with disorderly conduct, a low-level violation.
When an elderly woman was handcuffed, the crowd started yelling, then chanting her name. Organizers from advocacy groups said the several hundred protesters in the Capitol also came from New York City, Rochester and other cities, and 59 were arrested by the time it ended about 4 p.m., though 61 intended to get arrested. Those sitting in the center of the hallway knew they would be.
“We’re basically education and living wage and housing,” said Roman Whitmore, 56, standing on the stairway and leaning on the cane he’s used since having his hip replaced. He came in a van with a group from Binghamton.
“I believe he doesn’t know anything about what the average man goes through,” Whitmore said of Cuomo. He wasn’t surprised to learn Cuomo had appeared that day with an expensive Ferrari at the State Museum to announce a September race at Watkins Glen.
Whitmore works part-time as a cleaner at the Binghamton Mets stadium for minimum wage. “I’ve got no choice but to work. At this rate of pay, $8 an hour, I’ll probably have to work until I’m 108,” he said.
The Legislature and Cuomo raised the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8 this year. It’s scheduled to increase at the end of the year to $8.75 an hour and to $9 an hour at the end of 2015.
More than 15 groups were involved, said Jessica Wisneski, an organizer for Citizen Action, adding that the Cuomo administration’s proposed tax breaks for big banks and the rich and limited education funding in the proposed budget were the catalysts.
“These people came to express a more broad dissatisfaction with the governor’s proposals for further tax cuts for the wealthy and well connected,” she said, “while starving our public schools for the funding they need.”