By JOSEPH SPECTOR
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY -- The Occupy Wall Street movement faced increased pressure today as New York City and Albany cracked down on protesters camped in local parks and a statewide poll showed public support for the movement on the decline.
By a 66 percent to 31 percent margin, New York voters say that the Occupy Wall Street movement does not represent 99 percent of people, according to a Siena College poll today. But the poll said that by a 57 percent to 40 percent margin, protesters should be allowed to occupy public parks 24 hours a day.
Voters had a 45 percent to 44 percent favorable view of the movement, today's poll found. That's down from 49 percent to 38 percent last month.
The poll comes on the morning New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to clear Zuccotti Park near Wall Street of protesters, saying in a statement that, "No right is absolute and with every right comes responsibilities."
The mayor said that the "First Amendment gives every New Yorker the right to speak out - but it does not give anyone the right to sleep in a park or otherwise take it over to the exclusion of others -- nor does it permit anyone in our society to live outside the law."
A majority of Democrats said in the Siena poll that they do not believe the movement represents 99 percent of people. By a 58 percent to 37 percent margin, voters believe that the Occupy Wall Street movement does not have a clear message, said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.
The poll of 803 New York registered voters was conducted Nov. 8 through Sunday. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
In recent days, State Police have been arresting protesters connected to the Occupy Albany movement. Protesters have been trying to set up camp on a state-owned park near the Capitol, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to arrest anyone who stayed in the park past an 11 p.m. curfew.
Last night, 20 protesters were arrested, and 58 people have been arrested since Saturday. Before then, protesters had stayed in a city-owned portion of the park, where city officials pledged not to arrest them.
In a statement, Occupy Wall Street protesters decried the raid on their camp in New York City. Protesters said they received a court order this morning to return to the park, but police were keeping them away.
"To occupy is to embody the spirit of liberation that we wish to manifest in our society," the statement read. "It is to exercise our freedom to assemble. We are creating space for community, values, ideas, and a level of meaningful dialogue that is absent in the present discourse."
Cities across the state have been handling the Occupy protesters differently.
In the city of Binghamton, protesters Monday marked their first month of encampment in a city-owned green space. Mayor Matthew Ryan said he has no plans to force their removal. There are about 17 tents set up in the park.
"We have not required a permit as long as there are no issues related pertaining to safety, sanitation and access," said city spokesman Andrew Block.
"We have monitored the site continually. That includes monitoring by police, fire, public works, the mayor's office and the office of economic development, which are the businesses in the area."
Block said participants of Occupy Binghamton "have been very cooperative in addressing concerns of the city as well as the neighbors in the surrounding area."
In Rochester, the city and Occupy Rochester leaders reached an agreement last week to let protesters stay in a portion of the city-owned Washington Square Park through Jan. 11, but the agreement could be extended.
Initially, the city apprehended anyone who stayed in the park past 11 p.m., leading to 50 arrests over several days.
Unions are organizing a rally in the Rochester park at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday to protest Cuomo's plan to let higher income taxes on the wealthy expire at year's end. The income-tax surcharge affects people who earn more than $200,000 a year and brought in about $4 billion a year in state revenue.
"Now it is time to return to our main message: that we are the 99 percent, that millionaires must pay their fair share, that corporations have become vastly too powerful, and that we must restore our country for all its people," said Bruce Popper, executive vice-president of the Rochester & Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, in a statement today.
While police have dismantled occupy protests in New York City, Albany and other cities, including Denver, Philadelphia, Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore., the scene in Buffalo has been much different.
Occupy Buffalo protestors have been camped out at Niagara Square in downtown Buffalo since October. On Monday, a few dozen protestors marched down to Buffalo police headquarters to say thank you to police for letting them remain at the park.
They held signs that read, "Thank You" and "We Love Buffalo Police."
Gannett News Service