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Unmoved Albany protesters add Cuomo to their list of concerns

Although it lacks in size compared to other Occupy protests, the ideally positioned Occupy Albany gathering across the street from the Capitol is already causing headaches for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

A day after it was revealed that Cuomo tried -- unsuccessfully to get Albany officials to use police to remove protesters from the park after an 11 p.m. curfew, demonstrators wasted little time in adding the governor to their lineup of concerns.

"It does help our cause because we got more attention," Eric Egnor, an Occupy Albany demonstrator, said of Cuomo's failed attempt to end the protests outside the Capitol.

Over the weekend, aides to Cuomo sought to pressure Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings to evict the demonstrators -- with police force if necessary. The one-block park is half state owned and half city owned.

Demonstrators Friday night moved entirely into the city-owned portion. On Monday, Occupy Albany organizers said the city -- including police -- have been supportive, dropping off rakes, blankets and other supplies.

"A lot of people applaud Jennings. I commend him for being a human being. He's no puppet," said Egnor, as he cleaned up the park. Nearby, about three dozen tents had been erected.

On a garbage can was taped a sign: "Welcome to Cuomo-Ville."

On a sidewalk, written in chalk, was a message: "Keep the millionaires' tax," one of the many issues the various protesters were promoting Monday. Cuomo supports ending the surcharge on wealthier individuals' income or a plan by Assembly Democrats to replace it with a surcharge just on those making over $1 million.

Demonstrators interviewed said they believe it will now be politically difficult for the police to remove them following the media attention Cuomo's outreach to the Albany mayor received.

The Cuomo administration has not sought the removal of Occupy protesters from any other city, where most or all the protests appear to be taking place on private or local government-owned sites.

"I think most of the comments from the public are very unhappy with any proclamation that limits our right to assemble here," said Occupy Albany volunteer Hezzie Johanson.

Appearing Monday evening on former Gov. David A. Paterson's radio show in New York City, Cuomo said it is up to the cities to "make their own determinations" about how to deal with the Occupy protests.

But he said that if the protesters go on state land, then state laws will be enforced, implying that provisions like an 11 p.m. curfew in the state-owned parks around the Capitol will be enforced.

"We believe in the right to demonstrate. We also believe in the rule of law, and we enforce the law," Cuomo said.

email: tprecious@buffnews.com