Scores arrested in Albany budget protest

The chants of hundreds of advocates, representing everything from affordable housing and the Dream Act to anti-fracking and marijuana reform, echoed throughout the Albany Capitol building as protesters jam-packed the staircase and halls leading to Governor Cuomo’s office. “Hey governor 1 percent, who do you represent?” they chanted in unison.

Tax cuts for the wealthy and public school funding brought protesters out. Jessica Wisneski an organizer with Citizen Action, one of the groups coordinating the day’s events, said “People came to express a more broad dissatisfaction with the governor’s proposals for further tax cuts for the wealthy and well connected while starving our public schools for the funding they need.”

Iris DeLutro vice president of the Professional Staff Congress was one of the protesters arrested in the Governors Hall. She explained, “I’m angry about a budget that starves education. How can legislators explain tax breaks for the 200 wealthiest New Yorkers when there is no money for hospitals, schools and universities and nothing in the budget for the NYS Dream Act? I was arrested today for standing up to inequality, I would do it again and urge everyone to do the same!”

Zakayia Ansari, Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Quality Education, recently wrote a petition calling on Gov. Cuomo to stop ignoring public schools. Within days the petition received nearly 15 thousand signatures that she delivered to Cuomo’s office at the event. Ansari was joined by Natasha Capers, a parent leader also from Brownsville, Brooklyn. As Capers was being led away by officers she echoed DeLutro, “I will do this everyday for my children.”

Fifty-nine leaders were arrested in the coordinated act of civil disobedience demanding a “New York that works for all”.

Although different campaigns were being represented by an array of groups that included New York Communities for Change, Make the Road New York, Alliance for Quality Education, and ALIGN NY, each respective cause has the common enemy of Wall Street and big money. “When you have a collective group of people working together it amplifies the message that we’re all in this together” said one advocate. She continued, “The labor and community alliance is reshaping the balance of power in this state; it is emboldening officials who are concerned with the quality of life for ordinary working people. Governor Cuomo is going to have to choose between representing millions of working families or the millions dollars of the 1percent.”

Photo: AllOfUs




Estevan Bassett-Nembhard
Estevan Bassett-Nembhard

Estevan Bassett-Nembhard is the New York City organizer of the Communist Party USA. He has led community campaigns for the Black Radical Congress, the Young Communist League and La Fuente. He traveled the country helping health care workers form unions with the Service Employees International Union. He enjoys exploring NYC neighborhoods and parks with his family, friends and dog, Conan.