Members of the Occupy New Paltz movement rallied on Thursday one week after several of them were arrested for disobeying a park curfew.
Max Richmond, an Occupy supporter, criticized Mayor Jason West as “hypocritical.” Back in 2004, West locked horns with then Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, favoring the gay marriage issue by solemnizing 20 weddings without a license.
“Civil disobedience is just fine when Jason West is marrying gay couples” Richmond said. “But when it doesn’t fit into his political career, all of a sudden it’s worthy of police intervention.”
Richmond said West has decided to side with “those who use repression to stamp out our First Amendment Rights.”
The Occupiers had arrived in the Village of New Paltz on the evening of December 10, following an eviction from Hulme Park in Poughkeepsie during the wee hours of December 7.
According to the activists, their encampment moved from New Paltz Peace Park, across from Village Hall, to nearby Hasbrouck Park on December 11 at the invitation of Mayor Jason West.
Drier grounds and free electricity were enticing accommodations, they claim. Before long, extension cords began providing warmth through space heaters, inside a few of their tents.
Initially the village trustees were acquiescent. On December 15, they voted unanimously to allow the occupiers a haven for staging an ongoing protest citing First Amendment rights.
Eventually the village pulled the electric plug over safety and budgetary concerns.
Around February 8, the park occupants were notified by New Paltz officials that their continued activity at Hasbrouck Park requires a permit application and $1 million in liability insurance.
Police charged four participants with non-criminal trespass on February 9, just before midnight.
Meanwhile, the encampment has been temporarily relocated to a lawn on Huguenot Street, outside the old Creamery building. Michelle Ridell, one of the arrestees, owns the Unframed Artist Gallery on the premises.
Amanda Sisenstein, another arrested New Paltz resident, declared that “The First Amendment doesn’t have a curfew.” She was joined by attorney Valeria Ghoerghiu, who represents the group and witnessed the arrests.
Two others charged with trespass are Margaret Human, a local activist, and Brent Stewart, a young homeless veteran. All took umbrage at what they said was mayor’s apparent flip-flop on the matter – but praised local police for their sensitivity and professionalism.