SLEEPING OCCUPY MEMBER ATTACKED

Protester beaten in his tent; domestic dispute blamed, not political

BRYAN FITZGERALD STAFF WRITER
Section: Capital Region,  Page: B1

Date: Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Correction: A photo on B1 Monday accompanying a story about Occupy Albany mischaracterized what Albany Common Council members were supporting. According to a press release from Occupy Albany, the council members backed a resolution supporting campaign finance reform.

ALBANY -- Police say they are looking for a man who assaulted a member of Occupy Albany over the weekend while the victim was sleeping in his tent in Academy Park.


A 22-year-old male protester was attacked at 2:40 a.m. Sunday in the city-owned park, said Officer James Miller, a police spokesman.


The suspect entered the victim's tent, punched and kicked the man and then ran from the park, Miller said. The victim, who suffered injuries to his left eye and jaw, was treated and released from Albany Memorial Hospital, Miller said.


He said police have identified the suspect and are actively searching for him.


The incident is believed to be part of an ongoing domestic dispute that resulted in an arrest at Occupy Albany earlier this month, Miller said.


On Dec. 7, a city man was arrested for allegedly dragging a female member of Occupy Albany from her tent, pinning her down and refusing to let her leave, Miller said. The incident happened the same day Occupy Albany was issued a two-week permit for 24-hour use of Academy Park.


Murray Hall was arrested at the park and charged with unlawful imprisonment. Miller would not confirm whether Hall was the suspect in Sunday's alleged assault.


News of the Dec. 7 arrest and of Sunday's assault comes as the protesters are trying to hash out an accord with the city that will allow them to stay past Thursday in Academy Park.


The city granted Occupy Albany a temporary permit for 24-hour use of the park after a surprise inspection that found several code violations threatened to force out the protesters.


City officials and members of Occupy Albany met Friday morning and planned to met again before the permit is set to expire at 7 a.m. Dec. 22.


Mark Mishler, a member of Occupy Albany's legal team, said the city was aware of the Dec. 7 incident, but said he did not believe either incident would spoil the protesters' chances of reaching an agreement with the city.


"Sometimes things happen," Mishler said. "We don't believe these are big issues for either side involved." The city has said previously that health risks such as hypothermia, not violence, are its main concern with letting the protesters stay in the park.


Miller said the only other city police call to the park was in late November for a drug overdose. In that incident, a person was taken to a hospital, treated and released. Occupy Albany has strict rules banning alcohol and drug use posted throughout their camp.


In November, State Police made over 100 arrests in the adjacent Lafayette Park after protesters crossed into the state-owned park past its 11 p.m. curfew.


The district attorney's office declined to prosecute those charges, but has said previously they would only decline to prosecute those arrested for non-violent offenses.


Reach Fitzgerald at 454-5414 or bfitzgerald@timesunion.com.