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Common Council to consider waiving Poor People's Campaign fine

June 21, 2018 07:07 PM

ALBANY - Not only is the Poor People's Campaign refusing to pay the $1,451 bill it received for a May 21 protest, but now some city leaders say the group shouldn't have to.

"It sends the wrong message. We should encourage free speech.  As a Common Council member, I swore to uphold the Constitution and 1st Amendment," explained Owusu Anane, who represents Pine Hills and introduced the resolution.

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However, Mayor Kathy Sheehan is standing firm on the fee incurred when activists brought traffic to a standstill.  The goal of the Poor People's Campaign is to make those who wouldn't otherwise, pay attention to the issues and challenges that affect low income New Yorkers.

"Because I agree with their speech, I should have different set of rules? That's not how our Constitution works," explained Sheehan, who says other groups have been fined for similar reasons.

Albany police were aware the rally would occur, but didn't realize the scale of the event and officers stayed past their scheduled shift to direct traffic, pedestrians and ensure the protest could continue.

"We need to make sure we are keeping people safe and those who exercise 1st Amendment rights and those who are inconvenienced by it," adds Sheehan.

According to the city attorney, the Common Council has the ability to make a recommendation, but not the authority to waive the fee. 

"These are issues people in Albany want addressed and when you have an organization advocating, we should encourage and legitimize their issues and stance," insisted Anane.

The Common Council will consider the measure on Wednesday. Anane added that the council seems split and the vote will be close.

Credits

Abigail Bleck

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