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Sheehan administration bills Poor People’s Campaign

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Sheehan administration bills Poor People’s Campaign

The city of Albany has billed the organizers of the Poor People’s March $1,441.49 for the presence of 11 police officers at their protest on May 21. We’ve included the bill in this story. 

The Poor People’s Campaign is a national movement designed to bring attention to the ills of poverty through protest and civil disobedience. The group has targeted state capitals across the country. 

Mark Mishler, an Albany attorney who represents the Poor People’s Campaign, wrote the city treasurer saying the group will not pay, disputing its validity. “All of the activities of the Poor People’s Campaign that day fall under the rubric of constitutionally protected speech, assembly and association. The City cannot burden the exercise of these rights by imposing, after the fact, an onerous bill for police services,” wrote Mishler. 

Mark Emanation, a member of the Poor People’s Campaign state-wide steering committee, said that in his many of years of protesting he’s never seen a city bill protesters. “It sets a bad precedent,” said Emanation. “We are going to fight it. If people have to pay to exercise the right to protest it could stop many people from speaking out.” 

News of the city’s move has caused consternation and outrage among advocates and others. 

Brian Shea, a spokesperson for Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, took to Twitter to push back against assertions by protesters and organizers that the city was “over-policing” the protest and then charging them for it. 

The Alt asked Shea whether Sheehan supports the goals of the group. 

Shea said Sheehan reached out to two organizers about concerns she’d heard from residents of the “neighborhood along Washington Ave. as well as residents who rely on public transit.”  He said the police department followed “standard procedures” for billing for “special events that need city services.” Further, he said organizers have not “reached out to ask that the fees be waived and have refused to coordinate with city departments in advance of their demonstrations. ” 

We’ve asked organizers whether they spoke to Sheehan and will update this post with their response. 

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