Deputy Senate Majority Leader Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, defended the decision last night to limit access to the public at the state Capitol, saying State Police were concerned about the potential of unruly behavior by protesters who camped out near the Legislature chambers.
About 300 protesters spent most of the night at the Capitol, but they and the public were barred from the galleries in the Assembly and Senate. That drew criticism from Common Cause executive director Susan Lerner, who said the move “offends all notions of good government and civic engagement and was plainly in violation of New York State Constitution.”
But Libous said safety and an orderly process in adopting the budget was the top priority for State Police and the Legislature.
“That was a simple decision. I spoke directly to the State Police. They advised us to close the gallery down,” Libous told reporters this morning. “They said that the crowds are extremely rowdy. They felt that if the galleries are open, they would be doing nothing but arresting hordes of people all evening, that it would tremendously disruptive for us to complete the budget. That decision was based on the safety of the members and the staff and at the supervision of the State Police.”
The budget was approved in the Senate slightly before midnight, but at around 1 a.m. in the Assembly.