Protestors refuse to budge
New York (CNN) — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday that at midnight Brookfield Office Properties — the real-estate firm that owns Zuccotti Park — made the decision not to clear out Wall Street protesters from a Lower Manhattan park after the company was “inundated” with calls from public officials who threatened them.
The mayor said during his weekly commentary on New York’s WOR Radio that he didn’t know which officials allegedly made the threats, but that the company decided to work out some form of a negotiated settlement with the protesters in the coming days.
The cancellation averts broader showdown between demonstrators and police. Authorities, however, say they have made protester arrests but could not provide the numbers of those arrested.
The New York mayor’s office said earlier that Brookfield Properties withdrew their request made earlier in the week for police assistance during the scheduled cleaning operation.
“Our position has been consistent throughout: the City’s role is to protect public health and safety, to enforce the law, and guarantee the rights of all New Yorkers. Brookfield believes they can work out an arrangement with the protesters that will ensure the park remains clean, safe, available for public use and that the situation is respectful of residents and businesses downtown, and we will continue to monitor the situation,” Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said.
There had been fears of a standoff between New York officers tasked with clearing the park early Friday and protesters who wouldn’t budge. The city had ordered the protesters to leave by 7 a.m. so crews could clean the park.
But the protesters mopped, collected trash and scrubbed the pavement in the dead of the night as the Friday deadline neared for them to leave the premises for a cleanup. When the word of the postponed cleaning filtered through the more than 1,000 protesters who filled the park, they were elated.
The demonstrators, who have been chanting “All day! All week! Occupy Wall Street,” called the development a victory and planned to continue their passive resistance,
“We’re extremely excited.This is an example of what people power can do,” Tyler Combelic, a spokesman for Occupy Wall Street. “This is what democracy is all about in this country,”
Protesters descended on the privately-owned park near the New York Stock Exchange on September 17 to protest the nation’s ailing economy.
“You want to clean up something? Clean up these crooks on Wall Street,” said City Council Member Charles Barron.
Daniel Mintz of MoveOn.Org said he was planning to deliver to Mayor Bloomberg more than 350,000 petitions and signatures he received Thursday from supporters around the nation. “The mayor would do a lot better cleaning up Wall Street than cleaning up the plaza,” he said.
Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn said the move to clean the park was a “ruse” to end the protest.
Bloomberg told protesters Wednesday that the decision to clean the park was made after owners voiced concerns about “unsanitary conditions and considerable wear and tear on the park.”
“The mayor is a strong believer in the First Amendment and believes that the protesters have a right to continue to protest,” Holloway said in an earlier statement.
But the situation in the park is “not in the best interests of the protesters, residents or the city,” he said.
The plan had been to clean the park in stages, and protesters would be allowed to return to the park as areas were cleaned if they obeyed the rules set forth by the owners, Brookfield Properties, the statement said.
“The park has not been cleaned in four weeks, a process that is normally undertaken every night,” Brookfield said in a statement. “Our goal is to keep the park clean, safe, and accessible to all.”
Zuccotti Park was built for the general public, but the weeks-long protest has raised concerns among area business owners and residents about sanitation.
The protest campaign began in July with the launch of a campaign website calling for a march and a sit-in at the New York Stock Exchange.
For almost a month, demonstrations have addressed such issues as police brutality, union busting and the economy, the group said.
Organizers have taken inspiration from this year’s Arab Spring protests that swept through North Africa ad the Middle East. Crowds have taken up residence in the park in New York’s financial district, and organizers have called for 20,000 people to flood the area for a “few months.”