Zuccotti Park Cleaning Cancelled For Now
More than a thousand demonstrators celebrated early Friday morning as the Bloomberg administration announced at the last minute that they would not pursue the clearing of the Occupy Wall Street home base at this time. At the request of Brookfield Properties, which owns the occupied Zuccotti Park, the city was set to begin emptying the space of protesters at 7 a.m. for a cleaning, eventually allowing them to return, but without the supplies necessary to maintain the encampment created almost one month ago. The demonstrators responded by offering to clean the park themselves, but also put out an emergency call to action "to defend the occupation from eviction," vowing to stand their ground and be arrested if need be. But that face-off with police was avoided at about 6:20 a.m. when a statement from Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway announced that Brookfield had changed their mind.
"Late last night, we received notice from the owners of Zuccotti Park - Brookfield Properties - that they are postponing their scheduled cleaning of the park, and for the time being withdrawing their request from earlier in the week for police assistance during their cleaning operation," read the reversal. "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."
That's a major turnaround from Brookfield's initial request that the park be emptied. In a letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly they wrote that they were "extremely concerned about dangers posed by damage that may have been incurred within the Park and by materials and equipment brought into the Park by the protesters." They pleaded, "The situation continues to worsen and we need your assistance to ensure public safety." Some are already wondering if this morning's decision was in fact a change of heart from Brookfield, or if the mayor, faced with resistance, made the call.
An Occupy Wall Street spokesperson said that they attempted last night to deliver Bloomberg a petition with more than 100,000 signatures urging him to let the protesters stay. When the news came down today that they could do just that, some demonstrators set off on a march to Wall Street, which has been barricaded. Some arrests have been reported already, as the elation turns quickly to tension again.