Late yesterday, New York City officials announced that they would move to clear Zuccotti Park of Occupy Wall Street protesters Friday morning. Mayor Michael Bloomberg informed the protesters himself at the park.
“Mayor Bloomberg went to Zuccotti Park to talk with the protesters himself and inform them that on Friday morning Brookfield Properties will clean the park,” a statement from deputy mayor for operations Cas Holloway said.
“Brookfield has expressed concern about its inability to clean the park and maintain it in a condition fit for public use,” Holloway said.
Saying that the mayor was a “strong believer” in the right to free speech, Holloway added: “At the same time, the last three weeks have created unsanitary conditions and considerable wear and tear on the park. This situation is not in the best interests of the protesters, residents or the city.”
Zuccotti Park is a private property owned by Brookfield Properties, but it is maintained as a public space per an agreement with the City Council. The park must be open to the public in exchange for the opening of a zoning restriction on a nearby property. You can read Brookfield Properties’ letter to NYPD Chief Ray Kelly here.
Diana Taylor, Mayor Bloomberg’s girlfriend, is on the board of directors of Brookfield Properties. Just so you know.
The claim is that protesters will be allowed back in the park after the cleaning on Friday. However, under new rules posted at the park, protesters will not be allowed to bring in sleeping bags, tents and other camping equipment. This comes right at the time when the weather is turning colder in New York City. “Lying down” in the park may also be prohibited. The protesters are not taking kindly to the changes.
The order would put an end to the campout at the park that began on Sept. 17 — but some of the protesters defiantly vowed not to leave the park as the city has ordered.
“The powers that be don’t like what’s happening, and it doesn’t surprise me,” one protester said this morning. “They’d do anything to get rid of us. But you don’t put yourself through all this if you’re not serious.”
Another young man shouted “We’re not leaving this park!” as cops walked by passing out fliers warning them to clear out.
Others said they would clean up the park themselves, and a few were already walking around with brooms and picking up garbage.
This is exactly how authorities dealt with the occupation of the Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin earlier this year. They claimed that it needed cleaning. They banned sleeping bags and bedrolls. Then they banned food, so that the protesters had no way to get sustenance and stay in the occupation site. Then they restricted entry and exit.
We’re not just seeing this in New York City, but around the country. Protesters were ejected in Boston and Portland. Upcoming confrontations are likely in Atlanta and Denver.
MoveOn.org has a petition up to the Mayor to “Respect the protesters’ First Amendment rights. Don’t try to evict Occupy Wall Street.” But eviction is on the menu. The powers that be are striking back.
UPDATE: Via Think Progress, here’s the list of posted rules at Zuccotti Park today, clearly designed to end Occupy Wall Street.
UPDATE II: Matt Browner Hamlin has a lot more, including some action items.