Zuccotti Park Cleanup Standoff
A plan to clean the park at the center of the Occupy Wall Street protests has been postponed.
The epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street protest is Zuccotti Park, a privately owned but public park. The overnight campouts, particularly the erecting of tents, is illegal but being overlooked for reasons of obvious practicality. The owners had ordered the protestors out this morning for a cleanup and had requested police assistance in the likely case the crowd resisted. What many feared would be an ugly standoff has been, for now at least, averted.
David Chen, NYT (“Protesters Told to Vacate Park, for Its Cleaning“)
Responding to what he called unsanitary conditions at the private park in Lower Manhattan that has served as home base to the Occupy Wall Street protest for more than three weeks, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Wednesday night that protesters would be made to leave temporarily as the property was cleaned in stages.
Mr. Bloomberg made the announcement after visiting the park, Zuccotti Park, for the first time and informing the protesters in person that the cleaning would begin Friday, a statement released by his office said.
He cited deteriorating sanitary conditions as the reason the park’s owner, Brookfield Properties, wrote a letter to the city conveying its concerns “about its inability to clean the park and maintain it in a condition fit for public use.”
“The mayor is a strong believer in the First Amendment and believes that the protesters have a right to continue to protest,” Caswell Holloway, the deputy mayor for operations, said in a statement.
“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.”
Amenona Hatocollis for NYT City Room (“Facing Eviction, Protesters Begin Park Cleanup“):
Young people in knit hats and jeans scurried around Thursday wielding brooms and trash bags, moving mountains of sleeping bags, backpacks and jackets out of the way.
By cleaning up Zuccotti Park on their own, they were trying to persuade the park’s owner, Brookfield Properties, to back down from its plan to send in cleanup crews Friday morning and begin to enforce new rules on the use of the park that would end the Occupy Wall Street protest, at least in its current form.
But as the day wore on, it seemed that the protesters’ efforts to placate Brookfield might, in the end, not matter, and all sides were girding for a Friday showdown. The police said they were ready to step in if the company asked for help in removing protesters or enforcing the new rules, while protesters planned to form a human chain around the park and, using Facebook and Twitter, called on sympathizers to join them.
Some protesters saw the cleanup as tantamount to an eviction notice, and they vowed to stand their ground, even if it meant being arrested. “This is a public park privately held — I don’t even understand what that means,” Travis Nogle, a 32-year-old protester and “earthship builder” from San Francisco said as he changed his shoes and prepared to pitch in with the cleanup. “We have a constitutional right to protest.”
Colin Moynihan and Cara Buckley, NYT City Room (“Cleanup of Zuccotti Park Is Canceled“)
The cleanup of the Lower Manhattan park that has been occupied by protesters for nearly a month was canceled Friday shortly before it was supposed to begin, averting a feared showdown between the police and demonstrators who had vowed to resist any efforts to evict them from their encampment.
The announcement was made by the Bloomberg administration around 6:20 a.m., about 40 minutes before workers were scheduled to enter Zuccotti Park, which has been the home base for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators angered by what they see as an unfair and corrupt financial system.
“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,” Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said in a statement.
Essentially, by announcing the cleanup in advance, the city created an untenable situation. Rather than just the relatively few dedicated campers who occupy the place overnight, there were already more than a thousand protestors there by 6 am and more were streaming in. Trying to evict and arrest all those people could have gotten ugly.
But this raises legitimate questions about how to balance the right of people to peacefully demonstrate–and most of what I’m reading indicates that, aside from the inevitable yahoos, this is in fact that–and the rights of the community. Even a relatively conscientiousness group occupying a park is going to turn it into a dump in four weeks. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that a community has been deprived of its park.