A confrontation between Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and New York City police was avoided after Brookfield Office Properties Inc. postponed cleaning its Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, where the protesters have been camping out for almost a month.
“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,” Deputy Mayor Caswell Holloway said in an e-mail today.
Protesters vowed to “defend the occupation” after police said they wouldn’t allow them to return with sleeping bags and other gear following the cleaning, under rules set by the private park’s owner.
Demonstrators formed cleanup crews that swept and mopped through the night as crowds gathered ahead of the owner’s planned move. More than 3,000 people had gathered at the site, according to an e-mail from Patrick Bruner, an Occupy Wall Street spokesman.
“I’ve slept here, and the conditions are more sanitary than my own apartment,” said Max Hodes, 28, from Brooklyn, who said he’s a member of the protesters’ crew that swept and scrubbed the area last night. “We have a moral imperative to stay here,” he said, standing next to brooms and buckets.
The Occupy Wall Street protest that began Sept. 17 has spread to cities including Denver, Boston and San Francisco. Demonstrations against widening income disparity are planned across the Asia-Pacific region tomorrow as protesters organizing via social media from Tokyo to Sydney join London in the movement.
“Many people are very inspired by what’s happening around the world, and I know there are 1,300 people on Facebook saying they’re coming,” a spokesman for planned demonstrations in Sydney, Josh Lees, said today by telephone.
While New York’s protesters are being allowed to stay at their encampment, officials in other cities aren’t as tolerant. Near the Colorado state Capitol in Denver, hundreds of protesters were told to vacate a park or risk arrest, the Associated Press reported. In Trenton, New Jersey, protesters were ordered to remove tents from their encampment near a war memorial.
New York Arrests
In New York, 14 protesters were arrested today, including those who stood or sat in the street, Paul Browne, a police spokesman, said in an e-mail. Others taken into custody included individuals who overturned trash baskets or hurled bottles, Browne said. At least one demonstrator was detained after he knocked over a police scooter, he said.
More than 700 demonstrators in New York have been arrested since the protests began, mostly on disorderly conduct charges. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he supports the protesters’ free-speech rights as long as they don’t violate the law.
Brookfield, a New York-based real-estate developer, had said earlier that crews would close sections of the park for cleaning beginning at 7 a.m. New York time to relieve “unsanitary conditions.” In a letter to the city last night, Brookfield Chief Executive Officer Ric Clark said the cleanup would be postponed “a few days while we attempt to work out an arrangement with the protesters.”
The developer put off the work after receiving calls from elected officials, Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, said on his weekly radio appearance on WOR.
Quality of Life
State Senator Daniel Squadron, a Democrat who represents Lower Manhattan, including the Zuccotti Park neighborhood, said he spoke with Clark last night, urging Brookfield to delay the cleanup.
“The stakeholders must come together to find a solution that respects the protesters’ fundamental rights, while addressing the legitimate quality-of-life concerns in this growing residential neighborhood,” Squadron said in a statement.
Stephen Levin, 30, a City Council member from the 33rd District in Brooklyn, said the gathering of thousands at Zuccotti Park “made the difference.”
“This park has become a symbol of this movement,” Levin said. “The fact that it’s a block from Wall Street with thousands of people here, you can’t ignore it.”
Brookfield agreed to create the park at the intersection of Broadway and Liberty Street, near the World Trade Center site, as a public amenity open 24 hours a day, year-round.
Protesters have been camping there since the demonstration began. The park has become a sea of backpacks, blue tarps and sleeping bags, which the occupants rolled up and stacked in piles during daylight.
“I work in retail, and it’s impossible to find a real job -- you just get jobs that are for high-school kids,” said Adam Natera, 24, from Queens, who said he arrived last night and was prepared to be arrested in support of “economic justice.” “It’s just awesome what’s going on here.”
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