New York firefighters removed about a dozen gasoline cans and six generators from Zuccotti Park, where Occupy Wall Street protesters have camped for almost six weeks, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
About 30 to 40 firefighters were sent to the park along with the police department’s community affairs unit, Bloomberg said today on his weekly WOR radio show.
The equipment, which helped power computers and mobile phones and keep people warm as temperatures dipped near freezing, are safety hazards and illegal, Bloomberg said. Forecasts call for rain and snow in the metropolitan area tomorrow.
“Our first two concerns are First Amendment and safety, and this was safety,” Bloomberg said. “People were courteous and understanding. The story of this morning is that there was no story.”
The material won’t be allowed back into the park in Lower Manhattan, said the mayor, who is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP. The occupants cooperated with law enforcement and the sweep produced no violence, he said.
Mark Bray, a spokesman for the group, said the action was “a pretext to make the protest less sustainable and more difficult for us.” Occupiers have about 14 fire extinguishers, he said.
The demonstrators, who arrived in the privately owned park Sept. 17, inspired thousands to take to the streets from Toronto to Tokyo to protest economic inequality and what they call corporate greed. Protesters say they represent “the 99 percent,” a nod to data from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office showing the top 1 percent of earners saw inflation-adjusted, after-tax earnings grow by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007. Those with incomes in the bottom fifth saw an 18 percent jump.
Occupiers have vowed to remain at the site near the World Trade Center even as temperatures plummet.
“We were advised by city officials after the action had been undertaken,” Melissa Coley, a spokeswoman for Brookfield Office Properties Inc., which owns and operates the public park, said in an e-mailed statement. “We continue to be concerned with safety conditions in the park and are supportive of this action.”
The company hasn’t asked city officials to enforce park rules barring sleeping bags, tents and lying down.
Removing the generators is “another form of control,” said Kanaska Carter, a 26-year-old musician from Canada who said she’s been at Zuccotti since Sept. 17. “It’s another tactic to make us feel inferior and vacate the park. But it’s not going to happen.”
She said the protesters were considering building igloos and heating tents by charging batteries during the winter.
“We’re going to stay no matter what the weather,” said Stacey Hussler, 38-year-old midwife’s assistant from Florida camping in the park.
Today, police arrested Dustin Taylor, 34, of Wheelersburg, Ohio, near Zuccotti Park and charged him with menacing after he threatened to stab a Fox 5 reporter in the throat with a pen, said Paul Browne, a department spokesman. That brings the number of arrests made in connection with the protests to about 970, he said.
‘Modify Our Loans’
Demonstrators gathered on the steps of the New York Public Library about 1 p.m. before splitting off into two groups to march past the offices of Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), Citigroup Inc. (C) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) Police on foot and scooter followed, and the two groups later regrouped in front of JPMorgan’s headquarters on Park Avenue.
One group of perhaps 100 people stood outside Citigroup at 399 Park Ave., chanting “modify our loans, keep us in our homes.”
“We need you to create jobs,” marcher Maria Maisonet told Shannon Bell, a Citigroup representative who had come outside to meet the crowd. “We need you to listen to us,” she said, handing Bell a stack of letters, of which she said she had 6,000.
“Thank you,” said Bell, who then went back inside.
Later, Bell, the managing director of corporate communications, released an e-mail statement saying the bank would “carefully review the letters and follow up with our customers as needed.”
One of the letters, signed LaShuna Garcia, said, “Please help keep the American dream alive because the dream can’t happen if there is no one to dream it.”
As the crowd marched, one man walked by and said “go get jobs” as another in a suit standing outside a restaurant said, “Ha. I have a job! I have a job!”
The other group marched to Bank of America Tower, where protesters tossed paper airplanes folded from messages supporting the movement toward the building. They then marched through Times Square to Morgan Stanley (MS)’s building to deliver a singing telegram to the melody of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and invite Chief Executive Officer James Gorman to lunch. A security guard said he declined.
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