According to Slate, “Brookfield Properties, which owns the downtown Manhattan park that has become the home base of the Occupy Wall Street protests, announced on Thursday that it wants all protesters off its property starting at 7 a.m. Friday so it can tidy up the park grounds. It said the demonstrators can come back after the cleaning—as long as they abide by park rules. Those rules prohibit tents, tarps, sleeping bags, and the storage of any personal property. That would effectively end the demonstration, in which activists have camped out in Zuccotti Park for the past three-and-a-half weeks to protest wealth inequality.”
Demonstrators are concerned that this is an attempt to silence them and effectively end the protest. Slate reports, “Mayor Michael Bloomberg said recently that they could stay indefinitely as long as they obey the law. Brookfield’s decision to step in, however, would make it difficult to maintain the occupation. The protesters are already vowing not to comply. Gothamist printed a statement from the group’s organizers on Thursday, saying, ‘We won’t allow Bloomberg and the NYPD to foreclose our occupation. This is an occupation, not a permitted picnic.'”
Brookfield petitioned the NYPD “asking for help moving the protesters,” Slate reports. In a letter, the developers wrote: “After weeks of occupation, conditions at the Park have deteriorated to unsanitary and unsafe levels. The Park has no toilets and while the existing trash receptacles have always been more than adequate to accommodate normal waste in the park, those receptacles are no longer even close to sufficient and the resulting trash accumulation is attracting rodents…”
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly responded in a statement, “People will have to remove all their belongings and leave the park. After it’s cleaned, they’ll be able to come back. But they won’t be able to bring back the gear, the sleeping bags, that sort of thing will not be able to be brought back into the park.”
Gothamist has a post up covering all of the developments happening as protesters try to avoid eviction, and MoveOn.org is hosting a petition asking Mayor Bloomberg to intervene on the protesters behalf. Bloomberg visited Zuccotti Park last night, but didn’t indicate that he’d do anything to stop the impending cleanup. Public Advocate Bill De Blasio visited Zuccotti Park this afternoon in solidarity with the protesters, and issued this statement, via Gothamist:
This has been a peaceful and meaningful movement and the City needs to respond to it with dialogue. We have an obligation to protect New Yorkers’ ability to freely exercise their First Amendment rights.
For weeks now, the police and residents have shown consideration to the protesters, and that respect has been reciprocated. I am deeply concerned that the City has upended this balance by trying to unilaterally remove protesters and their effects from Zuccotti Park. The City and Brookfield Management must engage this movement to find a suitable compromise.
Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer seems to think that even if the OWS demonstrations effectively end tomorrow, “Occupy Wall Street has already won.” He writes in a special editorial for Slate, it’s “perhaps not the victory most of its participants want, but a momentous victory nonetheless. It has already altered our political debate, changed the agenda, shifted the discussion in newspapers, on cable TV, and even around the water cooler. And that is wonderful.”
OWS organizers are prepared to defend their territory come tomorrow morning, and no doubt there will be arrests. It will be interesting to see how things play out, especially after a peaceful demonstration last weekend in Washington Square Park and the presence of many children in Zuccotti Park on Monday during their day off from school. OWS organizers chose Zuccotti Park, among other reasons, because it’s privately owned, and therefore subject to fewer regulations than city-run parks. The demonstration in Washington Square went off without a hitch last Saturday, and the movement may have to resort to hosting more special assemblies like it. Check out my footage of last weekend’s event, and know that no matter what happens tomorrow, Eliot Spitzer is right: #occupywallstreet has made an impact. Thank you, everyone.