Photo by Timothy A. Clary for AFP/Getty Images.
UPDATE: Some protesters were so excited about not getting arrested this morning that they went marching through the streets of New York's Financial District—and got arrested.
The New York Times' City Room blog reports that police arrested at least 14 demonstrators this morning, including some who allegedly knocked over a police scooter, overturned trash cans, hurled bottles and sat in the street blocking traffic. The sporadic mayhem followed the news that a clean-up of the park had been canceled, averting a broader clash between police and protesters.
Meanwhile, in Denver, the Colorado State Patrol went through with a promise to clear out an encampment in front of the state capitol, arresting 23 protesters in the process. The number of arrests there could still rise, police told the Denver Post. From the Post:
Around 6:25 this morning, police marched lock-step through the camp, moving protesters into the street. "The whole world is watching," chanted some protesters. A core group of about 25 people remained around a makeshift structure that served as the camp's kitchen and medical tent, dubbed by protesters the "thunderdome." Some of the core protesters who refused to leave were physically lifted by police, moved out of the immediate area and then allowed to disperse on their own.
The state patrol said authorities plan to clean up and guard the park in front of the capitol throughout the day, and may have a long-term presence there.
UPDATE on Friday at 9:18 a.m.: The owners of Zuccotti Park on Friday morning called off the planned cleanup that was to force protesters to leave the home base of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The move averted a likely showdown between the swelling crowd of protesters and the New York police officers tasked with removing them from the park.
The announcement came from the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg at around 6:20 a.m., less than an hour before workers were scheduled to enter the park to begin the cleanup, the New York Times reports.
"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 Caswell Holloway said in a statement.
Holloway continued: "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."
In a Friday radio appearance, Bloomberg said that the park owners agreed to postpone the cleanup after they were "inundated" with threatening phone calls from public officials, CNN reports. The mayor said that he did not know which officials made the alleged threats, but added that the company has decided to work out some form of deal with the protesters in the coming days.
The protesters spent much of the Thursday night and Friday morning cleaning up the park, which the owners have complained has become a health hazard, and had reportedly planned to form a human chain in a bid to block police from entering.
News of the cleaning's postponement were greeted by cheers from the hundreds on hand, many of which then took to the streets to celebrate by marching toward City Hall and Wall Street. The New York Daily News reports that the marches were primarily peaceful, although there were a handful of arrests.
POST Thursday, Oct. 13: This is one clean-up that could get messy.
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.
“They’re going to use the cleanup to get us out of here,” a dismayed protester told the Associated Press. “It’s a de facto eviction notice.”
Since the demonstrations began on Sept. 17, Zuccotti Park has become the focal point of a growing nationwide movement directed at corporate creed, corruption, and income inequality. Because it's privately owned, protesters haven't been subject to the same rules as they would be in a public park. 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.”
That could mean a big showdown with police. While Brookfield is legally required to allow around-the-clock public access, it is also allowed to enforce regulations. In a letter obtained by the blog The Dissenter, Brookfield wrote to NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly on Tuesday asking for help moving the protesters. From the letter:
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…
Kelly, the police commissioner, told the New York Post on Thursday, “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.”
How might the confrontation play out? The Daily News reports that organizers wrote on their Facebook page, "We'll position ourselves with our brooms and mops in a human chain around the park, linked at the arms. If the NYPD attempts to enter, we’ll peacefully/non-violently stand our ground and those who are willing will get arrested.”
Meanwhile, some protesters are mounting their own last-minute cleanup effort in hopes of being allowed to stay.