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, according to the New York Times.
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 Caswell F. Holloway said in a statement.
Our position has been consistent throughout: The City’s role is to protect public health and safety, to enforce the law, and guarantee the rights of all New Yorkers. 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, and we will continue to monitor the situation.
As news that the cleanup had been called off rippled through Zuccotti Park, cheers erupted among demonstrators who had been preparing for a possible confrontation.
Ryan Gaffney, 22, Gowanus:
“I think it is a victory for all of us,” said Ryan Gaffney, 22, of Brooklyn. “We are here in unity working together.”
Steve Sachs, of Hightsown, N.J., said: “I did not come here to look for a fight. I’ve never been in a fight in my life. I’ve never been arrested. But I was ready to be arrested over this.”
Hundreds had gathered overnight in anticipation of what might happen on Friday, while others continued cleaning the park, which Brookfield Properties complained had become filthy and a potential health threat.
Around 5 a.m., a collection of mops and brooms had stood in a plastic bin on Liberty Street. Nearby were 27 buckets of soapy water. A woman handed out white rubber gloves to more than a dozen people. They walked to the west end of the park, at Trinity Place, and announced they were going to begin a sweep, picking up and discarding objects that did not belong to anyone.
“This place is extremely important,” said Kyle Christopher, 27, a photographer from Buffalo, who had been part of the protests since their first week.
Patrick Bruner, a spokesman for Occupy Wall Street, said that on Thursday night protesters tried to deliver a petition with more than 100,000 signatures to City Hall, calling upon Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to allow the Zuccotti park occupation to continue.
On Thursday night, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. sent a message to members asking them to show up at Zuccotti Park early Friday morning to support the protesters.
By 6 a.m., the crowd had swelled to more than a thousand. Police officers stood behind metal barricades that lined the park.
Andy Friedman, 38, of Park Slope, Brooklyn, said on Friday that he had come to the park in response to the union’s call for solidarity.
“For the past 30 years, banks in this country have been making out like bandits,” said Mr. Friedman, who works for the service employees union, S.E.I.U. “And the rest of us are going backwards.”
On Wednesday, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the park would be cleaned.
In a letter to the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, dated Tuesday, Brookfield’s chief executive, Richard B. Clark, wrote that conditions in the park had reached “unsafe” levels, and he reiterated his complaint that the encampment violated the law.
Overflowing garbage cans attracted rodents, he wrote, gas-fired generators posed a fire hazard, bad smells abounded, the lack of toilets made things worse and complaints were mounting from disgruntled people who live and work nearby.
“In light of this and the ongoing trespassing of the protesters,” Mr. Clark wrote, “we are again requesting the assistance of the New York City Police Department to help clear the park.”
The protesters feared that Mr. Bloomberg’s announcement that the park would be cleaned was a prelude to their being banned permanently. An appeal quickly went out on Facebook and other sites calling for brooms, mops and various cleaning supplies as well as volunteers willing to donate elbow grease. After cleaning the place themselves, the protesters planned to form a human chain around the park to try to keep police officers from entering. Supporters had been urged to go to the park at 6 a.m. Friday “to defend the occupation from eviction.”
Clashes between the police and protesters have occurred several times since protesters started their encampment in Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17. Scores of protesters were arrested during a march to Union Square on Sept. 24, and several women were pepper-sprayed by a high-ranking police officer, in an episode that is being investigated by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
On Oct. 1, about 700 protesters were arrested while trying to march across the Brooklyn Bridge. And 28 people were arrested after Oct. 6 march in Lower Manhattan, which attracted thousands and drew the backing of large labor unions.
Triggered by a call to action from Adbusters, a Canadian magazine, Occupy Wall Street began as a protest against what demonstrators portray as corporate greed and income inequalities, drawing several hundred people to Lower Manhattan but barely registering a blip on the radar of mainstream news media. Participants declared themselves the part of the “99 Percent,” to highlight their claim that that 1 percent of Americans control much of the country’s wealth.
News of the protest steadily grew, fanned by coverage of pepper spraying incidents, the mass arrests on the bridge and the eruption of similar protests in nationwide and around the world. Its support base widened. Celebrities visited the protesters, among them Susan Sarandon and Kanye West. Unions, politicians and academics lent their support. The protest was taken up by more and more people, angry over chronic joblessness, rising debt and what they view as a grossly imbalanced economic system.