Officials Delay Cleanup of NY Protesters' Park

Reuters

Officials in New York City Friday postponed a planned clean-up of the downtown Manhattan park where anti-Wall Street protesters have set up camp, averting what many feared could have been a showdown with authorities.

Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said the private owner of Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Office Properties, decided late Thursday to delay the cleaning, which had been slated to begin at 7 a.m..Protesters celebrated the postponement at the publicly accessible park, where the mood was festive.

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Many had feared the cleaning would be an attempt to shut down the movement that has sparked solidarity protests in more than 1,400 cities. There were plans for global rallies Saturday in 71 countries, according to Occupy Together and United for Global Change.

Roughly 1,000 protesters were on hand early Friday at the park, where many had been up all night cleaning it themselves.

Throughout the park, where protesters have camped since mid-September, big buckets were filled with brooms and mops. Many protesters had packed up their belonging in preparation for the clean-up.

``There's a lot of talk of them actually trying to kick us out and keep us out,'' said Bailey Bryant, 28, an employee at a Manhattan bank who visits the camp after work and on weekends.

``We clean up after ourselves. It's not like there's rats and roaches running around the park,'' he said.

On Facebook, organizers had issued a warning, saying: ``This is a tactic that (New York City Mayor Michael) Bloomberg has used to shut down protests in the past, and a tactic used recently in similar protests throughout Europe.''

Brookfield has said conditions at the park were ``unsanitary and unsafe,'' with no toilets and a shortage of garbage cans. Neighbors complained of lewdness, drug use, harassment and offensive odors from the protesters, Brookfield said.

CONSISTENT WITH PARK REGULATIONS

Brookfield representatives, escorted by police, handed out notices to the protesters Thursday to tell them that the park would be cleaned in three stages and would reopen for public use consistent with park regulations.

But the rules ban camping, tents or other structures, lying down on the ground, placing tarps or sleeping bags on the ground, and the storage of personal property -- everything the protesters have been doing since they set up Sept. 17.

In announcing the postponement, the deputy mayor said in a statement that Brookfield was ``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.''

``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,'' he said.

Protesters are upset that the billions of dollars in bank bailouts doled out during the recession allowed banks to resume earning huge profits while average Americans have had scant relief from high unemployment and job insecurity.

They also believe the richest 1 percent of Americans do not pay their fair share in taxes.Hundreds of people have been arrested at rallies in New York, and dozens have been arrested in the past couple of weeks from Boston and Washington, D.C., to Chicago, Austin and San Francisco.

Solidarity rallies have also sprung up at more than 140 U.S. college campuses in 25 states, according to Occupy Colleges.

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