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Occupy Wall Street Protesters Believe Zuccotti Park Cleaning A Ploy To End Occupation

Bloomberg

AP/The Huffington Post   First Posted: 10/13/11 11:13 AM ET Updated: 10/13/11 07:36 PM ET

NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg believes Occupy Wall Street protesters have a right to freedom of speech at a Manhattan park, but not to keep the owners of the public space from cleaning it.

Officials say Bloomberg visited with protesters Wednesday to tell them of plans to clean Zuccotti Park by the end of the week. Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said in a statement the protest has "created unsanitary conditions and considerable wear and tear on the park."

(CLICK HERE FOR LIVE UPDATES)

The park is owned by Brookfield Properties (for whom Bloomberg's longtime girlfriend, Diana Taylor, is a board member), which has asked the police commissioner Ray Kelly for help from the NYPD to clear the park so it can be cleaned. In a letter to Kelly (see below), Brookfield Properties wrote, "The situation continues to worsen and we need your assistance to ensure public safety."

Holloway said the cleaning will be done in stages Friday. Protesters will have to leave, but will be allowed to return after it's cleaned. (UPDATE: Ray Kelly confirms that the protesters will not be allowed to return to the park with camping gear or any other equipment that has enabled the occupation.)

Protesters have begun to pre-empt the city, however, vowing to clean Zucotti Park themselves. Kobi Skolnick, 30, who has been working at the park since the second day of the occupation, said 50 to 60 activists have begun cleaning the park this afternoon. "People are cleaning very hard," he said. Without running water, Skolnick said the Park denizens have had to transport water from different places in large containers. There are clean-up crews at all corners of the park.

Contrary to what Brookfield Properties or Bloomberg might think, Skolnick asserts that the occupation has been grueling work; he said that he has been working 16-hour days on site. "It's not a picnic here," he said. "I'm not here for a picnic. We are here to change society nonviolently."

According to a new Facebook event, "Operation #WallStreetCleanup", the Sanitation Committee of #OccupyWallStreet is currently soliciting donations for "brooms, mops, squeegees, dust pans, garbage bags, power washers and any other cleaning supplies."

And once they've cleaned up the park Thursday, well, there could be more mass arrests:

Then, Friday morning, we'll awake and position ourselves with our brooms and mops in a human chain around the park, linked at the arms. If NYPD attempts to enter, we'll peacefully/non-violently stand our ground and those who are willing will get arrested.

Afterwards, we'll march with brooms and mops to Wall Street to do a massive #wallstcleanup march, where the real mess is!

Protesters appear weary of the attempts to clean the park. One demonstrator told CBS, “I think the mayor and some of his ‘cronies’ are trying to use tactics to get us to move out of the park.”

Skolnick insisted the occupation isn't going anywhere. "We will not just let them kick us out," he said. "We are not going to give in easily at all. We are here to stay. We will continue to do what we are doing here...There is not even a question about tomorrow. Not even a question. It's clear we are staying."

Joshua Stephens, a 33-year-old activist, said he plans on being at the park in the morning. Of the police threat, he said: "It's obviously an attempt to dampen the movement and to dampen the presence in the park. The problem that I see with it, it's actually a provocative and dangerous escalation."

Stephens thinks it's just bad politics to mess with the activists. Occupation Wall Street is doing well in national polls, and has gained support from major unions and top Democrats. He described the move by Bloomberg as unncessary. "They're basically flipping everybody the finger," he said, adding that tomorrow's standoff could hurt the mayor. "It could result in Bloomberg's goons being on national television clubbing union workers. It just looks like a stunningly stupid and arrogant provocation. It's bound to backfire and bound to make him look like an asshole."

By 6 p.m., boxes of donated flowers had arrived at the Park. Piles of blankets were awaiting transport to laundry facilities. The major clean up had been completed. "The flowers look amazing," Skolnick said.

Bryan James, 23, one of the heads of the sanitation crew, said that cleaning has always been a round-the-clock operation. "Bloomberg's claims of [unsanitary conditions] are a farce," he told HuffPost. "They are propaganda."

But today at least, James said the group gathered all the personal belongings off the ground and went to work. "We got on our hands and knees," he said, "and scrubbed the ground." They also repaired flower beds and electrical outlets.

Lauren Digioia, 26, is also a member of the sanitation crew. She described a fairly complex and efficient operation where recycling is collected and transported off site every evening, and city sanitation pick up trash from all four corners of the park. She added that the crew has "every necessity from brooms and brushes, bleach, gloves, tarps, bags."

Bloomberg, who said earlier this week that protesters can stay in Zucotti indefinitely, was greeted with "chants, jeers and Bronx cheers" Wednesday night. Someone screamed "About time." And someone else asked Hizzoner if they could get a permit for amplification equipment. Bloomberg said no.

Previously Wednesday, the 26th day of Occupy Wall Street, police arrested four protesters outside JP Morgan Chase, where they were demanding a meeting with Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon.

Brookfield's Letter to NYPD asking to "clear" Zuccotti Park of Occupy Wall Street protesters

A spokesman for OccupyWallst.org issued a statement reaffirming the protesters' desire to maintain control over the park:

Tell Bloomberg: Don't Foreclose the Occupation. Join us at 6AM FRIDAY for non-violent eviction defense.

Please take a minute to read this, and please take action and spread
the word far and wide.

Occupy Wall Street is gaining momentum, with occupation actions now
happening in cities across the country.

But last night Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD notified Occupy Wall
Street participants about plans to “clean the park”—the site of the
Wall Street protests—tomorrow starting at 7am. "Cleaning" was used as
a pretext to shut down “Bloombergville” a few months back, and to shut
down peaceful occupations elsewhere.

Bloomberg says that the park will be open for public usage following
the cleaning, but with a notable caveat: Occupy Wall Street
participants must follow the “rules”. These rules include, "no tarps
or sleeping bags" and "no lying down."

So, seems likely that this is their attempt to shut down #OWS for good.
PLEASE TAKE ACTION:

1) Call 311 and tell Bloomberg to support our right to assemble and to
not interfere with #OWS. If you are calling from outside NY use this
number 212-NEW-YORK.

2) Come to #OWS on FRIDAY AT 6AM to defend the occupation from eviction.

Occupy Wall Street is committed to keeping the park clean and safe —
we even have a Sanitation Working Group whose purpose this is. We are
organizing major cleaning operations today and will do so regularly.

If Bloomberg truly cares about sanitation here he should support the
installation of portopans and dumpsters. #OWS allies have been working
to secure these things to support our efforts.

We know where the real dirt is: on Wall Street. Billionaire Bloomberg
is beholden to bankers.
We won't allow Bloomberg and the NYPD to foreclose our occupation.
This is an occupation, not a permitted picnic.


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Via HuffPost Miami:

When an Occupy Miami member offered evicted protestors vacant apartments in a building he owns in Downtown Miami's Overtown neighborhood, it seemed like the perfect solution: the 'Peace City' space would provide headquarters for the movement and shelter a small faction of the group's most vulnerable members. But it hasn't gone well. Other tenants say the building has become a cesspool of drug use and violence while non-resident Occupy Miami members are trying to distance themselves from the 'radicals' -- all while the two factions are wrestling for control over Occupy Miami's social media sites and future plans.

From the Miami New Times:

The feud between the Overtown occupiers and more mainstream members has only gotten worse. The two factions are now battling for control of Occupy Miami's social media sites. The movement's main Twitter account recently announced it had been "hijacked by a small, non-consensus group of radical members." The Occupy Miami Facebook page was also temporarily hacked by someone inside Peace City. Meanwhile, the Overtown occupation is slowly driving away more moderate members.

"This is a black eye on the Occupy movement," says Shannon Reaze, an Overtown community organizer and Occupy Miami supporter who is now helping tenants move out of Paz's building. "The violence and drugs going on here are way outside of what I thought Occupy stood for. This place is destabilized."

...The supposedly hard-core activists here spend their days drinking and getting high. And as Peace City devolves into lawlessness, the most committed occupiers are leaving. Local landowners and politicians want the place shut down, while cops are suspicious. Yet as long as Paz wants the protesters around, nothing short of a demolition order can keep them out.

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Via HuffPost DC:

WASHINGTON -- Occupy DC has a new lawsuit involving tents on its hands. But it doesn't involve temporary structures in McPherson Square.

Two protesters arrested during a February action outside Merrill Lynch's offices on 15th Street NW near McPherson Square have filed suit against the Metropolitan Police Department, Legal Times reports. (Read the complaint here.)

The plaintiffs, Samuel Dukore and Kelly Canavan, were part of a "targeted occupation" of Merrill Lynch on Feb. 13 where protesters were raising awareness about Merrill Lynch's reportedly close ties with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa, for his part, claims that the reports of these close ties are "wildly inaccurate."

Full story here.

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OWS reports via its website:

After the brutal attack on the attempted re-occupation of Liberty Square by NYPD on the 6-month anniversary of #OWS, a number of Occupiers have relocated their base of occupation to Union Square in midtown Manhattan, a point of convergence for several #OWS protests over the past 6 months.

According to reports on the ground, several dozen people slept in the park after the illegal and violent raid on Liberty Square. Over 70 people remain, now on Day 3. Although tents and tables are still banned, Occupiers have brought blankets and sleeping gear. Many are calling it ¨the new Occupation.¨ In addition to holding General Assemblies, Union Square Occupiers are providing vital jail support for those arrested on #M17 as they are released from NYPD custody. So far, the NYPD has made no attempt to remove Occupiers or prevent them from sleeping in the park.

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Occupy Long Beach is defending the mother's home. For more information, click here.

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The woman had the apparent seizure has been identified by the New York Observer as Cecily McMillan:

Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street activist once profiled in Rolling Stone, suffered a seizure Saturday night during protest action near Zuccotti Park. Many on-scene reported Ms. McMillan had trouble breathing after she was tackled and handcuffed by law enforcement.

A video uploaded to Youtube late Saturday night purports to show the attack. Two women can be heard commenting, “There’s Cecily,” then there is confusion as the police clearly perform a violent take-down on someone in the crowd.

According to Jeff Sharlet’s November, 2011 article about the Occupy Movement, this may be Ms. McMillan’s second violent encounter with police.

To read the full story, go here.

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Cops caught on video about 10 seconds in taking down the woman who had the apparent seizure:

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Watch video from inside Zuccotti Park as police moved in late last night:

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The paper reports from last night's chaos at Zuccotti Park:

At one point, a woman who appeared to be suffering from seizures flopped on the ground in handcuffs as bystanders shouted for the police to remove the cuffs and provide medical attention. For several minutes the woman lay on the ground as onlookers made increasingly agonized demands until an ambulance arrived and the woman was placed inside.

By 12:20 a.m., a line of officers pushed against some of the remaining protesters, forcing them south on Broadway, at times swinging batons and shoving people to the ground.

Kobi Skolnick, 30, said that officers pushed him in several directions and that as he tried to walk away, he was struck from behind in the neck. “One of the police ran and hit me with a baton,” he said.

To read the full story, go here.

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@ Greg_Palast : Our photographer ZD Roberts beaten @OWS Zucotti Park by cops. Thrown to ground, hair grabbd, hit with clubs while yelling, I'M PRESS PRESS!

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@ macfathom : Doubling east on Barclay, and now the ragged front of the march is at City Hall. #OWS

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@ LuddoftheFuture : girl in the street having a seizure and the cops have her in handcuffs. can this get any worse (live at http://t.co/4pLyy3gP)

Activists cry out for paramedics. The woman is limp on the ground. "Come on you violent bastards where's the paramedics?"

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@ jeffrae : March is heading north up broadway #ows #occupywallstreet

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@ macfathom : Dozens of arrests, many cuffed and sitting on broadway waiting for their ride to jail. #OWS

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@ RDevro : Police are barricading the park. It's cleared. I witnessed countless violent arrests. No way to estimate numbers.

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@ troutish : Protesters being dragged out by the head at #OWS #Zucotti Park http://t.co/qomhKkrA

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Cops pulling apart human chains. There are shouts for mic checks. Now, chants start forming. "The NYPD are sweeping through," says Tim on the live stream.

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@ ANIMALNewYork : Police are moving in. It's chaos.

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@ ANIMALNewYork : NYPD just made an announcement that Brookfield has to "clean the park" and Liberty Plaza is officially "closed."

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@ OccupyWallStNYC : Bagpipers just started marching into the park bringing the party mood with them, NYPD arrested one of them, and things got real heated. #OWS

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@ JackieHRye : NYPD just "destroyed" the tent in Zuccotti Park, Occupiers call for its re-building. Marching band also going through the park. #OWS

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@ RDevro : The tent in the middle of the park continues to fill with people planning to stay the night. Lots of energy here.

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Activists ask for more room as the tent is growing, expanding.

"It looks like a floating tent." -- as Tim on his live stream.

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Owly Images

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@ OccupyWallStNYC : .@justawall is leading us in a song! "Hit the road, banks! And don't ya come back no more no more no more no more!" #OWS

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Activists have assembled make-shift, cardboard sleeping areas inside Zuccotti Park. The cardboard is joined by a large green tarp.

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@ RDevro : A tarp is going up in Zuccotti as protesters march around the park chant-dancing. #m17 http://t.co/rJfP3GF9

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