FDNY And NYPD Remove Occupy Wall Street Generators; Protesters Charge Political Motivation
NEW YORK -- The fire and police departments moved on Zuccotti Park early Friday morning to seize generators that serve as the electric lifeblood for Occupy Wall Street's headquarters.
Dozens of New York City Fire Department and New York City Police Department officers and inspectors swooped in early Friday morning to take six gas and diesel generators out of the park. No arrests were reported.
The FDNY cited safety issues as their major concern about the generators.
"In a public space, in a park like that, none of it can happen," said Jim Long, a spokesman for the FDNY. "You can not have containers of fuel, gas, diesel, or generators."
Protesters said fire safety officials had inspected their campground as recently as Thursday without telling them the generators needed to go. Just hours after the raid Columbia Journalism student Andrew Katz reported that new generators were "on the way."
Long said the FDNY would have to address any replacement generators "as a life safety issue."
"There are requirements to be met with generators, there's a safety radius of 20 feet," he noted -- a radius that Occupy Wall Street's generators had clearly not met.
But protesters responded that they had done their best to comply with health and safety officials' constant inspections of their campground, and claimed the action was a politically motivated effort to clamp down on them.
"Nothing involving this protest by the Bloomberg administration is ever innocent," said Bill Dobbs, a member of OWS's communications team.
"Look at the timing," he said. "This came after Oakland."
The mayor's office immediately took to Twitter, even using the #OWS hashtag, to say that the fire department action had nothing to do with the protesters' right to free expression:
But the generator raid will have serious implications for OWS protesters: For one, it will make it vastly more difficult for the protest's media teams to power laptops and livestream cameras.
For now, said Ed Needham of the communications team, the protesters are "going through batteries very quickly."
The generator confiscation may also make the difficult task of wintering in the park even more foreboding. Dozens of protesters have already experienced hypothermia, according to some protesters. Temperatures in New York were in the 40s on Friday, and the first snow of the season is expected this upcoming weekend.
Needham said the protesters had not yet used any generators to heat the maze of tents that now covers the park -- but that it would have been "a natural transition at some point."