11/09/2011 03:52 pm ET | Updated Jan 09, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg Defends Occupy Wall Street Protesters (VIDEO)

In an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday, Mayor Bloomberg defended Occupy Wall Street protestors and said they were "generally law-abiding citizens who follow the rules."

Bloomberg commented:

When they protest, they march in a line, they stay on the sidewalks, they follow the direction of the police, they exercise their First Amendment rights... And we haven't seen the kinds of things you see in other cities where people are running through the streets destroying commerce and reputation.

Bloomberg went on to say that the protests were part of a "much bigger thing that we should be focusing on."

The positive remarks were in contrast to the mayor's concerns last week over businesses and families near Zuccotti Park potentially being hurt by the protests. Capital New York reports on the Mayor's concerns where he criticizes:

This isn't an occupation of Wall Street, it's an occupation of a growing, vibrant residential neighborhood in lower Manhattan, and it's really hurting small businesses and families...I don't think there's anybody in the city that has been a stronger defendant of the First Amendment than this administration and I have been. We worked hard to protect the demonstrators' First Amendment rights, but other people have rights too.

Bloomberg's criticism came after news that Milk Street Cafe located near Occupy Wall Street was forced to lay off 21 employees due to declining revenue. Owner Marc Epstein said that protest's barricades had "created a siege mentality down here that is bad for business."

The mayor has also been concerned with the security and safety at Zuccotti Park, particularly in light of the recent arrest of Tonye Iketubosin, a protestor who has been accused of raping one female protester and sexually harassing another in separate incidents.

Watch Bloomberg as he defends Occupy Wall Street below:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy