Occupy Wall Street will be able to call New York City's Zuccotti Park home for at least a few more days after Brookfield Properties, the real estate company that owns the park, postponed a planned cleaning that would have required the protesters leave their encampment.
The owners, with the backing of police, had also informed protesters that rules against camping; the erection of tents or other structures; placing tarps or sleeping bags on the ground; and lying on the ground or on benches would be enforced after the cleaning. The "occupiers" took it as a de facto eviction order.
But Occupy Wall Street vowed to stay in the square and try to prevent the cleaning crews from entering. A crowd of about 1,500 gathered before dawn today, mopping the park grounds and preparing for a struggle with police.
They waved those same mops and brooms in triumph when fellow demonstrators announced the postponement via the "people's mic" at 6:40 a.m. The "people's mic," an amazingly primitive part of a high-tech movement, is used because of a ban on bullhorns and loudspeakers in the park. The crowd simply repeats what leader say, the message rippling out so everybody can hear.
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Following the announcement, jubilant protesters poured from the park into the Wall Street area, some clashing with police. At least 14 people were arrested for blocking access, police said, and one legal observer was hospitalized after being hit by a police scooter. The extent of that person's injuries was not known.
In the early hours of the protests a handful of demonstrators threw bottles. One threw trash can, but the tension ended quickly. The scuffle was an isolated moment in a series of peaceful marches to Wall Street and to City Hall.
In a statement, Brookfield Properties said they postponed the cleaning "at the request of a number of local political leaders." The company said it's attempting "to reach a resolution regarding the manner in which Zuccotti Park is being used by the protesters.
"Any such resolution will be respectful of the laws of the City of New York and will ensure that the park is used in a way that maintains the health, safety and viability of the surrounding residential and business community," the statement concluded.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on WOR radio that if there is no agreement, the company will likely attempt the same cleaning next week, but cautioned that "it would be a little harder at that point in time to provide police protection."
"I think what happened ... is Brookfield got lots of calls from many elected officials threatening them and saying 'if you don't stop this we will make your life more difficult,'" he added. "If those elected officials had spent half as much time trying to promote the city and trying to get jobs to come here we would go a long way towards answering the concerns of the protesters."
Ben Maer, a New York City native, said he'd come to the park with a friend to support the group several times.
"We haven't slept here or camped out. But with the eviction, we wanted to get here early and support them," he said. "It just shows the city doesn't really care about 'sanitation' or whatever. If they wanted to help, put a few port-a-potties around."