New York police fail to clear park after thousands gather to defend Occupy Wall Street
15 October 2011
The administration of New York City's billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg beat a tactical retreat Friday morning, backing down from earlier threats to clear the site of the anti-Wall Street demonstration on the pretext that its corporate owner needed to clean the area.
Over two thousand people, predominately men and women in their twenties and early thirties, assembled before dawn in the heart of New York City's financial district to defend the encampment of Occupy Wall Street at Liberty Plaza (renamed Zuccoti park by its corporate owners).
New York police video recording protesters
Authorities had scheduled the "cleaning" of the small, brick-paved park for 7:00 am, a deadline when protesters would have to leave or face arrest. They would not be allowed back in with their gear, if at all.
Under the glare of street lamps and media lighting, tension pervaded the crowded park and adjacent sidewalks as the crowd awaited the anticipated assault by riot police. Many stood silently while others raised the chants Of "We are the 99 percent".
By 7:30 am , as it became clear that police would not remove protesters from the park, hundreds began to march to Wall Street a few blocks away. At least fourteen people were arrested and one protester was hit and run over by a police motorcycle, though it could not be determined if this was accidental or not. Several others were injured after being attacked by cops.
The reversal of the plan to clear the park was announced by Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway, who said in a statement: "Late last night, we received notice from the owners of Zuccotti Park—Brookfield Properties—that they are 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."
The World Socialist Web Site spoke to a number of people who had come to defend the occupation. Ryan, a young man form Long Island who works two jobs to make ends meet, told us. "I'm here to defend Occupy Wall Street, because I have to be here. This is an international movement against the capitalist system. Classism is a long-standing problem. It's as old as civilization itself, but it's gotten much worse in the last 10 years. I'm here because we need a society in which it is possible for every human being to realize their potential."
When asked about the role of liberal groups in supporting the occupation he said, "The Democrats are beholden to the same bankers as the Republicans. That's pretty obvious. "
Natasha, a young woman who lives in Brooklyn and works for a non-profit said: "I was a arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1, and I've been coming back since then".
Zuccotti Park, formerly called Liberty Plaza Park, is a 33,000-square-foot (3,100 m2) publicly accessible park in Lower Manhattan, New York City, privately owned by Brookfield Properties. The park was created in 1968 by United States Steel, after the property owners negotiated its creation with city officials, and named Liberty Plaza Park and situated beside One Liberty Plaza. It is located between Broadway, Trinity Place, Liberty Street and Cedar Street. The park's northwest corner is across the street from Four World Trade Center. It has been popular with local tourists and financial workers.
The park was heavily damaged in the September 11 attacks and subsequent recovery efforts of 2001. The plaza was later used as the site of several events commemorating the anniversary of the attacks. After renovations in 2006, the park was renamed by its current owners, Brookfield Office Properties, after company chairman John Zuccotti.
In 2011, the plaza has become the site of the Occupy Wall Street protest camp. During the demonstration, activists are occupying the plaza and using it as a staging ground for protests throughout the Manhattan Financial District. On October 11, 2011, Ric Clark of Brookfield sent a letter to Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly stating because of "the ongoing trespassing of the protesters we are ... requesting the assistance of the New York City Police Department to help clear the Park."
Creation and early background
The park, formerly called Liberty Plaza Park, was created in 1968 by United States Steel in return for a height bonus for its adjacent headquarters at the time of its construction. That building is now known as One Liberty Plaza.
The park was one of the few open spaces with tables and seats in the Financial District. Located one block from the World Trade Center, it was covered with debris, and was subsequently used as a staging area for the recovery efforts after the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. As part of the Lower Manhattan rebuilding efforts, the park was regraded, trees were planted, and the tables and seating restored
On June 1, 2006, the park reopened after an $8 million renovation designed by Cooper, Robertson & Partners. It was renamed Zuccotti Park in honor of John Zuccotti, former City Planning Commission chairman and first deputy mayor under Abe Beame and now the chairman of Brookfield Properties, which used private money to renovate the park. Currently, the park has a wide variety of trees, granite sidewalks, tables and seats, as well as lights built into the ground, which illuminate the area.
A sculpture of a seated businessman, Double Check, was removed during the reconstruction period, but was returned in 2006. It was joined by Joie de Vivre, a 70-foot-tall abstract sculpture.
Given its proximity to Ground Zero, Zuccotti Park is a popular tourist destination. The World Trade Center cross, which was previously housed at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, was featured in a ceremony held in Zuccotti Park before it was moved to the the 9/11 Memorial
On September 17, 2011, the "Occupy Wall Street" protest began using Zuccotti Park as a campground and staging area for their actions. Some of the protesters displayed a placard welcoming visitors to "Liberty Park", an informal return to a version of the park's original name. The organizers had originally planned to occupy One Chase Manhattan Plaza, but the plaza was closed.
Because Zuccotti Park is not a publicly owned space, it is not subject to ordinary public park curfew. New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said on September 28, 2011, that the NYPD could not bar protesters from Zuccotti Park since it is a public plaza that is required to stay open 24 hours a day. "In building this plaza, there was an agreement it be open 24 hours a day," Kelly said. "The owners have put out regulations [about what's allowed in park]. The owners will have to come in and direct people not to do certain things." A spokesperson for Brookfield Properties, the owner of the park, expressed concern: "Zuccotti Park is intended for the use and enjoyment of the general public for passive recreation. We are extremely concerned with the conditions that have been created by those currently occupying the park and are actively working with the City of New York to address these conditions and restore the park to its intended purpose."
On October 6, 2011, it was reported that Brookfield Office Properties, which owns Zuccotti Park, had issued a statement which said, "Sanitation is a growing concern ... Normally the park is cleaned and inspected every weeknight... because the protestors refuse to cooperate ... the park has not been cleaned since Friday, September 16th and as a result, sanitary conditions have reached unacceptable levels." To protect and clean the park, protesters volunteered to sweep the areas of the plaza and posted signs urging each other to avoid damaging the flower beds.
On October 11, 2011, Brookfield Properties requested Police Commissioner Kelly to "clear the park" as its use by Occupy Wall Street "violates the law, violates the rules of the Park, deprives the community of its rights of quiet enjoyment to the Park, and creates health and public safety issues". Occupants were advised to clear the park on October 14 by 7 AM, however, shortly before this time facing potential of a confrontation, the owners withdrew the request.