Bloomberg Averts Zuccotti Park Showdown as Occupy Wall Street Goes Global

A sign in Zuccotti Park on Thursday. (photo: NLNY, Creative Commons license)

At the end of the day yesterday, the burning question was whether New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg would send the New York Police Department into Zuccotti Park this morning to clear it of protesters under cover of a request from the owners of the property (although used as a public park, the property is privately owned).  This morning, we learn that the property owners and Bloomberg have backed down, postponing for now the planned cleaning which had been put forward as the reason for potentially clearing the park.  From CNN:

The New York mayor’s office said Brookfield Properties, the owners of Zuccotti Park, told the city late Thursday the scheduled cleaning is off for now and “for the time being” they are “withdrawing their request” made earlier in the week for police assistance during the cleaning operation.

“Our position has been consistent throughout: the City’s role is to protect public health and safety, to enforce the law, and guarantee the rights of all New Yorkers. Brookfield believes they can work out an arrangement with the protesters that will ensure the park remains clean, safe, available for public use and that the situation is respectful of residents and businesses downtown, and we will continue to monitor the situation,” Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said.

There had been fears of a standoff between New York officers tasked with clearing the park early Friday and protesters who wouldn’t budge. The city had ordered the protesters to leave by 7 a.m. so crews could clean the park.

But the protesters mopped, collected trash and scrubbed the pavement in the dead of the night as the Friday deadline neared for them to leave the premises for a cleanup. When the word of the postponed cleaning filtered through the more than 1,000 protesters who filled the park, they were elated.

What began about a month ago with a handful of protesters in New York City is now spreading across the globe:

The Occupy Wall Street movement has sparked nationwide protests in more than 1,400 cities, according to Occupy Together, which has become an online hub for protest activity.

It also inspired solidarity rallies on Thursday that were due to take place at more than 140 U.S. college campuses in 25 states, according to Occupy Colleges. Some social media photos showed about a dozen or so protesters at various colleges.

According to the website of United for Global Change,, there are 869 cities in 71 countries where protests are being planning.[sic]

Even here in lowly Gainesville, a small blue dot in the middle of the reddest portion of Florida, the occupy movement is alive. A permit was granted for protesters to sleep overnight in the downtown Bo Diddley Plaza Wednesday night, but protesters attempted to stay overnight Thursday night as well, leading to the arrest of Bo Diddley’s son, Ellas McDaniel:

Ellas Anthony McDaniel, 56, said he was charged with trespassing around midnight Thursday because he refused to leave the Bo Diddley community plaza after it closed as is customary at 11:30 p.m. McDaniel said he complained to police that he had not been read his Miranda rights.

“They said if I go back in there, I’ll be arrested,” McDaniel said. “I’m not a vagrant. My father wasn’t a vagrant. If he was a vagrant, they wouldn’t have named this park after him. He didn’t raise no vagrants. He raised men. He raised me to stand up for what I believe, because he stood up for what he believed.”

The arrests in Gainesville do not stand alone.  Cities across the US have varied widely in their responses to the protests, with some large scale arrests (hundreds were arrested as they took to the Brooklyn Bridge) and some cities, such as Los Angeles, working closely with protesters to assure peaceful protests with few to no arrests.

With the large number of protests planned around the world for tomorrow, this weekend should tell us just how much momentum the movement is gaining.  One of the primary reasons Brookfield Properties and Mayor Bloomberg (whose girlfriend is on the board of Brookfield) may have backed down from a confrontation today is that there was a growing belief that there is now sufficient attention on the protest that a major crackdown would lead to a huge outpouring of support for the movement with overwhelming numbers of people joining the protesters on the streets.  At the time of this writing, unconfirmed reports on Twitter indicate a significant police presence around Zuccotti Park and a few reports of individual arrests, but no massive police action appears imminent.

If there are indeed over 1400 different protests in the US tommorrow and nearly 900 more in international cities, it is clear that the protests are striking a nerve across the globe.  Although some attack the movement as lacking a clear purpose or set of demands, it seems to me that the resonant theme is that Wall Street represents the hub of a system which for too long has enriched a very few while relying on lax regulation, poor law enforcement and a purchased government to deprive everyone else of their resources and their opportunities.  This movement represents a growing awareness among the” 99%” that this situation is no longer sustainable.

How far will the movement go and does it have the potential to lead to real change?  Only time will tell, but if the movement maintains anything like its current momentum for a few more weeks, the possibility begins to look more like a probability.

17 replies
  1. Jim White says:

    WaPo blog post puts “violence breaks out” in Zuccotti Park story, but when you read the post, you learn that the first violent act in the series was an NYPD officer running over a National Lawyers Guild observer with a motorcycle. They even have a photo of it happening…

  2. BoxTurtle says:

    The protestors didn’t even get a thank you from Brookfield for cleaning their entire park at no charge. Probably better than it had ever been cleaned.

    Perhaps that’s just fair, I’m thinking the neither Bloomberg nor Brookfield got any thank-you’s from the MOTU’s on Wall St. for backing down.

    Boxturtle (In fact, I suspect there was at least one very angry phone call to the mayor)

  3. John Casper says:

    ew, you and others might find this twitter feed interesting.

    There’s a lot of anxiety prior to this tweet, because the NYPD is moving in:

    @kristengwynne Kristen Gwynne
    “The rift between the new left and the old left is being healed this minute” unions at #ows

    Others tweeting confirmed that the UAW, Teamsters, Nurses, and Veterans arrived and inserted themselves between the protesters and the NYPD. It was only at that point that rumors a “postponement” began appearing. In retrospect, it looked to me as though Bloomberg had every intention of clearing the park. It was only when so many demonstrators showed up, plus the unions, that NYPD advised him to “postpone.” Whether NYPD was acting out of respect for fellow union members is another interesting question.

  4. EH says:

    @BoxTurtle: Bloomberg seems to be in high dudgeon about breaking continuity and generally poisoning the well of OWS. Look for more dirty tricks emitting from his spokesperson.

  5. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    @John Casper: Interesting.

    My morning Intertoobz checks includes (from FT) BlackRock’s Lawrence Fink saying he was surprised that [something like OWS] hadn’t happened sooner. So at least there’s one realistic hedge funder. He appears to be the exception.

    Meanwhile, also at FT, John Paulson — the man who made his billions betting that subprime mortgages were, in fact, fraudulent — is quoted in the Financial Times saying that “Instead of villifying our most successful businesses, we should be supporting them and encouraging them to remain in New York City and continue to grow,”. This is basically restating what Mayor Bloomberg said a day or so ago.

    If you want to make yourself crazy, read Krauthammer at WaPo excoriating jeans-wearing, iPod carrying, Steve Jobs admiring #OWS indignados. It’s destined to be a classic in the Annals of Whackadoodle Denialism. (Have a stiff drink before reading.)

    Meanwhile, in NYC, Galleon hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam was sentenced to 10 years for insider trading, having creamed $50,000,000 from actual productive investment. (He’d also pulled McKinsey execs into the mess.)

    Shorter Krauthammer: ‘what’s good for hedge funds is good for America’.

    Why is #OWS going to continue to build?
    Let’s review this morning’s news items from Pundistan:
    1. Accuse people of wearing jeans, carrying iPods, and going into debt for a college education? Check.
    2. Insult people for admiring Steve Jobs, a true innovator? Check.
    3. Fail to acknowledge that hedge funds are out of control? Check.
    4. Refuse to acknowledge a $50,000,000 insider trading scam? Check.
    5. Claim that hedge funds are ‘our most successful businesses’ and should not be villified? Check.

    If the 1% remains as clueless and intransigent as my single foray of Intertoobz checks this morning suggests, then #OWS is going to build as a force.
    This is going to get interesting.

    BTW: Guardian has an awesome report from Portugal and Spain: 45% unemployment among 20-somethings.
    It’s going to get interesting, globally.

  6. thatvisionthing says:

    Is there a dish called zuccotti? There should be, it should be on menus everywhere, like freedom fries. I crave them already.

    (Laisser les entrepreneurs!)

  7. thatvisionthing says:

    @readerOfTeaLeaves: Wait, you left Lech Walesa off your list:

    Former Polish President and Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa will fly to New York following an invitation from protesters involved in the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests.

    “How could I not respond?” Mr Wałęsa told Lublin-based newspaper Dziennik Wschodni. “The thousands of people gathered near Wall Street are worried about their future, about the fate of their country. This is something I understand.”

    …“Capitalism has found itself in a crisis and something has to be done because the world is in rebellion” said Mr Wałęsa. “Ordinary people express the truth about the general issues. They deserve respect and serious treatment. If the Wall Street protesters thought I could contribute [to their cause], then I’m ready” he added.


  8. P J Evans says:

    @Jim White:
    Following which the NYPD arrested the guild representative. (Given their bad habits of late, probably for being run over.)

    The group that actually owns Liberty Plaza/Zucotti park is saying they don’t know anything about the alleged threats. The ball is back in Bloomberg’s court, and it appears to have been loaded with something he doesn’t want.

  9. sdfks says:

    “The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots. True enough, robots do not rebel. But given man’s nature, robots cannot live and remain sane, they become “Golems,” they will destroy their world and themselves because they cannot stand any longer the boredom of a meaningless life.”
    —Erich Fromm – The Sane Society.

  10. sdfks says:

    Vagrants are created, it’s not an occupation, they are created by the 1%. Remember that. No one wants to be homeless.

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