It looks like Friday is going to be an interesting day at Zuccotti Park. Just two days after declaring that the occupiers of Wall Street could stay in the park indefinitely, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last night that protesters will have to leave at least temporarily for a cleaning of the park on Friday. And there are hints that the company that owns the park wants the NYPD to evict the protesters permanently.
There is little chance that the protesters will comply with a temporary removal request -- and zero chance that they will willingly leave for good.
Bloomberg briefly visited the park last night, and his office later released a statement declaring, "As the protest has continued, Brookfield has expressed concern about its inability to clean the park and maintain it in a condition fit for public use. Brookfield conveyed these concerns in a letter they sent to the City."
It continues: "The cleaning will be done in stages and the protesters will be able to return to the areas that have been cleaned, provided they abide by the rules that Brookfield has established for the park."
Emphasis added. One of the big questions here is what exactly those rules are, how they will be enforced, and by whom; I've asked Brookfield for comment on its rules and will update if I hear back.
The letter from Brookfield to the city, which I've posted below, argues that "conditions at the park have deteriorated to unsanitary and unsafe conditions" and requests "the assistance of the New York City Police Department to help clear the park" for inspection and cleaning." The letter then continues, ambiguously:
Once we have completed our cleanup and maintenance, we would ask that the Department assist Brookfield on an ongoing basis to ensure the safety of all those using and enjoying the park.
That line could be interpreted as a request to permanently evict the occupiers. The letter also claims that having mattresses and sleeping bags in the park violates Brookfield's rules. So the city's pledge that protesters will be able to return -- but only if they follow Brookfield's rules -- could be interpreted as a de facto eviction announcement.
Also worth remembering here: Bloomberg's longtime girlfriend, Diana Taylor, sits on the board of Brookfield.
Keep in mind that moving the protesters out of the park is no simple thing. There is an infrastructure set up, of sleeping areas, an in-house media center with a generator where much of the Internet work gets done, a food area with racks and tables, a growing library, and so on.
The protesters -- who have a sanitation committee that has been keeping the park relatively clean, given the circumstances -- appear to have no intention of leaving the park.
In response to Bloomberg, some protesters have announced "Operation #wallstcleanup" for Thursday and Friday, in which the park will be thoroughly cleaned by the occupiers and then any attempt to evict by the NYPD will be nonviolently resisted. Here's how the plan -- which has not yet been endorsed by the entire group -- is described:
On Wednesday/Thursday, all campers/supporters should reach out to friends/family/anyone to donate or purchase brooms, mops, squeegees, dust pans, garbage bags, power washers and any other cleaning supplies to be collected at sanitation. The sanitation committee should move full-speed ahead on purchase of bins allocated by consensus at GA.
After General Assembly on Thursday, we'll have a full-camp cleanup session. Sanitation can coordinate, and anyone who is available will help with the massive community effort!
Then, Friday morning, we'll awake and position ourselves with our brooms and mops in a human chain around the park, linked at the arms. If NYPD attempts to enter, we'll peacefully/non-violently stand our ground and those who are willing will get arrested.
Afterwards, we'll march with brooms and mops to Wall Street to do a massive #wallstcleanup march, where the real mess is!
Finally, here is Brookfield's letter to NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, via Capital New York's Azi Paybarah:
UPDATE: Here's a bit of video from Bloomberg's awkward visit to the park Wednesday evening: