Occupy Wall Street "Cleaning": Live Updates from the Standoff
After a night of pouring rain with unrelenting thunder and lightening (is Mayor Bloomberg wealthy enough to own one of those Bond-villain-style weather machines?), the moment of confrontation between the NYPD and the protestors camped out in Zuccotti Park is approaching. Our Harry Siegel (@harrysiegel) has been there since the soaked wee hours, joined now by Nick Pinto (@macfathom) and Rosie Gray (@_rosiegray). We'll be updating from their on-the-scene reporting and breaking news as it happens.
5:45 AM: Nick Pinto sends us the below picture, telling us the park is packed. Harry Siegel says there is no sign of union presence yet.
6:00 AM: Nick Pinto notes number of people calling for non-violence. Nick says the crowd is chanting as the union delegation arrives.
6:05: Harry tweets:
Mutiple reports say that life in Zuccotti was somewhat normal this morning, as it's become down there. The kitchen was serving breakfast this morning.
Similar confrontation happening in Denver right now with Occupy Denver.
6:10: Rosie says that Socialists are marching by on her side of the park. She also quotes a speaker saying, ""Please don't step on the flowers - the media is looking to highlight every mistake we make."
Nick reports: " 'The Special Assembly is now in session!' Crowd so big and raucous, announcement requires three waves of the people's mic." Also tweets:
6:20 AM: Nick has put up this great panoramic picture of the scene at Zuccotti:
Meanwhile, Harry gives us an update on the Occupy Wall Street Library, which had thousands of books when we last saw it earlier this week. Overnight, Harry says, they "took the library away, carried it in containers a block away, and a Zip pickup truck took it to an undisclosed location."
6:26: Deputy Mayor Howie Wolfson is tweeting that Brookfield Properties, the owner of Zuccotti Park, has "postponed" the cleaning.
Harry and others are wondering if this means that Bloomberg is actually backing down. Meanwhile, there seems to be little sign that the confrontation is over in anyway. Michael Busch tweets that cops are well armed with plastic handcuffs, posting this picture:
And, at the same time, reports are coming in that police have started clearing a Denver park that's the home of Occupy Denver. Live video feed here.
6:36: Harry and Rosie on Brookfield's (independent?!) decision about when they will clear the park:
6:42: Three NYPD paddy wagons just rolled in, Michael Busch says. There is talk of taking the barricades down, but people in Zuccotti are openly discussing if this is a ruse to get people to let their guard down before sweeping in for arrests. This person, carrying 99 percent balloon sculptures, doesn't look too worried.
6:50: Bill Dobbs, a gay activist we've talked to for years (and spokesperson for the Occupy Wall Street press center) just told WNYC that Occupy Wall Street is considering the "postponed" cleaning of the park a success. Dobbs, an attorney, told the radio station that there was no legal basis for the forced cleaning of the park, and he took heart that Mayor Bloomberg and Brookfield acknowledge this reality.
Rosie is reporting that a group has decided to go on a march of Wall Street itself. Though she tweets that marching is probably a "#badidea," she's going along for the ride.
6:55: Here's video of the announcement that Brookfield was backing down to Occupy Wall Street.
7:30: We just spoke to Councilwoman Tish James of Brooklyn, one of the 13 Council members who had signed a letter to Bloomberg yesterday asking him not to clear Zuccotti Park. Here was our exchange.
Were you surprised when they backed down?
When I arrived and saw all of these people, I thought, there's no way they are going to arrest all of these people. They don't have enough handcuffs and pepper spray in their portfolios to arrest all of these folks. Such a mass arrest would have created a major disruption to the city, and I'm glad they backed down and agreed to negotiate with the leaders of this movement.
Were you prepared to get arrested?
Yes. I was prepared to stand up for, defend, live for and die for the constitution, and for freedom. Where people are united, they will never be defeated. These young people, activists, labor leaders and union members, and stranding together to transform our government. These people are right. Our government has been hijacked by special interests, and the 99 percent are losing. Look at the almost 700 [school teaching aides] who just lost their jobs. Look at the unemployed and the disenfranchised. These people have confirmed for me something that I've been concerned about my whole life: a growing inequality in our cities and in our country, that is more profound than ever.
Will you be going on the march of Wall Street itself that's happening shortly?
[Laughs.] I'm not sure about that. There are several of us here from the City Council, and we're trying to figure out what we're going to do from here.
7:40: Rosie is along for the parade on Wall Street itself, which she describes as a "real" march, complete with a marching band and cops on Scooters. While the mood seems to be triumphant and jubilant among the protestors in general, legal observers, particularly the NYCLU, seem to have their guard up quite strongly. Rosie is now saying one arrest has happened so far.
7:50: No one is out of the woods yet. Rosie reports one more arrest on Broadway. Meanwhile, near City Hall, Nick tweets:
8:00: Rosie just called in to report, live from Wall Street itself:
"Marching up Williams Street, there were a bunch of arrests. Two were quite violent. One involved a girl who was kicking and lying on the ground. Something similar happened with a guy. Now, we're in a big scrum in the middle of Wall Street, right in the middle of Wall Street."
Rosie says that from her vantage, she can see a couple hundred protestors on Wall Street itself.
Also, check out Harry Siegel's post questioning whether the call to "postpone" the cleaning came from Brookfield or City Hall. It's currently featured at the top of Google News.
8:20: Mayor Bloomberg is on the air live right now with John Gambling. He reiterates that this was Brookfield's decision, and hints that Brookfield was pressured or harassed by elected officials to let the park stay as it is. When Gambling followed up, Bloomberg walked it back.
Also, without any sense of irony, Bloomberg said that "No one has been a bigger defender of the first amendment than I have." He voiced concern that Brookfield wants a couple of days to negotiate with Occupy Wall Street, but seemed skeptical that the problem wouldn't be worse if they tried to clear the park with even more time, people and support turning out for a "cleaning" sometime next week.
8:30: Bloomberg is still on with Gambling, but Gambling thinks they've said enough about Occupy Wall Street. Rosie says that the march on Wall Street itself is over, and most people are back in Zuccotti. Rosie says organizers are citing an unverified number of twenty arrests, but she saw six herself.
9:43: [Rosie Gray] Though a protester at the park announced that the number of arrests was around 20, Occupy Wall Street spokesman Patrick Bruner said the number is closer to five, which corroborates with what we saw.
Keep up with our Occupy Wall Street coverage here.
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