Occupy Wall Street Protesters Score a Victory Against Eviction at Zuccotti Park

Occupy Wall Street protesters defended their encampment at Zuccotti Park this morning with brooms and mops.

Occupy Wall Street Protesters Score a Victory Against Eviction at Zuccotti Park

When Occupy Wall Street protesters were informed yesterday that they would be removed from Zuccotti Park this morning at 6am so that the park could be cleaned, they did an interesting thing. Rather than simply refusing to leave and calling the city’s ploy what it was—an attempt to evict them—they decided they’d clean it themselves.

Yesterday at about 2:30pm the official Occupy Wall Street website announced a call to action to donate cleaning supplies—brooms, mops, soap, trash bags, even power washers. When the police arrived at 6am for the scheduled eviction and cleaning, Occupy Wall Street intended for them to find a pristine park surrounded by protesters linked arm in arm in a human chain, all holding brooms and mops.

What police actually found this gray, wet morning at 6am was the buzzing activity of cleaning underway—protesters picking up trash, scrubbing the park’s marble floor, and sweeping. It had the same effect. The city quickly announced that the official cleaning would be postponed.

USA Today reports that “boisterous cheers floated up” as the postponement announcement was made, and about 500 protesters “soon marched away with brooms, saying they were going to clean up Wall Street, a few blocks away.”

The Daily Beast notes that “police in riot gear rapidly deployed to push them back onto the sidewalk,” and in the process four people were arrested.

Compared to the melee it could have been, the nonviolent display of clean-up protest seems a resounding success.

The city, if it had chosen to, could have forcibly removed protesters, for they are technically breaking the rules of Zuccotti Park, which is owned privately by Brookfield Office Properties. While the city stipulates the park is open to citizens 24 hours a day, Brookfield’s bylaws state no tents or camping are allowed.

In what could set the stage for future conflict, Bloomberg said, “We will continue to defend and guarantee their free speech rights, but those rights do not include the ability to infringe on the rights of others, which is why the rules governing the park will be enforced.”

The city’s announcement yesterday that the park would be cleared for cleaning included the caveat that when protesters were allowed to return it would be without tents and sleeping bags, per Brookfield’s bylaws, which would have made the occupation more challenging.

But as the city experienced when NYPD officer Anthony Bologna went trigger happy pepper-spraying innocent girls last month, the ire of public opinion is formidable, and can easily turn against perceived abuses of authority.

With the protesters not only remaining peaceful but actually carrying out the city’s wishes of cleaning and maintaining the park themselves, public opinion seems stacked well in their favor.