Clash Averted at Occupy Wall Street

10/14/2011 1:01 PM |

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Hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters were prepared to try to hold Zuccotti Park against forced eviction this morning, but it proved unnecessary. The owner of the privately controlled public park, Brookfield Properties, wants the park cleared so it can clean the space, and yesterday Mayor Bloomberg said the cleaning would commence at 7 a.m. He said protesters would be welcome back afterward, but without any tarps or sleeping bags; a rule that prohibits lying down would be enforced. But around 6:30 a.m. today, it was announced that the cleaning had been postponed.

So, on this muggy and misty morning, occupiers cleaned Zuccotti themselves: some people walked the space with garbage bags, collecting litter; others swept or scrubbed. I saw one person scraping goo off the pavement. Where in previous days there have been many protest signs spread out or piled on the north end of the park, today there were buckets of soapy water and a garbage can full of mops and brooms. But it was early—many people were still sleeping. Several were meditating; others carried paper plates of scrambled eggs on a slice of dark bread.

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Around 8 a.m., I saw two men in the park fight; one pushed the other to the ground, but the crowd diffused the situation. Then police closed off access to the park on Broadway, though the entrance at Trinity Place remained open. All of the streets around Zuccotti have now been lined with police barricades. A scuffle broke out between protesters and police—either someone tried to re-enter the park though police wouldn’t let anyone through, or he refused to clear the sidewalk, according to various stories I heard around the park. A legal observer confirmed that one arrest was made. Rumors spread that police in riot gear were on their way; speakers urged the crowd to remain calm. “Nobody run, nobody panic.”

Police in riot gear didn’t show, but around 9 a.m., cops formed a line on Trinity Place, many zip-tie handcuffs hanging from their pants. But as another hour passed, nothing happened. The mood lightened; things began to return to normal. The tubs of books were wheeled in; people started painting new signs; drumming and dancing commenced; a young woman tossed a beach ball into a crowd. A long-haired kid sat on a wall reading “Civil Disobedience.” A young guy sat down next to me and chanted, “all day, all week! Wet, soggy, cold feet!” Still, the earlier anxiety hadn’t dissipated totally. Some theorized a conspiracy afoot—that cops were just waiting for the crowds to thin, for a false sense of placidity to sink in, before they stormed the park.

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