‘Occupy’ protesters stay in N.Y. and Atlanta, clear out in Denver
“Occupy Wall Street” protesters were given at least some extra time to continue their occupancy of a privately owned park in New York, and their compatriots in Atlanta also will get to stay put in a public park a while longer. However, Colorado state troopers cleared protesters from a park in Denver on Friday morning.
Until just before midnight Thursday, “Occupy” participants in New York’s Zuccotti Park had been facing eviction by the city’s police department to allow the park’s owners, Brookfield Properties, to clean the property. However, the company changed its mind and decided to let the protesters stay until they could reach an agreement with them, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in his weekly radio address on Friday morning. The decision came after unknown elected officials pressured the company, Bloomberg said. “My understanding is, Brookfield got lots of calls from many elected officials threatening them and saying if you don’t stop this [clean up] we’ll make your life more difficult,” Bloomberg said. “If those elected officials would spend half as much time trying to promote the city and get jobs to come here, we would go a long ways toward answering the concerns of the protesters.”
He went on to say that nobody was trying to take away the occupiers’ right to protest, but Brookfield and the city just wanted to clean up and make sure others could express other opinions publicly in the park. “Nobody’s been a bigger defender of the First Amendment than I have. People have the right to speak, it’s one of the great things about America,” Bloomberg said. “But, the city’s role is to protect the public health and safety and to enforce the law.”
While Bloomberg said he could understand the frustration some of the protesters have with the current economy, he does not agree with their message or targets. “Here in New York City, Wall Street is a vitally important industry,” the mayor said. “Its tax dollars are how we pay our cops and firefighters and teachers.”
Bloomberg repeatedly said that the city would leave the decision on what to do about the protesters to Brookfield. “We’re going to be monitoring the situation carefully going forward, and make no mistake, we will do what is necessary to maintain public health and safety, but there just is a limit to what we can do in a private park,” Bloomberg says.
The New York protests have spurred similar occupations in several cities around the country, and local and state government officials have had varied responses. On Friday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered state troopers to clear Occupy Denver protesters from Veteran’s Park in that city after they refused to leave. Hickenlooper had given permission for the protesters to gather in the park during the day, but he said the state could not allow them to camp in the park, as they had been doing. “We’ve never let the homeless camp in parks; we don’t see how we can let other groups camp in parks,” Hickenlooper told local television news station KMGH 7News.
Troopers arrested 21 protesters during the action, which began at 2:45 a.m., according to Colorado Trooper Heather Cobler. The protesters were charged with unlawful conduct on public property, which is a class 2 misdemeanor that could potentially carry a sentence of three months to one year in jail. Cobler says most of the protesters had left the park by 9 a.m.
Meanwhile, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed gave occupiers there at least a few more days to stage their protest in Robert W. Woodruff Park. “As mayor, I am proud of the city of Atlanta’s heritage as the ‘Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement,'” Reed said in a statement. “At the same time, I am committed to protecting the public and ensuring that the laws of the city are respected. I will not allow public safety to be jeopardized in any way by the protesters.” Saying the protesters have thus far been peaceful, on Thursday Reed issued an executive order that allows Occupy Atlanta to remain in Woodruff Park until the adjournment of the Atlanta City Council meeting on Oct. 17.
The Occupy Wall Street protests were the first in what has become a chain of impromptu protests against various economic issues. While the leadership of the cause has been hard to pin down, an “unofficial” website has been created to provide general information about the movement. “Occupy Wall Street is a horizontally organized resistance movement employing the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to restore democracy in America,” according to the website. “We use a tool known as a ‘people’s assembly’ to facilitate collective decision making in an open, participatory and non-binding manner.” The site also states that the movement began with this release from the Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-based media group Adbusters.