Protesters, authorities on collision course over use of park

Posted Oct. 13, 2011, at 8:10 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 22, 2011, at 2:05 p.m.

NEW YORK — Wall Street protesters were preparing Thursday for a confrontation with authorities who are expected to enforce new rules in the private park in lower Manhattan where they’ve been camped out for almost a month.

The protesters were told to clear out while Brookfield Office Properties Inc., the owner of Zuccotti Park, power-washes the area Friday morning. But company representatives — accompanied by police — handed out leaflets Thursday notifying the protesters that they could return only if they abide by new rules, which include no tents, tarps or sleeping bags on the ground, no lying on benches and no storing of personal property on the ground.

These have become essential to the so-called Occupy Wall Street protest, which has drawn thousands of people who have made the park their home, living, sleeping and eating there.

On the protest website a call was sent out to supporters to “help us hold our ground.”

“For those of you who plan to help us hold our ground — which we hope will be all of you — make sure you understand the possible consequences,” the post said. “Be prepared to not get much sleep. Be prepared for possible arrest. … We are pursuing all possible strategies; this is a message of solidarity.”

The protesters also accused Mayor Michael Bloomberg of using the cleaning as a ruse to shut down their activity.

A protest spokesman emailed supporters urging them to show up at 6 a.m. Friday “to defend the occupation from eviction.”

Some had already tried Thursday to do their part to clean up, washing down benches and the stone flooring and replanting trampled flower beds.

But Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly made it clear that he was behind the owner, who had apparently sent a letter to police earlier asking for support clearing the park.

“After it’s cleaned, they’ll be able to come back, but they won’t be able to bring back the gear, the equipment, sleeping bags,” Kelly told reporters. “That sort of thing will not be able to be brought back into the park.”

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