|On Thursday the protesters cleaned the
© AFP Timothy A. Clary
NEW YORK (AFP) – Anti-Wall Street protesters declared victory on Friday after a last-ditch deal saw New York authorities postpone evacuation of the park turned tent city that has become their home in the past month.
The owners of the property suspended their request for the city to clear it for routine cleaning and said they believed they could reach an agreement with the protesters, Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said in a statement.
The demonstrators had vowed a pre-dawn show of strength to prevent their eviction from the makeshift base that is the symbolic epicenter of their fledgling but growing movement which has spread nationwide in recent weeks.
But it never came to pass. “Our position has been consistent throughout: the city’s role is to protect public health and safety, to enforce the law, and guarantee the rights of all New Yorkers,” Holloway said.
Brookfield Properties, which owns the site, “believes they can work out an arrangement with the protesters that will ensure the park remains clean, safe, available for public use and that the situation is respectful of residents and businesses downtown, and we will continue to monitor the situation,” he added.
Thousands of protesters, many of whom stayed up all night girding for a showdown with police, hailed the decision as a victory for the weeks-old movement protesting alleged corporate greed and official corruption.
“People united will never be defeated!” they chanted after word of the decision spread through the camp in Zuccotti Park, which the protesters have renamed “Liberty Plaza.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had gone in person to the area on Wednesday evening to reassure the protesters that demonstrations could continue after a clean-up ordered by the owners.
But New York police chief Ray Kelly had set the tone for a showdown when he indicated that the protesters would no longer be allowed to carry on camping out in the park, located in the heart of the financial district.
“This is it — this is their attempt to shut down #OWS for good,” the Occupy Wall Street movement warned on its website, urging supporters to flock to the square before 6:00 am (1000 GMT).
“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. Be prepared to not get much sleep. Be prepared for possible arrest.”
A small band of protesters began camping out in Zuccotti Park on September 17, preaching an anti-capitalist message that was amplified by the ever-present media and resonated in an America gripped by high unemployment and still struggling to emerge from a painful recession.
|Up to 600 protesters have been
camping out overnight in sleeping
bags and tents in the New York park
© AFP Jewel Samad
Sister protest groups have sprung up in other major US cities and former American vice president turned climate-change activist Al Gore on Thursday became the latest high-profile name to throw his support behind the movement.
Up to 600 protesters have been camping out overnight in sleeping bags and tents in the New York park, and the occupation shows signs of permanence: food stalls have sprung up, an infirmary, an information desk, even a library.
But protesters have no toilet facilities of their own and depend on local restaurants. As their numbers have grown so have the reports of locals complaining about people urinating in the streets.
Representatives of Brookfield Property descended on the park on Thursday morning with police and dogs, handing out notices to remind protesters that camping and use of tents and other structures was forbidden.
“Conditions in the park have deteriorated, presenting health and cleanliness issues which must be addressed,” the owners said in a statement, setting a deadline of 7:00 am (1100 GMT) on Friday for the protesters to begin moving out and let the cleaning begin.
But the demonstrators, who deny there are any health issues and say they tidy the square daily, conducted a thorough clean-up on Thursday to try to forestall intervention by the authorities.
The nationwide activist movement has already had several run-ins with the authorities.
At the end of last month more than 700 protesters were arrested for blocking weekend traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
In Boston some 700 police launched the biggest crackdown so far on the movement in the early hours of Tuesday morning, descending on parks to arrest more than 100 protesters for unlawful assembly.
A poll by Time magazine showed 54 percent of Americans had a somewhat favorable or very favorable view of the protesters, while 23 percent disapproved and the remaining 24 percent of those surveyed were undecided.
© AFP — Published at Activist Post with license