In the darkness of 1 a.m. Tuesday, police in riot gear cleared out protesters and their tents from the park two blocks away from Wall Street. Some 70 people who refused to leave were arrested. Bloomberg said he scheduled the eviction for 1 a.m., "To reduce the risk of confrontation in the park, and to minimize disruption to the surrounding neighborhood." By which he meant, "At a time it wouldn't get live coverage by every news outlet from here to Singapore." Instead, everyone is watching it on YouTube.
Bloomberg has given the OWS people the perfect story to use in reconnecting with the public: Billionaire mayor kicks people out of a public park for saying Wall Street sucks.(And it doesn't help that His Honor's girlfriend is on the board of Brookfield Properties, which put up the park in return for getting to build some very-high rent residential buildings.)
Bloomberg said he ordered the action to protect public health and safety. Given that there have been no reports of violence at Zuccotti Park -- unlike in Oakland where a man was killed -- the mayor's action looks particularly mean-spirited. Now protesters in the nation's media center can claim they were prevented from exercising their first amendment rights because rich property owners didn't like having to get so near to the riff-raff.
As the mayor put it:
I have become increasingly concerned -- as had the park's owner, Brookfield Properties -- that the occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protestors and to the surrounding community. We have been in constant contact with Brookfield and yesterday they requested that the City assist it in enforcing the no sleeping and camping rules in the park.
That's just the boost the movement needs. Public support for the 99% movement has recently been waning in New York and likely in other areas as well. A poll out today from Sienna College shows New Yorkers now disapprove of OWS by a 2:1 margin. New Yorkers are a fickle lot. Last month they supported OWS by the same margin. Maybe it's the change in the weather.
The mayor also said protesters would be allowed to return to the park without their tents and could stay as long as they didn't take up residence again.
The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day. Ever since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with, as the park has been taken over by protestors, making it unavailable to anyone else.
Within hours a state judge said that Bloomberg doesn't get to determine what non-harmful public behavior should be and issued an order letting the protesters back in, along with their camping gear.