NEW YORK - Protesters will have to clear out of the private Manhattan park where they've been camped out for nearly a month so the owners can clean it, but they'll be allowed to return afterward, city officials said.
Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said in a statement Wednesday that the protest has "created unsanitary conditions and considerable wear and tear on the park." He said Brookfield Properties asked for police help to clear Zuccotti Park so it can be cleaned.
Holloway said the cleaning will be done in stages Friday. Protesters will have to leave but can return. Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited the protesters Wednesday to offer assurances.CBS News station WCBS-TV reports that the city's order was greeted by skepticism by some protesters, who say they've gone to great lengths to keep the park clean.
(At left, watch a WCBS-TV report)
"We are working 24/7," protester Lauren DiGoria told WCBS-TV. "We do not rest. We encourage cleanliness. We encourage everyone to take care of their belongings and pack it up neatly."
Allison Esso of Human Services Council, a group that supports the protesters, was wary. "I'm hoping that they're not trying to undermine their ability to protest," she said.
The protest, known as Occupy Wall Street, has sympathetic groups in other cities which each stage their own local rallies and demonstrations: Occupy Boston, Occupy Cincinnati, Occupy Houston, Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Philadelphia, Occupy Providence, Occupy Salt Lake, and Occupy Seattle, among them.
The movement has also drawn reaction from world leaders, including President Obama, former Polish President Lech Walesa and Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
On CBS' "Late Show" Wednesday, former President Clinton told host David Letterman that while the protests are "a positive thing" organizers will eventually have to move beyond marching.
"They're going to have to kind of transfer their energies at some point to making some specific suggestions or bringing in people who know more to try to put the country back to work," Mr. Clinton told Letterman. "I don't think that many Americans resent the success of people who make a lot of money fairly earned.
"I think what bothers people is the country has gotten so much more unequal over the last 30 years, and now that we're in this fix, an enormous number of people have been out of work for more than six months -- some of whom can't get interviews because they've been out of work for more than six months -- who always worked hard, always paid their taxes, did everything they're supposed to do except make contributions to the financial meltdown that caused our current distress."
(Mr. Clinton's comments on the protests begin at the 18:00 mark here.)
On Thursday, Walesa said that he supports the New York protest and is planning to either visit or write a letter to the protesters. He said the global economic crisis has made people aware that "we need to change the capitalist system" because we need "more justice, more people's interests, and less money for money's sake."
Khamenei said Wednesday that the wave of protests reflects a serious problem that will ultimately topple capitalism in America. He claimed the United States is in a full-blown crisis because its "corrupt foundation has been exposed to the American people."
Khamenei's remarks came a day after U.S. officials said the Obama administration plans to leverage charges that Iran plotted to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador into a new global campaign to isolate the Islamic republic.
Protesters, who have been living, sleeping and eating in the park for the duration, say they are in it for the long haul, despite the onset of cold weather.
On Wednesday, police arrested four people outside JP Morgan Chase offices where Wall Street protesters called in vain for a meeting with Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon. Protesters accused the police of rough handling. An Associated Press photographer witnessed police officers heading into the crowd of demonstrators to make the arrests.
Meanwhile, about 700 members of the Service Employees International Union marched through the Financial District; the union, which represents 23,000 office cleaners, is gearing up for contract negotiations with the Realty Advisory Board.
More protests are planned in Toronto and Vancouver this weekend, and European activists also are organizing.
A lawyer for a woman pepper-sprayed during an action last month is demanding that the Manhattan district attorney prosecute an NYPD deputy inspector on an assault charge. Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the matter was being investigated by police internal affairs and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.