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Zuccotti Park Owners Back Down While Protesters Plan a 'Party'

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators face off with police after the deadline for their removal from Zuccotti park was postponed on Oct. 14, 2011. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/Getty)

Occupy Wall Street protesters celebrated Friday when a plan for the park owners to clean the park was temporarily shelved. Organizers are planning marches and other events on Saturday, including an "Occupation Party" in Times Square at 5 p.m.

Brookfield Properties released a statement on their decision to postpone the cleaning. It stated that at the request of local political leaders it had "deferred the cleaning of Zuccotti Park for a short period of time while an attempt is made to reach a resolution regarding the manner in which Zuccotti Park is being used by the protesters." The statement added that any solution will have to follow city rules and ensures the health, safety and viability of the park and the surrounding community.

At least two politicians, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and State Senator Daniel Squadron, stated spoke with Brookfield Properties and urged them to find a peaceful solution or delay the clean-up.

Squadron said the delay opens up a window for the two sides to communicate. "I think the goals are clear, which is a solution that preserves the First Amendment right to protest and to speak out, that addresses the community's quality of life concerns," he said.

While no meetings between the two sides have been announced, some protesters said they were amenable to meeting with Brookfield Properties.

But one protester, Mark Read, an adjunct professor at NYU from Brooklyn who has been participating in the protests since nearly the beginning, has a different take. He said support for the protesters gave the property owners no choice.

"I think the NYPD and Brookfield Properties, which owns this square, decided to back down," Read said. "I think they were met with an overwhelming show of support."

Wall Street protesters began a furious cleanup effort of Zuccotti Park on Thursday, a day before crews were slated to scrub down the space. dozens of demonstrators armed with brooms, mops and trash bags fanned out to sections of the park in an effort to remove debris that had accumulated since protests began in September and render additional cleanup unnecessary.

Nicole Carty, a member of the facilitation work group, said the city and the park owner were conducting a "tactical effort to evict us."

"The role [of maintaining the park] no longer belongs to them — it belongs to us," Carty said. "And we keep this park clean, and they no longer need to. We have liberated this space from them."

But Brendan Burke, who oversees security, said he felt tensions were being unnecessarily escalated and that Brookfield had a right to enter the area.

"What has the happen, in my view, is that our people work with those people to clean the park together," Burke said. 

Tensions did flare Friday morning. Police made 14 arrests when a few hundred Wall Street protesters left Zuccotti Park and marched near the Stock Exchange after owners of the Lower Manhattan park that has become the demonstrators' makeshift headquarters made a last-minute decision to postpone the planned cleanup.

A police scooter accidentally hit a protester. He fell to the ground and screamed before kicking the scooter over to free his foot. He was then arrested.

A video posted to YouTube seems to show an officer on a scooter rolling over the man's leg and leaving the rear wheel on him as the man screams in pain on the ground.

Police spokesman Paul Browne said the man, Ari Douglas, "had repeatedly disregarded lawful orders to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk, and then feigned being run over before kicking over the police scooter."

Browne said his account is backed up by members of the media.Douglas has been charged with felony criminal mischief, obstructing judicial administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.  

A spokesman for the National Lawyers Guild, Gideon Oliver, said Douglas sustained injuries from the incident but could not comment on the extent of those injuries. Oliver said Douglas has been discharged from Bellevue Hospital Center and is currently being held at the 7th Precinct stationhouse.

Early Friday, Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said the owners of the private park, Brookfield Office Properties, had put off the cleaning, scheduled for 7 a.m. and "for the time being withdrawing their request from earlier in the week for police assistance during their cleaning operation."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who visited the park Wednesday evening to inform protesters of the clean-up plan for Friday, said the city was notified shortly before midnight that Brookfield wanted to postpone the cleanup of Zuccotti Park: "If they want to take a couple of days ... then they can do that."

Ailsa Chang contributed to this report.

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