Mayor Bloomberg told reporters this morning that criminal activity at Occupy Wall Street is a “very high priority” and said he’s disturbed by reports protesters aren’t telling the police about crimes in Zuccotti Park. The Mayor also reaffirmed the demonstrator’s right to stay in the park because “there’s no ‘but’ when it comes to the right to express yourself.”
Though he supports the right to protest, Mayor Bloomberg cautioned that it can’t come at the “expense of others” and suggested a different strategy for Occupy Wall Street. “My personal view is, why dont you get out there and try to do something about the things that you dont like … rather than just yell and scream,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
Mayor Bloomberg made his statements in a press conference following the New York City Global Partners “Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship: City Strategies” event where he gave a keynote address. The Observer asked Mayor Bloomberg whether he’s concerned about criminal activity at the Occupy Wall Street protests in light of the recent incidents of alleged sexual assault in Zuccotti Park.
“Very understates it,” Mayor Bloomberg said of his level of concern. He also said crime in the park is “a very high priority” for his administration.
Mayor Bloomberg went on to explain that he has heard “disturbing” reports that Occupy Wall Street protesters aren’t telling the police about crimes in the park:
“We have an obligation to protect everybody in the city and a couple nights ago, as you may or may not know, the NYPD arrested an Occupy Wall Street participant, a member of their team that feeds the protesters. And he was arrested for sexually assaulting, abusing a woman. He is, I’m told, also a suspect, a suspect in a rape case at Zuccotti Park. …
There have been reports which are equally disturbing that when people in Zuccotti Park become aware of crimes, instead of calling the police, they form a circle around the perpetrator, chastise him or her and chase him or her out into the rest of the city to do who knows what to who knows whom. If this is in fact happening, and it’s very hard to get good information, it is despicable, and i think it is outrageous and it really allows the criminal to strike again making all of us less safe. Not reporting a violent crime, no matter where it takes place, really does endanger every New Yorker. And when protesters were victims–who were victims of crimes, have come forward, the NYPD has moved in swiftly and made arrests. And you just don’t have a right and it’s not fair to everybody else to not report a crime when it occurs.”
Mayor Bloomberg was also asked whether he will try to evict Occupy Wall Street or whether he plans to let the protesters remain in Zuccotti Park.
“This administration will take appropriate steps whenever we think are appropriate to keep this city safe and, at the same time, to protect people’s right to protest. The right to protest, people say, ‘I, oh I understand it, but…’ There’s no but. There’s no ‘but’ when it comes to the right to express yourself. There is, however, a complimentary interest that society has and that’s to make everybody safe and to let multiple people express their points of view, not just one group,” Mayor Bloomberg said adding that expression can include “people who want to go about their business and not express anything.”
Mayor Bloomberg said there’s no “easy answer” for how to handle Occupy Wall Street.
“There is no easy answer, but there is a right answer and the right answer is, allow people to protest but, at the same time enforce public safety,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
The Mayor went on to criticize Occupy Oakland protesters who shut down that city’s port last night.
“I saw yesterday, or the day before in Oakland they tried to shut down the Port of Oakland. Now, I don’t know how the Port works in Oakland, but I can tell you in the Port of New York/New Jersey, starting salaries are over $60,000 … plus a lot of benefits. You can make $200,000 as a longshoreman. These are not jobs that aren’t good jobs. … People want to be able to go and to go to work and we need the economy that pays for us, gives us the tax base so that we can provide the protection, so you can have your right to protest,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
The Mayor concluded his remarks by giving his personal opinion about Occupy Wall Street.
“Bottom line is, what I’ve said repeatedly is, you have the right to protest, but my personal view is, why dont you get out there and try to do something about the things that you dont like? Create the jobs that we are lacking rather than just yell and scream. But if you want to yell and scream, we’ll make sure you can do it, but you’re not gonna do it at the expense of others,” Mayor Bloomberg said.