As a group of approximately 40 Occupy Wall Street demonstrators chanted outside, Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference at City Hall to discuss the NYPD raid on the protest encampment in Zuccotti Park. Mayor Bloomberg said the decision to clear the area was made in response the wishes of the park’s owners, Brookfield Properties, and his own concerns bout criminal activity and hygiene in the camp. He also said about 200 protesters were arrested during the clearing of the park.
“At one o’clock this morning, the New York City Police Department and the owners of Zuccotti Park notified protestors in the park that they had to immediately remove tents, sleeping bags and other belongings, and must follow the park rules if they wished to continue to use it to protest,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
Zuccotti Park is privately owned, but it is open to the public 24 hours a day. However, park rules prohibit camping.
At the press conference, Mayor Bloomberg expressed concerns about fire safety, cleanliness and crime in the park.
“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,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “The park was becoming a place where people came not to protest, but rather to break laws, and in some cases, to harm others.”
Mayor Bloomberg said he initially intended to allow protesters to return to Zuccotti Park this morning, but was blocked from doing so by a court order.
“We had planned to open it at 8 o’clock this morning we even said to the police to start letting them in about 50 people went in … and then we are told that this judge has issued a restraining order,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “I don’t think, as of two minutes ago, we had not been served with the order yet. But because we think that there … is one out there we have closed–re-closed the park and are asking the 50 people to leave.”
According to Mayor Bloomberg, a request from Brookfield provided the immediate impetus for the raid.
“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,” Mr. Bloomberg said.
Brookfield may have asked for police to take action, but Mayor Bloomberg made clear he was the one who ultimately ordered the raid.
“Make no mistake – the final decision to act was mine and mine alone,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
Once the legal issues are resolved, Mayor Bloomberg said protesters will be allowed to return to Zuccotti Park–as long as they don’t bring tents and personal items.
“Protestors have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags. Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments,” Mayor Bloomberg said.