NEW YORK (Reuters) – Officials on Friday postponed a planned clean-up of the downtown Manhattan park where anti-Wall Street protesters have set up camp that raised concerns of a possible showdown with authorities.
Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said the private owner of Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Office Properties, decided late on Thursday to delay the cleaning, which had been slated to begin at 7 a.m. (1100 GMT).
Protesters, who have occupied the publically accessible park since mid-September, feared the cleaning would be an attempt to shut down the movement that has sparked solidarity protests in more than 1,400 cities and plans for global rallies on Saturday in 71 countries, according to Occupy Together and United for Global Change.
Roughly 1,000 protesters were on hand early on Friday morning at the park, where many had been up all night busily cleaning it themselves.
“There’s a lot of talk of them actually trying to kick us out and keep us out,” said Bailey Bryant, 28, an employee at a Manhattan bank who visits the camp after work and on weekends.
“We clean up after ourselves. It’s not like there’s rats and roaches running around the park,” he said.
On Facebook, organizers said: “Be warned, this is a tactic that (New York City Mayor Michael) Bloomberg has used to shut down protests in the past, and a tactic used recently in similar protests throughout Europe.”
Brookfield has said conditions at the park were “unsanitary and unsafe,” with no toilets and a shortage of garbage cans. Neighbors complain of lewdness, drug use, harassment and offensive odors from the protesters, Brookfield said.
In announcing the postponement, the deputy mayor said in a statement that Brookfield was “postponing their scheduled cleaning of the park, and for the time being withdrawing their request from earlier in the week for police assistance during their cleaning operation.”
“Brookfield believes they can work out an arrangement with the protesters that will ensure the park remains clean, safe, available for public use and that the situation is respectful of residents and businesses downtown, and we will continue to monitor the situation,” he said.
Protesters are upset that the billions of dollars in bank bailouts doled out during the recession allowed banks to resume earning huge profits while average Americans have had no relief from high unemployment and job insecurity.
They also believe the richest 1 percent of Americans don’t pay their fair share in taxes.
Hundreds of people have been arrested at rallies in New York and police have used pepper spray. Dozens have also been arrested during the past couple of weeks from Boston and Washington, D.C. to Chicago, Austin and San Francisco.
Solidarity rallies have also sprung up at more than 140 U.S. college campuses in 25 states, according to Occupy Colleges.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)
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