BY LACHLAN MARKAY – The ongoing “Occupy Wall Street” protests have been characterized by shows of violence, lawlessness, and occasional anti-Semitism. But elected officials are reportedly backing the movement behind the scenes, most recently pressuring the owners of the New York City park that is the epicenter of the protests to postpone a much-needed cleaning effort, according to city officials and the property’s owners.
Brookfield Properties, which owns Zucotti Park, where protestors have camped out for nearly a month, had expressed concern to the city regarding the state of the park. “After weeks of occupation,” the company said in a letter to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, “conditions in the park have deteriorated to unsanitary and unsafe levels.”
Protestors fumed at the planned attempt to vacate the park for cleaning, and vowed to resist police efforts to clear the area of demonstrators. The cleaning effort was postponed Friday at the behest of local elected officials, reports indicate.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on his weekly radio address that Brookfield “got lots of calls from many elected officials threatening them and saying, ‘If you don’t stop this [the planned cleanup], we’ll make your life more difficult’,” Politico reported on Friday. Bloomberg said he did not know which officials had threatened the company.
A statement from Brookfield said that “local political leaders” had “request[ed]” that the cleaning effort be postponed. The statement did not say who, specifically, had made those requests, and Melissa Coley, the company’s spokeswoman, declined to elaborate.
The postponement, however, did not stop inflamed protestors from clashing with police on Friday morning, as they marched through downtown Manhattan. Fourteen protesters were arrested during violent encounters with the police, the NYPD said.
The incident was not the first time the “Occupy” protests – which have sprouted up in various cities across the country – have flouted the law and occasionally turned ugly.
- A uniformed Coast Guard member was harassed and spit upon at a protest in Boston on Friday.
- Early this month, more than 700 were arrested when they blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge, where they brought outbound Manhattan traffic to a standstill.
- Washington D.C. has seen numerous arrests over the past week, including six at the Hart Senate Office Building on Tuesday and seven more at a House Armed Services Committee hearing two days later.
- The scene in Boston was even more hectic. Police arrested 141 protestors there, according to the Boston Globe, when they refused to disburse. One police officer was reportedly struck in the face.
- In San Francisco, 11 protestors were arrested for blocking the entrance to Wells Fargo’s corporate headquarters.
- In Denver, police arrested 24 protestors – most of whom were charged with unlawful conduct on state property. One demonstrator was charged with assault.
While organizers have been quick to condemn violence, there has been at least one instance of a protestor overtly calling for violence. Video of the protest in Los Angeles shows the speaker calling for violent revolution:
Yet despite this litany of unseemly acts – merely a month after the movement was formed, no less – elected officials in New York are still apparently backing the protesters.