When I walked into the Occupy Wall Street protest for the first time just after midnight, I expected to hear lots of chanting, perhaps a little music, and certainly the now famous “people’s mic.” Instead, the predominant sound was the swishing of brooms.
The occupiers of Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti (a.k.a Liberty) Park were sweeping in the rain, hoping to clean well enough to stave off a police-led retaking cleaning of the space. I saw one protester bending over to squeegee the pavement in the center of the park. Later, a guy in a Santa Claus outfit was mopping the stairs; a skinny man wearing a full Superman costume was appeared to be picking up trash. Cheers erupted when rain began to fall in sheets. One woman exclaimed that God was doing His best to help out with the clean-up.
Brookfield [Properties, the owner of Liberty Park], which had planned to schedule a cleaning of the property where protesters have been camped out these past weeks, cancelled its maintenance plans suddenly last night to the surprise of many.
Reportedly, Brookfield handed down the decision to the city late Thursday, though the announcement didn’t reach Liberty until Friday morning when two thousand activists erupted in cheers as they huddled at the center of the camp. I’m sure Brookfield and the Mayor will stick with the story that this decision was made late last night, but the presence of thousands of determined occupiers probably sealed the deal if there was any indecision left in the board room…
This was the first protest I’ve ever covered where the activists won – if only a battle, and not the war, and if only temporarily. And the victory is definitely temporary. Major problems have not been resolved and large questions remain: Will the protesters be able to bring their sleeping bags back into Liberty Park? Will they be able to sleep on the ground? Fourteen hours ago, Mayor Bloomberg declared protesters wouldn’t be able to return their gear to the park, and now the decree came down to postpone the cleaning entirely. Why the change of tune?
Excellent question. We’ll be looking forward to hearing what the mayor has to say today.