By The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — The owner of the private park where Wall Street protesters are camped out gave them notice Thursday that it will begin enforcing regulations, which prohibit everything from lying down on benches to storing personal property on the ground.
Protesters said they believe the effort is an attempt to end their encampment at lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, which triggered a movement against unequal distribution of wealth that has spread across the globe.
The owner, Brookfield Properties, handed out a notice to protesters saying they would be allowed back inside after a planned park cleanup on Friday morning if they abide by park regulations.
The notice lists regulations including no tents, no tarps or sleeping bags on the ground, no lying on benches and no storage of personal property on the ground. All those practices have been common at the park, where protesters have lived, slept and eaten for nearly a month.
“They’re going to use the cleanup to get us out of here!” said Justin Wedes, 25, a part-time public high school science teacher from Brooklyn. “It’s a de facto eviction notice.”
It’s not clear whether the regulations are new or how they would be enforced.
Brookfield did not respond to requests for comment Thursday, but two uniformed police officers at the park confirmed that they escorted representatives of the company as the notices were passed out to demonstrators.
Some protesters questioned the need to clean the park in the first place.
“This is the cleanest protest I’ve ever witnessed,” said Emilio Montilla, 29, a laid-off teacher’s assistant. “We take care of ourselves. We’re self-sufficient.”
The notice from Brookfield Properties stated that the 12-hour, section-by-section cleaning is slated to begin 7 a.m. Friday and is part of daily upkeep, and that conditions have deteriorated in recent weeks because that upkeep was put on hold by the protesters.
Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said in a statement Wednesday that the protest has “created unsanitary conditions and considerable wear and tear on the park.” He said Brookfield asked for police help to clear the park so it can be cleaned.
Holloway said the cleaning will be done in sections. Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited the protesters Wednesday to offer assurances.
The protest, known as Occupy Wall Street, has sympathetic groups in other cities which each stage their own local rallies and demonstrations: Occupy Boston, Occupy Cincinnati, Occupy Houston, Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Philadelphia, Occupy Providence, Occupy Salt Lake, and Occupy Seattle, among them.
In Portland, Ore., where a camp with more than 300 tents and tarps has sprung up in two downtown parks, police arrested eight people before dawn Thursday for blocking a street.
In New York, police arrested four people Wednesday outside JP Morgan Chase offices where Wall Street protesters called in vain for a meeting with Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon.
Protesters accused the police of rough handling. An Associated Press photographer witnessed police officers heading into the crowd of demonstrators to make the arrests.
A lawyer for a woman pepper-sprayed during an action last month is demanding that the Manhattan district attorney prosecute an NYPD deputy inspector on an assault charge. Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the matter was being investigated by police internal affairs and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
More protests are planned in Toronto and Vancouver this weekend, and European activists also are organizing.
The movement has also drawn reaction from world leaders, including President Barack Obama, former Polish President Lech Walesa and Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Walesa said Thursday that he supports the New York protest and is planning to either visit or write a letter to the protesters. He said the global economic crisis has made people aware that “we need to change the capitalist system” because we need “more justice, more people’s interests, and less money for money’s sake.”
Khamenei said Wednesday that the wave of protests reflects a serious problem that will ultimately topple capitalism in America. He claimed the United States is in a full-blown crisis because its “corrupt foundation has been exposed to the American people.”
Khamenei’s remarks came a day after U.S. officials said the Obama administration plans to leverage charges that Iran plotted to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador into a new global campaign to isolate the Islamic republic.