[Marxism] Behind Bloomberg's backing off

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Oct 15 08:09:38 MDT 2011


NY Times October 14, 2011
Calls Flood In, City Backs Off and Protesters Stay
By MICHAEL BARBARO and KATE TAYLOR

Inside City Hall, the calls poured in late Thursday, predicting a 
debacle: Hundreds of people sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street 
protest were streaming into Lower Manhattan, vowing to resist a forced 
cleanup of the park taken over by demonstrators.

“This is not going in a good direction,” Daniel L. Squadron, a state 
senator, recalled telling aides to the mayor.

Just before midnight came a sign that the calls were having an impact: 
The park’s owner, also under pressure, e-mailed City Hall to say the 
plan should be canceled. The mayor’s office agreed — the police would 
stand down and the protesters would remain, with their sleeping bags and 
tents, in Zuccotti Park.

The abrupt and unexpected reversal, loudly cheered by rain-soaked 
demonstrators in the early morning darkness, averted a dangerous clash 
at the southern tip of Manhattan and seemed to give the unfolding 
protests against corporate greed, once dismissed as aimless and 
ephemeral, a growing air of credibility and endurance.

Behind the scenes, interviews suggested, the change in course was fueled 
by an intensifying sense of alarm within city government, shared even 
among some of those who work for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, that 
sending scores of police officers into the park would set off an ugly, 
public showdown that might damage the reputation of the city as well as 
its mayor.

Jubilant demonstrators, heartened and emboldened by what they perceived 
as a victory, started marching through the winding streets of the 
financial district, brandishing mops and brooms and declaring that they 
had arrived to clean up the mess created by Wall Street, resulting in 15 
arrests.

The relative calm of Friday morning followed a tense Thursday night, 
during which city and state lawmakers waged an aggressive campaign to 
persuade both the mayor’s office and the company that owns the park to 
back down, seeking to defend the protesters’ rights and defuse mounting 
tensions over the encampment.

“Everybody was in agreement about trying to avert something disastrous 
from happening,” said Jumaane D. Williams, a city councilman from 
Brooklyn, who called top aides to Mr. Bloomberg on Thursday night.

Several lawmakers said that aides to Mr. Bloomberg, who had backed the 
cleanup plan, expressed deep unease about the possibility of an 
early-morning fracas.

“There were serious concerns” inside the administration, said one 
elected official who said he had spoken with two of the mayor’s top 
aides; the official asked not to be identified because the conversations 
were confidential.

The mayor’s staff, under strict orders from Mr. Bloomberg, did not lobby 
the owner of the park, Brookfield Office Properties, about whether to 
push ahead, leaving the decision up to the company’s management, 
according to several people involved in the discussions.

But in a series of somber, back-to-back telephone calls from 6 to 11 
p.m. on Thursday, officials including Christine C. Quinn, the City 
Council speaker, and Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, 
made personal appeals to the chief executive of Brookfield, Richard B. 
Clark.

Mr. Squadron, the state senator, said he spoke at least four times with 
Mr. Clark, telling him, at one point, “The plan is bad for protesters’ 
First Amendment rights and bad for the community.”

“Can we come up with a better solution?” Mr. Squadron asked him.

Mr. Clark, who keeps an apartment downtown, was noncommittal in his 
conversations with the officials, expressing sympathy for the rights of 
the protesters but also exasperation with the indefinite occupation.

“It has to be cleaned up,” the officials recalled Mr. Clark saying.

Even as late as 11 p.m., those who had spoken with him remained 
convinced that Brookfield would insist on carrying out the cleanup a few 
hours later.

But the drumbeat of worried calls and personal pressure began to weigh 
on Mr. Clark. Shortly before midnight, he drafted an e-mail to Deputy 
Mayor Caswell F. Holloway saying he did not want to proceed.

“Based on input from many, we have decided to postpone the cleaning 
operation for Zuccotti Park,” Mr. Clark wrote. “Accordingly, we do not 
require the assistance of N.Y.P.D.”

City Hall reacted swiftly, ending plans to remove the protesters, but 
did not inform the public or the protesters for another seven hours.

For Mr. Bloomberg, who simultaneously has extolled the demonstrators’ 
freedom to speak out but criticized their agenda, the monthlong protests 
are a particularly fraught challenge. He is a billionaire who comes 
from, and believes in, Wall Street; his girlfriend is on the board of 
the company that owns the park; and he is a mayor obsessed with the 
cleanliness of the city’s public spaces.

On Friday, Mr. Bloomberg attributed Mr. Clark’s decision to 
“threatening” phone calls from elected officials. “If you don’t stop 
this we’ll make your life more difficult,” the mayor said, in 
summarizing the calls. (The officials said they delivered no such threats.)

The decision seemed to frustrate Mr. Bloomberg. He said that if 
Brookfield later changed its mind, that would place the city in a 
difficult situation.

“From our point of view,” Mr. Bloomberg said, “it will be a little 
harder, I think, at that point in time to provide police protection, but 
we have the greatest police department in the world and we will do what 
is necessary.”

By 6 a.m., just before City Hall announced the cleanup was canceled, the 
crowd had grown to more than a thousand, their numbers swelled by 
Internet pleas for reinforcements.

The protesters, many of whom had stayed up all night anticipating 
confrontation, planned to form a human chain around the park to try to 
keep police officers from entering.

As they had before, the protesters took a stab at cleaning Zuccotti Park 
themselves, to send the message that official intervention was 
unnecessary. The mops, brooms and buckets of soapy water were gathered, 
and a group began a sweep of the granite-paved paths, throwing away 
unclaimed objects.

“This place is extremely important,” said Kyle Christopher, 27, a 
photographer from Buffalo who had been part of the protests a few blocks 
from Wall Street since their first week.

After the morning’s drama had eased, the occupation returned to its new 
normal: metal barricades lined Zuccotti Park and police officers were 
stationed around the park’s perimeter. People standing in the makeshift 
kitchen area ladled out food to others waiting in line. The sound of 
drums echoed across the park. At the eastern edge, a line of protesters 
holding aloft cardboard signs faced passers-by on Broadway. And in the 
park’s center, people milled about as they discussed what might come next.

Reporting was contributed by Al Baker, Cara Buckley, Rob Harris and 
Colin Moynihan.



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