October 14, 2011
By: Verena Dobnik, Meghan Barr
Officials on Thursday moved to put an end to Wall Street protesters’ month-long occupation of a park that spawned similar gatherings across the nation, setting up a potential confrontation with police and an uncertain future for a movement that claims to speak for the disillusioned middle class.
Demonstrators at the half-acre park in lower Manhattan said they won’t go anywhere at the Friday morning deadline when the park’s owners, their patience worn thin, want them to clear out and stop pitching tents or using sleeping bags. Thursday evening, many trained in civil disobedience. They linked arms and sat down.
The company that owns the private park where the demonstrators have camped out said it has become trashed and unsanitary. Brookfield Office Properties planned to begin a section-by-section power-washing of Zuccotti Park, near Wall Street, at 7 a.m.
“They’re going to use the cleanup to get us out of here,” said Justin Wedes, a 25-year-old part-time public high school science teacher from Brooklyn who was one of about 400 people in the park Thursday night. “It’s a de facto eviction notice.”
The demand that protesters clear out sets up a turning point in a movement that began Sept. 17 with a small group of activists and has swelled to include several thousand people at times, from many walks of life. Occupy Wall Street has inspired similar demonstrations across the country and become an issue in the Republican presidential primary race.
The protesters’ demands are amorphous, but they are united in blaming Wall Street and corporate interests for the economic pain they say all but the wealthiest Americans have endured since the financial meltdown.
There was a scramble of activity in the park Thursday afternoon and into the night. Hundreds of demonstrators scrubbed benches and mopped the park’s stone flooring in an attempt to get Brookfield to abandon its plan.
Members of the protesters’ sanitation working group passed out 30-gallon bins for people to organize their belongings. Jordan McCarthy, a 22-year-old member of the group, said she wouldn’t be sleeping at all.
A last-ditch protest was planned at midnight.
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