Occupy Wall Street protesters vow to block park cleaning

New York (CNN) — Protesters camped out at a Manhattan park say they
have no intention of vacating it despite an order from New York Mayor
Michael Bloomberg to leave the premises by early Friday to allow for cleanup.

“We will passively resist and make it as difficult a process to remove us as
possible,” Occupy Wall Street spokesman Tyler Combelic said Thursday. ”
It’s not an occupation if you can’t occupy the park.”

His words appeared to be backed up by the sentiment of the crowd of more
than 1,000 protesters who filled Zuccotti Park Thursday night. “All day!
All week! Occupy Wall Street!” they chanted.

Combelic called the mayor’s announcement a “not-so-veiled attempt” to
force protesters from the park, setting up a possible confrontation with authorities.

Protesters descended on the privately-owned park near the New York Stock
Exchange on September 17 to protest the nation’s ailing economy.

“You want to clean up something? Clean up these crooks on Wall Street,” said City
Council Member Charles Barron.

Daniel Mintz of MoveOn.Org said he was planning to deliver to Bloomberg more than
350,000 petitions and signatures he received Thursday from supporters around the
nation. “The mayor would do a lot better cleaning up Wall Street than cleaning up the
plaza,” he said.

Councilwoman Letitia James of Brookly said the move to clean the park was a “ruse” to
end the protest.

Bloomberg told protesters Wednesday that the decision to clean the park was made
after owners voiced concerns about “unsanitary conditions and considerable wear and
tear on the park.”

“The mayor is a strong believer in the First Amendment and believes that the protesters have a right to continue to protest,” Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway said in a statement.

But the situation in the park is “not in the best interests of the protesters, residents or the city,” he said.

Cleaning will be done in stages, and protesters will be allowed to return to the park as areas are cleaned if they obey the rules set forth by the owners, Brookfield Properties, the statement said.

“The park has not been cleaned in four weeks, a process that is normally undertaken every night,” Brookfield said in a statement. “Our goal is to keep the park clean, safe, and accessible to all.”

Zuccotti Park was built for the general public, but the weeks-long protest has raised concerns among area business owners and residents about sanitation.

The protest campaign began in July with the launch of a campaign website calling for a march and a sit-in at the New York Stock Exchange.

For almost a month, demonstrations have addressed such issues as police brutality, union busting and the economy, the group said.

Organizers have taken inspiration from this year’s Arab Spring protests that swept through North Africa and the Middle East. Crowds have taken up residence in the park in New York’s financial district, and organizers have called for 20,000 people to flood the area for a “few months.”

CNN’s Susan Candiotti, Anna Gonzalez and Vivienne Foley contributed to this report.

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