The OccupyWallStreet movement got another break from the city this morning – though they made their own good fortune this time around, rather than having someone else make the decision.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office announced the city would not evict OccupyWallStreet protesters from their base in Zucotti Park in lower Manhattan to allow the park's owners to clean the place.
The announcement, which came at 6:30 this morning, just half an hour before police were due to move in to begin the exodus, ended an increasingly tense standoff that started just two days after Bloomberg told reporters he'd decided the protest could stay in place "indefinitely" as long as protesters kept obeying laws about obstructing business or traffic and against camping out in public.
Bloomberg revealed the decision Monday before walking in the city's Columbus Day parade.
On Tuesday, OccupyWallStreet (OWS) staged a "Millionaires March" that visited the Manhattan buildings that are home to five of the wealthiest financiers and power players in New York.
The decision was a deliberate provocation of people organizers considered to be among the worst offenders in what they call economic warfare against the poor and middle classes. The march attracted a lot of attention, but not much direct response from the millionaires.
On Wednesday, however, the mayor and his office reversed their opinion following, Bloomberg said, a formal request from Brookfield Properties – the real-estate firm that owns Zucotti Park – to clear the property so it could clean up and repair any damage to the landscaping.
The protest "created unsanitary conditions and considerable wear and tear on the park," Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway told reporters Wednesday, to explain the city's reason for evicting protesters after two months of Occupation.
Fourteen city council members also notified Bloomberg they were in favor of having the park cleared.
Bloomberg's office announced yesterday that the city would start moving protesters out at 7 o'clock this morning, but would allow them back in – without most of the chairs, clothes, food and other stuff tucked into neat piles and covered with tarps in various areas of the park.
"The cleaning will be done in stages," the statement said, "and the protesters will be allowed to return to the areas that have been cleaned, provided they abide by the rules that Brookfield has established for the park."
Despite Bloomberg's promise OWS could reoccupy Zucotti Park after Brookfield cleaned it up, it's unlikely they would be able to stick to the company's list of rules, which include enforcing Manhattan's ban against camping or sleeping outside overnight.
Protesters call sanitation effort a dirty trick
Protesters didn't buy the argument, viewing it as simply an excuse to drive them out and end the protest.
"The city doesn't really care about sanitation or whatever," one protester told ABCNews. "If they wanted to help [improve sanitary conditions] they'd put a few port-a-potties around."
Most protesters have been using local businesses – especially a McDonald's that offers free WiFi and has informally allowed protesters to use its rest rooms throughout the protest.
Protesters appreciate the hospitality so much several have scolded supporters in online forums and on Twitter for relatively generic slams against the fast-food giant.
I don't remember the last time I heard anyone defend McDonalds in public, let alone people committed enough in their opposition to abuses by big corporations that they'd camp out in a Manhattan park for two months. Small gestures sometimes yield impressive results.
"Temporary" eviction might have been permanent, wouldn't have been easy
Protesters had promised to fight the eviction, but peacefully, using passive disobedience techniques -- linking elbows to form a human chain that's difficult to break, laying down limp and refusing to move unless carried – to make the eviction harder on police.
They also did something remarkable for a large protest group intent on causing trouble for its host city: Starting yesterday afternoon and going well into the night, piling bags of trash on the curb for the city to pick up.
By morning there were more than 2,000 people in the park, a quick show of support that made a huge difference both in the logistical challenge of cleaning up and of making the point to both sides that the protest still has lots of support even though most can't attend for more than a few hours at a time, according to Stephen Levin, a city council member from Brooklyn.
"We are going to make this place look good," one protester told a reporter from Mother Jones magazine.
It may not have mollified Brookfield Properties, but the buffing removed the excuse both had been using to evict protesters.
At 6:30 this morning, half an hour before the eviction was due to begin, Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway issued a statement saying the city heard from Brookfield Properties "that they are postponing their scheduled cleaning of the park, and for the time being withdrawing their request from earlier in the week for police assistance during their cleaning operation."
"After hearing that the cleanup had been postponed, supporters broke out in cheers, chanting 'The people united will never be defeated'" – Mackenzie Weinger, Politico, 6:40 a.m. 10/14/2011
The crowd inside the park grew throughout the day yesterday and all night as protesters and supporters arrived from around the city and from Washington D.C. and other cities the Occupy movement has spawned similar camp-ins.
"This park has become a symbol of this movement," Levin told Bloomberg's eponymous financial-news service. "The fact that it's a block from Wall Street with thousands of people here, you can't ignore it."
Many of the protesters left the park anyway, for a short, celebratory march down Broadway, carrying signs and, in at least one case, a balloon sculpture in the shape of two nines, representing the 99% of the population OWS claims to represent.
America's financially oppressed, it seems, are not only extremely angry at their deteriorating economic conditions, they're not above using housework or balloon sculptures to make a point and keep from being evicted so they can continue making it.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.