Video: Looming showdown between NYPD and protesters

  1. Transcript of: Looming showdown between NYPD and protesters

    WILLIAMS: Good evening.

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Back on September 17th , very few people had heard of the protest movement called Occupy Wall Street , but they did and they sure have since then. And so far there have been over a thousand arrests across the United States as the movement spreads. They share a heritage with other big protest movements in American history -- some of them have changed history -- even though this protest doesn't look the same or take the same shape exactly any two days in a row. It's on the move, the players change, but the center of the message is increasingly resonating. The crowds tell us that; now the polls tell us that. But tomorrow here in New York an important moment arrives right where it all started. It's where we begin tonight with NBC 's Mara Schiavocampo . Mara , good evening.

    MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO reporting: Brian , good evening. Protesters here at Zuccotti Park are bracing for a showdown with police tomorrow because the park's owners say they want the group temporarily moved, this as demonstrations continue to take hold around the country. Almost one month in, the Occupy Wall Street protests are growing in number and intensity, thousands taking to the streets in at least 190 cities nationwide. The latest NBC News - Wall Street Journal poll finds 37 percent of Americans support the protesters, with 40 percent of wealthy Americans backing the movement, more than any other income group.

    Representative JON LARSON ([shown on screen] Democrat, Connecticut): What we've witnessed across America in the last several weeks are our citizens taking to the streets, born out of frustration.

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: In Washington , DC , today, eight arrested after gathering at the Capitol .

    Unidentified Woman: Why am I being arrested?

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: The last few days have seen an escalation in demonstrations and clashes from Boston to Seattle . Overnight, police in Portland cleared the streets, tearing down tents.

    Lieutenant ROBERT KING (Portland Police Bureau): We're going to stay here as long as it's necessary to ensure that the street remains open.

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: Now protesters at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan , where the movement began, are bracing for a showdown.

    Unidentified Man: Nobody's leaving. They can carry everybody out in handcuffs like they did on the Brooklyn Bridge .

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: After vowing to let them camp out indefinitely, city officials now say demonstrators must leave for park maintenance. Park owners want them out.

    Commissioner RAY KELLY (New York Police Department): They now have decided that they want to clean the area and they're going to do that.

    Offscreen Voice:

    Commissioner KELLY: We'll stand by to make certain that, you know, the peace is maintained.

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: Demonstrators say the cleaning is an excuse to sweep them out for good, so they are tidying the park themselves and have vowed to stay. Brian , organizers are telling protesters to be here tomorrow at 6 AM to, quote, "defend the occupation from eviction." The NYPD will be here as well, and both sides say they're prepared for potential clashes. Brian :

    WILLIAMS: Mara Schiavocampo in Lower Manhattan tonight, starting us off. Thanks.

Image: Demonstrators at Zuccotti Park start cleaning belongings
Timothy A. Clary  /  AFP - Getty Images
Demonstrators with 'Occupy Wall Street' protest at Zuccotti Park start cleaning up their belongings Oct. 13, the morning after Mayor Bloomberg sent out a message that the park needs to be cleaned. Protestors were told that, signs, sleeping bags, and other items need to temporarily be removed so the park's property owner send in a cleaning crew starting Friday. news services
updated 10/13/2011 6:19:07 PM ET 2011-10-13T22:19:07

Protesters with the Occupy Wall Street movement threatened on Thursday to block efforts to clean up the Lower Manhattan park where they set up camp nearly a month ago, raising concerns of a showdown with authorities.

While New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the protests against economic inequality can continue as long as laws are obeyed, the private owner of the publicly accessible Zuccotti Park said the park needs to be cleaned.

Volunteers launched a cleanup effort on Thursday afternoon, with protesters urging each other to "pick up a broom, pick up trash," The New York Times reported.

"The cleanup is a pretext to remove us from the camp. And we can return only if we abide by the rules of Brookfield Properties," said Justin Wedes, 25, a public high school science teacher from Brooklyn who was sweeping the pavement with others. "We're redoubling our efforts today."

A source told NBC News' Michelle Franzen that protesters were hoping Thursday's cleanup effort would be enough to allow them to stay in the park, but demonstrators were prepared to hold their ground if they were told to leave.

Owner Brookfield Office Properties plans to clean the park where several hundred protesters have been sleeping on Friday, a move that demonstrators believe is a ploy to remove them.

PhotoBlog: A 360 degree view of Zuccotti Park

"Seems likely that this is their attempt to shut down #OWS (Occupy Wall Street) for good," protesters said in a statement on Thursday. "We know where the real dirt is: on Wall Street ... We won't allow Bloomberg and the NYPD to foreclose our occupation. This is an occupation, not a permitted picnic."

Brookfield Office Properties representatives, escorted by police, handed out notices to the protesters on Thursday to tell them that the park would be cleaned in three stages and would reopen for public use consistent with park regulations.

But the rules ban camping, tents or other structures, lying down on the ground, placing tarps or sleeping bags on the ground and the storage personal property -- everything the protesters have been doing since they set up on September 17.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters that protesters would not be allowed to bring sleeping bags and other camping gear when they return to the park, The New York Times reported.

Field Notes: 'Occupiers' share protest images

"Brookfield respects the rights of free speech, assembly, and peaceful protest," the company said in a statement.

Police said they will be on hand to ensure public order, but it is up to Brookfield Office Properties to enforce the rules of its park. Police will only become involved if laws are broken or if an official complaint is made by the park owners.

"I'm worried there is going to be a riot," said Lauren DiGioia, 26, who has spent the past week at Zuccotti Park and is a member of Occupy Wall Street's sanitation committee. "It is most definitely a ploy to get us out."

"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."

First Read: Americans' views on 'Occupy Wall Street'

'Wear and tear' on park
"They're going to use the cleanup to get us out of here!" Wedes said. "It's a de facto eviction notice."

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 stages Friday. Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited the protesters Wednesday to offer assurances.

Story: Old guard back in the trenches at 'Occupy' protests

Allison Esso of Human Services Council, a group that supports the protesters, was wary. "I'm hoping that they're not trying to undermine their ability to protest," she said.

The protest 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.

The Associated Press, Reuters and NBC News' Michelle Franzen contributed to this report.


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