Something about this “clean-up” stinks.

by J.A. Myerson

Mayor Bloomberg finally showed up at Liberty Plaza Park on Wednesday, bearing news that immediately raised suspicion among the protesters camped out there: on Friday, Brookfield, the corporation that owns the park, has plans to administer a clean-up effort that will require that the occupiers temporarily vacate.

The mayor’s history of making disparaging comments about Occupy Wall Street led many to a certain sense of bafflement when, on Monday, Bloomberg’s office announced that it would allow protesters to remain at their encampment indefinitely. This is, after all, a mayor with a history of duplicity, having notably showed up to speak at the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire at the same time as he threatened to demolish New York’s labor force.

Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway released a statement regarding the planned clean-up, claiming that “the last three weeks have created unsanitary conditions and considerable wear and tear on the park” and promising that the cleaning “will be done in stages and the protesters will be able to return to the areas that have been cleaned provided they abide by the rules that Brookfield has established for the park.”

Several things about this are troubling.

  1. No sanitation problem exists.

Occupy Wall Street is, after all, a functioning living space with a sanitation working group. Anyone who has spent time there (Mayor Bloomberg and Brookfield ownership have not) knows that there is a constant ongoing effort to keep the place clean: sweeping, tidying, removing trash, &c. As journalist Jeff Sharlet of The Atlantic noted on Twitter, LibertyPlaza is among the “few parks in the city that doesn’t smell like piss.”

  1. “Clean-ups” are a tried and true method of squelching dissent, sometimes violently.

Not only did Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker defy a court order to lock protesters out of the capitol building in Madison after ostensibly removing them for a clean-up effort, but Spanish authorities this Spring, removing protesters from their encampment to let in cleaning crews, took the opportunity to riddle the indignados with rubber bullets. It may be worth noting that several indignados join Occupy Wall Street and live in Liberty Plaza Park.

  1. The city is doing the bidding of a private corporation.

Brookfield owns the park, and it is Brookfieldwho is officially calling for the clean-up and going to administer it. So why is the city liaising with protester’s on the corporation’s behalf? The too-comfortable relationship between the functions of government and the interests of private wealth is the object of much of the Wall Street occupiers’ indignation, and that relationship was made all the more poignant by revelations recently that Mayor Bloomberg’s long-time live-in girlfriend, Diana Taylor, sits on Brookfield’s board.

None of the Wall Street occupiers I’ve heard from believe the city’s intentions to be pure or intend to co-operate fully. In fact, Occupy Wall Street protesters have started an online campaign to accumulate a huge number of brooms and mops in anticipation of Friday’s possible confrontation. What for?

Well, here’s a picture from London’s #riotcleanup demonstration.