Bloomberg Flip-Flopping On OWS?; Protesters Arrested In Sept. Go To Court
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The “Occupy Wall Street” protest has been a difficult one for Mayor Michael Bloomberg to get his head around. He started off an ardent supporter of the right to protest, but as the weeks have gone by and the complaints from lawmakers and residents have mounted, he’s started to change his tune.
The drums were beating on Wall Street on Thursday, but they definitely weren’t in tune with Bloomberg’s latest thinking on the protest. He’s upset that the protesters don’t report crimes, like sex-related incidents, in Zuccotti Park to the police, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
“It is despicable and outrageous and really allows the criminal to strike again making all of us less safe,” Bloomberg said.
LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports
From the stunning violence by protestors in Oakland, California to reports of sexual assaults and other crimes in Zuccotti Park, there’s concern about rising crime at occupy camps nationwide.
“I’ve been here since day one and I certainly do feel safe here,” Faith Laugier, of East Harlem, told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.
Others did not agree with Laugier’s sentiments.
“I wouldn’t, considering what I’ve heard in the past, and considering what I see,” Trish Ballart said.
With the movement spreading, so has crime. In California, protesters say rogue factions are causing trouble. In Dallas, it was the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl. And in New York, the NYPD arrested a demonstrator, accused of sexually abusing a woman.
Fellow protesters admit all they did was surround the suspect, and shame them away.
“It’s being presented in a way that we’re harboring them, those people are being kicked out,” Brent Schmidt said.
Some protesters said the problem is not rampant violence, but isolated incidents, where calls to police, they say, have gone unanswered.
“Well actually we have called 911 and we’ve been hung up on the second we mention Zuccotti Park,” one protester said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s views on the protests have been “evolving.” Some might say he’s flip flopped.
Contrast this comment three weeks ago: “The bottom line is people want to express themselves and as long as they obey the law we’ll allow them to do it,” with what the mayor said about the protests Wednesday.
“This isn’t an occupation of Wall Street. It is an occupation of a growing, vibrant residential neighborhood in lower Manhattan and it’s really hurting small businesses and families,” Bloomberg said.
Sources tell Kramer that the mayor’s change of heart is partially the result of heavy lobbying from the Democratic lawmakers who represent the area — people like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who asked the mayor to enforce laws prohibiting excessive noise from drumming which, they said, disturbs neighbors day and night.
As well as sanitary and quality of life laws banning public urination on streets, buildings and sidewalks maybe it was the increased public pressure; maybe not. But on Thursday the mayor seemed to be even more short-tempered with the protesters.
“If you want to yell and scream we’ll make sure you can do it, but you’re not going to do it at the expense of others,” Bloomberg said.
City Hall has not announced any new actions yet against the protesters, but Speaker Silver’s chief of staff met Wednesday with Bloomberg’s deputy mayor, Howard Wolfson, to demand some changes.
Now the proverbial ball is in the mayor’s court.
Meanwhile, 78 protesters who were arrested during a march in Union Square on Sept. 24 had their first day in court Thursday.
LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reports
The majority of the arrests were for disorderly conduct and blocking traffic, police said. Two were charged with resisting arrest.
1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports many of the arrested protesters want to go to trial. They are due back in court Jan. 9.
Attorney Martin Stolar, who represents some of the protesters, said the demonstrators claim they did nothing wrong.
Some of the protesters took a deal from prosecutors called an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, or ACD, which will put the cases on track to be dismissed if they stay out of trouble for six months.
LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office says there were 14 no shows for court and said in all, 53 refused the ACDs, nine accepted the deal, one case was dismissed and the case for one who was charged with a misdemeanor was adjourned.
The clash between protesters and police on Sept. 24 sparked a huge response by Occupy Wall Street and others when video was released on YouTube showing officers pepper spraying a group of women who were cordoned off by orange netting.
Hundreds of protesters have been arrested in Occupy demonstrations around New York. About 700 were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge back on Oct. 1.
Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, who had been identified as the officer in the YouTube video seen pepper spraying the women on Sept. 24, was docked 10 vacation days after the NYPD ruled he had violated department guidelines.
Bologna’s union has said his actions were done out of a concern for the safety of officers and the of the public.
The lawyer for one of the women, teacher’s aide Kaylee Dedrick, has urged prosecutors to bring criminal charges against Bologna.
As those 78 protests went before a judge Thursday, the rest of the Occupy Wall Street movement planned to take on Goldman Sachs Thursday afternoon.
According to its website, demonstrators are marching to Goldman Sachs’ headquarters.
Before the march, OWS said there would be a rally in Liberty Square Park with various speakers and “expert analysis from Ralph Nader, Cornel West and Chris Hedges.”