Updated at 3:19 a.m., Nov. 15, 2011
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg had said all along when the time was appropriate he would act to address the “Occupy Wall Street” occupation of Zuccotti Park.
Well, just after 1 a.m. on Tuesday he gave the NYPD its marching orders.
Clear the park.
According to 1010 WINS, the NYPD set up a perimeter around the park and unveiled flood lights illuminating the area before later moving in and telling the protesters they needed to leave or risk being arrested. According to 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon the protesters were also told they would be notified how to pick up their belongings.
“It’s a raid. It’s an eviction,” Rincon reported, adding tents and other belongings were being thrown into dumpsters by NYPD officers.
However, according to the New York Times, the protesters appeared to have other ideas, chanting “Whose park?! Our park!” The paper also said the protesters started building barricades around the area known as “the kitchen” with tables and wood.
But not everyone stayed. Rincon reported many of the protesters listened to the NYPD directive and scattered, some with very large bags on their backs.
There were no immediate reports of violence or arrests, but 1010 WINS’s Terry Sheridan reported a large group of protesters began marching towards Lafayette Street, with police officers en route. In addition, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was reportedly on the scene, supervising the clearing out of the park.
Officers reportedly told the protesters that the city “had determined that the continued occupation of Zuccotti Park posed an increasing health and fire safety hazard.”
The OWS movement in New York City had become a serious detriment to residents and business owners living and working in the area near Zuccotti. Bloomberg was constantly under siege from residents to do something about the noise and reports of unsanitary conditions, in addition to the negative impact the demonstrations were having on local businesses.
Residents got so enraged they decided to do something about it on Monday by marching on City Hall.
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“No, I’m not going to take off my mask,” one woman, who was wearing a white hockey goalie-style mask when meeting the media, told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown.
The masked woman, who said she covered up out of fear of retribution from Occupy protesters, wanted the city to take lower Manhattan residents’ claims seriously.
“A lot of them would have done this, but a lot of them are very scared to show their face and come out here,” the woman said. “I mean I’m even scared to show my own face because I’m afraid of the backlash.”
Protesters have been camped out at Zuccotti Park for nearly two months, weathering the elements and the near-constant criticism from those who live and work in the area. They have complained the protesters’ presence has become a quality of life crisis.
Residents say poor sanitary conditions, loud noise from round-the-clock drumming sessions and rowdy drug-fueled parties have made their lives a living nightmare. And, they said, the movement was killing their businesses.
“We close our gate at night time and they move their bowels all over the gate, our gate, you know what I mean?” one business owner said. “They pee all over the back of the store. They are not nice. They push customers.”
“A lot of waste is being dumped behind my alleyway where I dump the garbage,” another owner said, reiterating the waste he was witnessing was indeed human waste. ”
“As long as the protesters are here, our businesses are threatened,” another man said. “I don’t know how much longer we will be able to hold on.”
Mayor Bloomberg had waffled between supporting the protesters’ right to freedom and sympathizing with those who say the movement was restricting their own.
Earlier Monday — once again — the mayor refused to elaborate on what, if anything, he was going to do, but the actions of the NYPD early Tuesday morning clearly showed Bloomberg;s patience had reached its end.
“As I’ve said before we’ll do what we think is appropriate when it’s appropriate,” Bloomberg said.
The protesters had planned a march on the New York Stock Exchange and other events on Thursday as part of its two-month birthday. It is unknown at this time how the clearing out of Zuccotti will impact those scheduled events.
Protesters repeatedly said they were trying to be good neighbors and pointed to compromises — like bringing in Porta-Pottys and limiting the drumming to four hours a day — as proof.
“We understand that there are challenges that our presence brings to the local community, but at the end of the day we’re an occupation, we’re here in this space. We’re trying to be good neighbors since day 1,” protester Justin Wedes said.
Please stay with CBSNewYork.com throughout the day on Tuesday for developments on this story.
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