A planned clean-up of a New York park that has become the focal point for the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests has been postponed, a brief statement from the office of the city’s mayor says.
The statement on Friday morning came hours before the clean-up was due to start, prompting fears of a flashpoint between authorities and protesters, hundreds of whom remain in the park.
A number of protesters were arrested during scuffles with police who attempted to enter the occupied Zuccotti Park.
A New York Police Department spokesperson confirmed there had been arrests on Friday, but did not specify how many had been taken into custody.
Brookfield Office Properties, which manages the publicly accessible park, announced it would delay the cleaning that had been set for early Friday morning. Protesters, who had seen the plan to clean the park as a ploy to evict them, celebrated the decision.
In the statement, the mayor’s office said Brookfield Office Properties, was working out an “arrangement with the protesters that will ensure the park remains clean … for public use”.
It added that the park owner was “for the time being withdrawing their request from earlier in the week for police assistance during their cleaning operation”.
“Our position has been consistent throughout,” the statement said. “The City’s role is to protect public health and safety, to enforce the law, and guarantee the rights of all New Yorkers.”
Protesters said the proposed clean-up was an attempt to shut down the movement which has camped out at the site since September 17.
They accused Michael Bloomberg, New York’s mayor, of orchestrating the move.
“Be warned, this is a tactic that Bloomberg has used to shut down protests in the past, and a tactic used recently in similar protests throughout Europe,” protest organisers said on a Facebook page.
Brookfield said it wanted to clean up the park because conditions there were “unsanitary and unsafe,” with no toilets and a shortage of rubbish bins.
‘Loud and passionate’
Al Jazeera’s Cath Turner, reporting from New York, said there were “big celebrations” at the Zuccotti Park.
She said when the announcement postponing the clean-up was made a huge cheer went up among the protesters “as they are seeing this as a victory”.
“There was a huge display of solidarity there; a very strong feeling [that] this protest will continue to go on,” she said. “I’ve never seen it this big. Protesters are very determined … Very loud and passionate.”
‘Occupy’ protests are occurring already across many US towns and cities. Early on Friday, police moved to disperse protesters camped in a park near the Colorado state capitol building in Denver.
Dozens of police in riot gear have herded Wall Street protesters away from the Colorado state Capitol grounds, arresting about two dozen people and dismantling their encampment.
In a tweet, the Occupy Denver group said: “We must remain strong! They can take away our camp tonight, but we have grown stronger in light of this violation.”
They also say the richest one per cent of Americans don’t pay their fair share in taxes.
Hundreds of people have been arrested at rallies in New York and police have used pepper spray. Dozens have also been arrested during the past couple of weeks from Boston and Washington DC to Chicago, Austin and San Francisco.
Solidarity rallies have also sprung up at more than 140 US college campuses in 25 states, according to Occupy Colleges.
There are also plans for global rallies on Saturday in 71 countries, according to Occupy Together and United for Global Change.