9:39 am Oct. 21, 20111
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended the right of Occupy Wall Street protesters to express themselves while making it clear he thinks they're not being productive.
On October 17, when the protesters had been in Zuccotti Park for three weeks, Bloomberg told a radio host the protesters would ultimately "take the jobs away from people working in this city" and that the demonstrations were "not good for tourism."
(This was before many elected officials formally embraced the movement.)
But, after the showdown last week which ended with the city and the park's owners pulling back from plans to have the park "cleaned" and to begin enforcing new rules barring prolonged stays there, the protesters have gained a kind of official legitimacy. City Council members and local New York elected officials are embracing them, joining unions and, according to polls, most of the New York public.
Today, during the mayor's weekly radio show, a caller asked Bloomberg about the protesters, complaining about their presence in lower Manhattan and urging the mayor to do something to get rid of them.
The mayor argued, again, that the protesters have a right to free speech, and said the issue was complicated and that simply removing them from one location wouldn't solve the problem.
"It's a tourist attraction," Bloomberg said.
It should be said that the mayor's overall attitude toward Occupy Wall Street's impact on the city's bottom line hasn't changed; he said he spoke with a landlord near Zuccotti Park who said his tenants are considering breaking their leases in order to move away from the Occupy Wall Street epicenter. The mayor did not identify the landlord.