Bloomberg’s would-be successors react to the overnight clearance of Zuccotti Park
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to send the police into Zuccotti Park overnight to clear it of protesters has evoked critical reactions from the prospective 2013 mayoral field, albeit with subtle differences between them.
"Mayor Bloomberg made a needlessly provocative and legally questionable decision to clear Zuccotti Park in the dead of night," Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said in a public statement.
De Blasio also said public safety and defense of the First Amendment "are not exclusive to one another."
Speaking to reporters after a housing event on 23rd Street, City Comptroller John Liu said "there did not seem to be a compelling reason to vacate Zuccotti Park at that point."
When asked whether the park had become dangerous or a health risk, Liu said he had visited the park "a number of times" and that "it seemed more coordinated."
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer took a more nuanced position, acknowledging the complaints of residents and business owners near Zuccotti Park even as he raised issues about what he said was the infringement of First Amendment rights.
"We need to give people the opportunity to talk about the economic conditions of this city," said Stringer, also on 23rd Street. "I want to make sure that everybody has the right to stand up say, 'Hey, there is something very wrong for the 99 percent who are really struggling,'" he said, echoing a major talking point of the protesters.
When asked whether the park was dangerous or unhealthy, Stringer said, "I think there were aspects of the site that were unhealthy and potentially dangerous."
Tom Allon, a local newspaper publisher and the only mayoral candidate to have slept overnight in the park, issued a statement acknowledging the complexity of the situation, but added, "Above all, the peaceful spirit of this movement must continue."
I haven't seen any public response yet from Council speaker Christine Quinn, and her office didn't respond to a request for comment.
A sampling of other reactions, from people who aren't running for mayor in 2013:
Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell of Manhattan called the overnight raid on the park a "morally bankrupt action."
Radio personality Curtis Sliwa likened the police sweep with little notice to the surprise military attack on Pearl Harbor.
And New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff, who early on the demonstration likened the scene at Zuccotti Park to Tahrir Square, suggested Bloomberg's swift action may have inadvertently injected new energy into the nearly two-month-old protest movement.
UPDATE: Quinn's office issued the following statement:
"As I have said from the very beginning, we must balance the protesters’ First Amendment rights with the rights of the residents, workers, and businesses of Lower Manhattan. We must protect the protestors' right to peaceful assembly and the local community's right to a safe and secure neighborhood.
"Today’s actions include reports of excessive force by the NYPD, and reports of infringement of the rights of the press. If these reports are true, these actions are unacceptable. The Council will seek answers to questions surrounding these reports and clarifying information regarding the arrest and treatment of Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.
"In a spirit of cooperation, we must work to ensure that the protesters are allowed back into Zuccotti Park as soon as possible and are allowed to exercise their right to protest while not impeding on the rights of others.”
UPDATE: Thompson released the following statement:
“New York City is a place that values different opinions, and the rights of people from every walk of life to express themselves. As I have said previously, we have a responsibility to respect those rights. We also have an obligation to balance those First Amendment rights with the rights of those who live and work in Lower Manhattan.
"I am troubled by reports of excessive force in today’s action at Zuccotti Park, which should be immediately investigated and addressed appropriately. Our city must be one where all voices are respected and not suppressed.”