Facing Eviction, Protesters Begin Park Cleanup

Updated, 4:11 p.m.| As the clock ticked down on the occupiers of Zuccotti Park and the prospect of eviction loomed, the Occupy Wall Street protesters’ pre-emptive cleanup effort lurched into gear Thursday afternoon.

Volunteers taped off sections of the park, hauled off debris and scrubbed the walkways clean — in the hope that if the park could be made spick-and-span, the city and the park’s owners, Brookfield Properties, might relent and let them stay.

Wednesday night, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had announced that the park, which has not been maintained during the four-week occupation, would be temporarily closed at 7 a.m. Friday and cleaned quadrant by quadrant.

Many protesters have called the evacuation order a pretext for shutting down the protests permanently, and some have vowed nonviolent resistance on Friday morning.

Thursday afternoon, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said that after the space is clean, the protesters will not be allowed to bring their camping gear back into the park.

“After it’s cleaned, they’ll be able to come back,” Mr. Kelly told reporters after a memorial ceremony in Battery Park. “But they won’t be able to bring back the gear. The sleeping bags, that sort of thing, will not be able to be brought back into the park.”

A set of rules, including the ban on sleeping bags, has been posted in the park for weeks, but has not been enforced.

At a meeting at the park Thursday morning, protesters urged each other to clean house. “Pick up a broom, pick up the trash, encourage people to wake at a decent hour,” one woman called to the crowd. “Show Mayor Bloomberg that he is dead wrong.”

An older woman who identified herself as a landscape artist even suggested that they take up a collection to replace trampled chrysanthemums. The crowd heard her out, but it was suggested that she needed to take this proposal to the finance committee.

Fred Pantozzi, a protester, was one of the first to step up, filling plastic bags with trash. “Every action that you see here is autonomous,” Mr. Pantozzi said.

In a letter (see below) sent Tuesday to Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly requesting that the police remove the protesters, Brookfield’s chief executive, Richard B. Clark, noted that the park is “intended to be a relaxing, tree-filled oasis in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Lower Manhattan.”

He added that the activity of the protesters “violates the law, violates the rules of the park, deprives the community of its rights of quiet enjoyment of the park and creates health and public safety issues that need to be addressed immediately.”

Mayor Bloomberg cited the letter when he announced the park closing Wednesday night.

After describing the havoc wrought upon the park by the protesters, Mr. Clark wrote, “In light of this and the ongoing trespassing of the protesters, we are again requesting the assistance of the New York City Police Department to help clear the park” so that cleaning, maintenance and repairs could be performed.

Colin Moynihan and Cara Buckley contributed reporting.

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