MIDTOWN — Mayor Michael Bloomberg hit out at hundreds of Wall Street protesters camped out downtown— saying on his radio show Friday that they should be supporting the big banks, not demonstrating against them.
And the billionaire mayor said the nearly two weeks of action have actually hurt lower level workers earning less than $50,000 rather than the rich.
“We always tend to blame the wrong people," Bloomberg told WOR’s John Gambling on his weekly radio sit-down, arguing that big banks don’t bear full responsibility for the global financial crisis, which has sent unemployment soaring and is threatening to plunge the US into a second recession.
“The protesters are protesting against people who make forty, fifty thousand dollars a year and are struggling to make ends meet. That’s the bottom line,” he said of protesters' Wall Street targets.
Hundreds of people have spent nearly two weeks now camped out at Zuccotti Park as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement, sleeping on mattresses and in makeshift tents and demonstrating against the excesses of the financial industry and what they say is a broken capitalist system.
They've gotten support in their plan from a range of backers — including Russell Simmons, Cornel West, Michael Moore, as well as the Transit Workers Union — and organizers revealed Friday that they were expecting a surprise performance by Radiohead.
Protesters said they are also bringing attention to problems with police brutality, following several contentious showdowns with officers which have prompted the NYPD to launch an internal investigation.
But Bloomberg said the country needs to stop worrying about how it got into the economic mess and instead focus on what it can do to get out of it, including “trying to encourage people to take risks and to give mortgages and to take mortgages, even if it’s a struggle for them to pay the bills.”
“If the banks don’t go out and make loans, we will not come out of our economic problems, we will not have jobs," he said. "So anything we can do to responsibly help the banks do that, encourage them to do that, is what we need."
Asked whether the city will intervene to shut down the protests at the privately-owned Zuccotti Park, the mayor said, “We’ll see.”
“You know, people have the right to protest, but we also have to make sure that people who don’t want to protest can go down the streets unmolested,” he said.
While he said that “the right to protest is a part of our culture,” he said that there are also other “societal concerns” that the city must consider.
“You’re worried about sanitation and you’re worried about, you know, lots of different… there’s lots of laws on the book of what you can do,” he said.
Commissioner Kelly said this week that the department cannot bar protesters from Zuccotti Park, which is owned by Brookfield Properties, because it is a public plaza that is required to stay open 24 hours a day.
The protesters have received a boost in recent days from celebrity activists like Susan Sarandon, Cornel West and Michael Moore, as well as Transport Workers Union Local 100, which announced it intends to join the demonstrators at a march and rally next week.
But the protesters have also been criticized by sleep-deprived local residents, who have complained that their late-night drums and hollering — along with police barricades and overcrowded sidewalks — are putting an unfair burden on the neighborhood.