LOWER MANHATTAN — Occupy Wall Street protesters vowed Thursday to clean their Zuccotti Park encampment themselves — rather than submit to the city's plan to have the park professionally cleaned.
The protesters said on Facebook that they would launch a major cleanup effort Thursday evening, after Mayor Michael Bloomberg paid a surprise visit to the protesters Wednesday night and told them that sanitation conditions in Zuccotti Park had become unacceptable.
Bloomberg told the protesters they would have to clear out of sections of the park starting Friday morning, so that Brookfield Properties, which owns the park, can clean it in phases. Bloomberg promised the protesters that they would be able to return to each part of the park once it is clean.
Protesters, however, do not want to surrender any part of their territory, and they said they will resist any attempt by the NYPD to make them move.
"Friday morning, we'll awake and position ourselves with our brooms and mops in a human chain around the park, linked at the arms," Occupy Wall Street wrote on Facebook.
"If NYPD attempts to enter, we'll peacefully/non-violently stand our ground and those who are willing will get arrested."
Justin Wedes, a member of Occupy Wall Street who has represented the group at Community Board 1 meetings, said he created the Facebook post and is building consensus for the plan.
"It is not-yet consensed-upon by the entire [General Assembly, Occupy Wall Street's decision-making body], but is quickly in development," Wedes wrote in an email Thursday morning.
The protest's official Twitter account linked to the Facebook post and urged people to donate cleaning supplies.
Mark Bray, a member of Occupy Wall Street's press team, could not immediately confirm the plans, but he said it was not necessary for Brookfield and the city to send in professionals to clean the park, since the protesters already have a sanitation team that has been sweeping and scrubbing the plaza daily.
"We've been doing a very good job keeping the park clean," Bray said.
However, sanitation complaints from residents have been mounting, and Brookfield wrote a letter this week to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly saying the company had received hundreds of phone calls and emails about conditions in the park, which "have deteriorated to unsanitary and unsafe levels."
Hundreds of protesters have been sleeping in Zuccotti Park since Sept. 17, without round-the-clock access to bathrooms, and the pileup of garbage and food is attracting rodents, Brookfield said.
On Facebook, the protesters said that after their Thursday night cleanup and likely standoff with the NYPD on Friday morning, they would take their message directly to Wall Street.
"We'll march with brooms and mops to Wall Street," the group wrote on Facebook, "to do a massive #wallstcleanup march, where the real mess is!"