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Bloomberg Deputies Slam Critics Of City's Clearing of Zuccotti Park

By Jill Colvin | November 17, 2011 12:51pm
NYPD officers arrest Occupy Wall St., protesters and journalists in Duarte Square, NYC on Nov. 15th, 2011.
NYPD officers arrest Occupy Wall St., protesters and journalists in Duarte Square, NYC on Nov. 15th, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Paul Lomax

CITY HALL — Members of the Bloomberg administration slammed mayoral hopefuls who criticized the clearing of Zuccotti Park, accusing some of insulting the men and women of the NYPD.

Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, who had played a critical role in Occupy Wall Street negotiations, told reporters Wednesday he was “shocked” by the words of the potential candidates, including comparing the NYPD's action to the Chinese government's actions at Tiananmen Square.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio had all rallied Tuesday in defense of the protesters after Zuccotti Park was raided in the dead of the night.

Liu reportedly campared it to "the shock and awe that was employed in Iraq."

Stringer said "any time a police force comes into a park in the middle of the night and arrests 200 civilians is definitely a cause of concern,” adding that he was troubled by allegations of violence against protesters and the treatment of reporters, who were forcibly penned blocks from the park and subject to arrest.

“Zuccotti Park is not Tiananmen Square,” had said.

But Wolfson said that comparisons to Tiananmen and Iraq were uncalled for.

“That is an insult to the men and women of the NYPD who carried this out professionally,” he said.

“That kind of rhetoric is so overblown and so outrageous and so indicative of people who are not squaring up with the facts,” said Wolfson, claiming that these officials had failed to address the central question — whether tents at tarps should be allowed.

“The central issue before this mayor, at this time, was whether or not tenting and tarping and camping can continue at Zuccotti Park.

"And not a single statement by any of the mayoral aspirants addressed that issue,” he said. “They all ducked the central issue before this mayor and this city yesterday.”

Wolfson called on all of the mayoral candidates to come forward with their positions on whether the Occupy Wall Street encampment should have been allowed to remain.

“Anyone running for mayor ought to have a position on this issue,” he said, adding that those who supported the tents, “should have been willing to say that. That’s what it means to step up and run for mayor.”

Stringer shot back on Twitter Wednesday evening, tweeting Wolfson, "kudos on ur #OWS work, but ur not in a position 2 tell reporters what 2 ask after keeping them away from Zuccotti & arresting them."

de Blasio said Thursday he has always believed the administration should have let the situation at Zuccotti "play out."

"There were still opportunities to resolve outstanding issues, including finding an alternative site that would have proved less problematic," de Blasio said. "I believe the current state of the protests and the increased City resources required to manage them represent a significant setback.”

Quinn said through a spokeswoman that, "Instead of looking backwards and relitigating a matter already settled by the courts, the Bloomberg Administration should be looking forward and working to ensure the protesters' First Amendment rights are protected while balancing the community's rights to a safe and secure neighborhood."

A representative for Liu, who is embroiled in a campaign finance scandal, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fellow Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway also defended the tactics used by the NYPD during the raid and subsequent demonstrations.

“I think what happened here was you saw the NYPD and city agencies really at their best,” he said, arguing that agencies “carried out an operation that was sensitive and difficult in a way that was respectful of everybody’s rights.”

In addition to the presumptive mayoral hopefuls, the raiding of Zuccotti was slammed by numerous other elected officials and civil liberties advocates.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler and State Sen. Daniel Squadron said the police actions raised "a number of serious civil liberties questions that must be answered," including why press access was limited and why some journalists’ credentials were confiscated while they were trying to report.

Even City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who praised the banishment of the tents and tarps, said she was "dismayed by reports of violence; the arrest of my colleague, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez; and the barring of members of the press from covering the events in Zuccotti Park.”

“Any use of excessive force or infringement on the rights of members of the press is totally unacceptable," she said in a statement Wednesday.

Members of the council have called for a full investigation into Rodriguez's arrest.