As Mayor Michael Bloomberg steps up his anti-occupation rhetoric, those at the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York are girding for a showdown with police who they fear will be sent to evict them at any time. After a tough few days for the protesters, who faced a wintry blast last weekend and internal strife this week, Bloomberg used his weekly radio spot on John Gambling's show on Friday morning to step up his criticism of the encampment, which he slammed earlier this week for its response to an alleged sexual assault by a volunteer. The mayor's language has been enough to spur the protesters into making preparations for another showdown similar to the one that happened on Oct. 14 when cops were called in to help clean the park.
In his chat with Gambling on Friday, the mayor invoked Oakland's unrest this week and last. Reporter Azi Paybarah, of Capital New York, tweeted on Friday: "what happened in Oakland w/ protesters 'not going to happen here' said @mikebloomberg." And New York Times reporter Kate Taylor tweeted from the broadcast: " 'Some of them are trying to destroy' the neighborhood, 'and an awful lot of them are not.' " The comments come a day after Bloomberg suggested the protest was making the city less safe by failing to report the alleged sexual assault by one of its members. "If this is in fact happening ... it is despicable and I think it is outrageous and it really allows the criminal to strike again, making all of us less safe," the New York Post quoted him as saying. The Post's lead story on Friday, with video of a mentally unstable man raving through Zuccotti Park and then fighting with a fellow occupier, didn't help the occupation's case.
Occupiers know their encampment is on the line. The protest's website on Friday called out Bloomberg for "fear mongering," and said he should "get his facts straight:"
"Bloomberg lied yesterday when he claimed that a sexual assault suspect was merely kicked out of the park, when in fact OWS security personnel forcibly removed the individual and handed him directly to the NYPD," said Andrew Smith, a member of OWS’s overnight Community Watch. “The Mayor should get his facts straight before he calls responsible citizens protecting our community 'despicable.' "
The activists aren't relying just on their information campaign. The website also calls on activists to get ready to defend the park at short notice, should police crack down, by setting up a master list of phone numbers to send a mass alert by text. "NYPD could move in as early as tonight, or it could be next week," the notice reads. "We know that our adversaries are trying to build political cover for eviction by demonizing us in the press."