* Protests held at U.S. colleges on Thursday
* Global protests at economic inequality set for Saturday
By Michelle Nichols and Paul Thomasch
NEW YORK, Oct 13 Protesters with the Occupy
Wall Street movement threatened on Thursday to block efforts to
clean up the Lower Manhattan park where they set up camp nearly
a month ago, raising concerns of a showdown with authorities.
While New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the
protests against economic inequality can continue as long as
laws are obeyed, the private owner of the publicly accessible
Zuccotti Park said the park needs to be cleaned.
Owner Brookfield Office Properties plans to clean the park
where several hundred protesters have been sleeping on Friday,
a move that demonstrators believe is a ploy to remove them.
"Seems likely that this is their attempt to shut down #OWS
(Occupy Wall Street) for good," protesters said in a statement
on Thursday. "We know where the real dirt is: on Wall Street
... We won't allow Bloomberg and the NYPD to foreclose our
occupation. This is an occupation, not a permitted picnic."
Brookfield Office Properties representatives, escorted by
police, handed out notices to the protesters on Thursday to
tell them that the park would be cleaned in three stages and
would reopen for public use consistent with park regulations.
But the rules ban camping, tents or other structures, lying
down on the ground, placing tarps or sleeping bags on the
ground and storing personal property -- everything the
protesters have been doing since they set up on Sept. 17.
"Brookfield respects the rights of free speech, assembly,
and peaceful protest," the company said in a statement.
Police said they will be on hand to ensure public order,
but it is up to Brookfield Office Properties to enforce the
rules of its park. Police will only become involved if laws are
broken or if an official complaint is made by the park owners.
"I'm worried there is going to be a riot," said Lauren
DiGioia, 26, who has spent the past week at Zuccotti Park and
is a member of Occupy Wall Street's sanitation committee. "It
is most definitely a ploy to get us out."
The company said conditions at the park "have deteriorated
to unsanitary and unsafe levels," noting there are no toilets
in the park.
An accumulation of trash has attracted rodents and neighbors
complain of lewdness, drug use, harassment and offensive odors
from the protesters, Brookfield said.
COLLEGE, GLOBAL PROTESTS
Bloomberg, a multi-billionaire and himself a target of
protesters who believe the richest 1 percent of Americans don't
pay their fair share in taxes, visited the Occupy Wall Street
movement on Wednesday night to tell them about the clean up.
"As long as we are nonconfrontational and we cooperate I
believe we can do this in a peaceful and orderly manner," said
Thomas Leeson, 26, from Charlotte, North Carolina, who arrived
at the camp four days ago and is on the sanitation committee.
Protesters are upset that the billions of dollars in bank
bailouts doled out during the recession allowed banks to resume
earning huge profits while average Americans have had no relief
from high unemployment and job insecurity.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has sparked nationwide
protests in more than 1,400 cities, according to Occupy
Together, which has become an online hub for protest activity.
It also inspired solidarity rallies on Thursday that were
due to take place at more than 140 U.S. college campuses in 25
states, according to Occupy Colleges. Some social media photos
showed about a dozen or so protesters at various colleges.
According to the website of United for Global Change,there are 869 cities in 71 countries
where protests are being planning.
Hundreds of people have been arrested at rallies in New
York and police have used pepper spray. Dozens have also been
arrested during the past couple of weeks from Boston and
Washington D.C. to Chicago and San Francisco.
In Austin, Texas four protesters were arrested on Thursday
for criminal trespassing after refusing to leave the protest
site when city workers came to clean the area.