NEW YORK (Reuters) - Anti-Wall Street protesters’ plans to camp in a New York park throughout the city’s harsh winter were dealt a blow on Friday when the fire department confiscated six generators and about a dozen cans of fuel.
With the first snow forecast to fall on Saturday, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement against economic inequality lost the generators that had been powering heat, computers and a kitchen in the Lower Manhattan camp they set up six weeks ago.
“They think that taking the ‘power’ away will take the power away, and that’s absolutely not true at all,” said Occupy Wall Street spokesman Michael Booth.
The movement has sparked so-called occupations in cities across the United States and elsewhere in the world. But recent evictions in places like Oakland, California, where police used tear gas and stun grenades, have New York protesters on edge.
On Friday in Nashville, Tennessee, protesters were returning to the Tennessee Legislative Plaza in front of the state capitol after being rousted from their campsite by state troopers overnight.
“Stay positive and breath campers: the only thing that can break us is us!” OccupyWallStNYC posted on Twitter on Friday.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the generators were confiscated because they were considered a safety hazard and it was not a bid to remove protesters.
“As long as they don’t take away anybody else’s rights to say what they want to say, or to not say anything, to go about their business safely ... at the moment it will continue,” Bloomberg told local radio.
A possible showdown between Occupy Wall Street and police was averted two weeks ago when the private owners of the publicly accessible park postponed a cleanup of the area, which protesters feared was a bid to remove them.
Bloomberg has repeatedly said that the city cannot evict the protesters unless the park owner, Brookfield Office Properties, made an official complaint.
Occupy Wall Street spokesman Ed Needham said that city authorities had inspected the camp on Thursday. On Friday morning about 30 firefighters escorted by police returned to confiscate the generators and fuel.
“This was following a real, determined and extensive effort on our part to make sure we were working effectively with the fire department and the police department,” Needham said. “We run a safe operation here and we’re trying to do our best.”
Protesters say they 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.
They also believe the richest 1 percent of Americans do not pay their fair share in taxes.
Writing by Michelle Nichols, additional reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Xavier Briand