Mayor Bloomberg cited unconfirmed reports Thursday that
protesters are allowing crimes to go unreported and are instead chasing wrongdoers out of their park encampment, but declined to say whether the information could be grounds for police to forcibly evict protesters from the site.
"Instead of calling the police, they form a circle around the perpetrator, chastise him or her and chase him or her out into the rest of the city to do who knows what to who knows whom," Bloomberg said, although he noted the city was uncertain of the reports' accuracy. "If this is in fact happening, and it's very hard to get good information, it is despicable."
Protester Justin Stone-Diaz said he knew of two sexual assaults after which the female victims refused to file charges, leaving their fellow protesters — and the police — unable to take further action. The protesters gave the police department's liaison detailed information about the incidents, he said.
"As an organization we spent the whole day yesterday trying to convince them to press charges," Stone-Diaz said, but the women refused after initially getting what Stone-Diaz called "bad advice" from other protesters who urged the women not to work with police.
With no legal way to force the accused men out of the park, some protesters distributed flyers with their photos in an attempt to get them to leave so the women would not have to see them, Stone-Diaz said.
At a question-and-answer session with reporters Thursday, Bloomberg noted that a protester who served food at the camp has been arrested on charges of sexually abusing a woman and is also a suspect in a rape at the protest site.
Asked if the reports of criminality and what he said was protesters' continued refusal to stay on the sidewalks during marches could justify a move by the NYPD to evict protesters, the mayor gave no direct answer.
"This administration will take appropriate steps whenever we think appropriate to keep this city safe and at the same time to protect peoples' right to protest," he said.
Bloomberg went on to say: "It is one of these problems that there is no easy answer. But there is a right answer and the right answer is allow people to protest, but at the same time enforce public safety, provide public safety and quality of life issues, and we will continue to do that."
After grabbing a sandwich on the Zuccotti Park lunch line, 25-year-old Melissa Milliron said she hoped the mayor's comments would lead her fellow protesters to improve security at the site, adding that it wasn't yet up to "standard."
"I hope the community will see that there's a possibility to evict us," she said.
Later Thursday, at least 16 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested outside Goldman Sachs' headquarters. Many were carried off by police after refusing to move. Over the course of the protests nationwide and in other countries, police have arrested hundreds for trespassing, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and other violations.
The protesters had held a mock trial of the financial firm in Zuccotti Park then marched eight blocks to present company officials with the findings. They read aloud a statement of their findings then gave it to Goldman representatives.
Police officers apparently were ready for action a half hour earlier, as several hundred activists started marching: Officers flanking them had bunches of handcuffs strapped to their waists.
At the Goldman Sachs building on West Street, police demanded that the protesters get off the private pavement in front of the entrance. Most did. But the rest sat down and refused to walk.