More than a dozen people were arrested as hundreds of broom-wielding protesters marched toward Wall Street shortly after the city announced the postponement of a cleanup that would have forced Occupy Wall Street members to cede their territory, at least temporarily.
The chaos began shortly after 7 a.m. when Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said his office received an email from Brookfield Properties, the owners of Zuccotti Park, where protesters have been camped out since Sept. 17.
The message said the planned day-long cleanup of the plaza would be postponed.
Protesters had learned Thursday they would not be allowed to bring their sleeping bags or tarps back into the park when they were permitted to return, fueling the belief that the cleanup was a pretext for eviction.
They vowed to clean the park themselves and resist police efforts to remove them Friday morning, raising concerns about an imminent showdown between police and the thousand-plus protesters gathered in the park.
Asked during his weekly radio appearance about Brookfield's decision to postpone, Mayor Bloomberg said, "I think what happened, to my understanding, is that Brookfield got lots of calls from many elected officials, threatening them and saying if you don’t stop this, we’ll make your life more difficult."
Brookfield initially asked the NYPD to assist with removing the protesters so the park, which they said was unsanitary, could be cleaned.
On Thursday night, the company's CEO wrote in an email to Holloway that Brookfield would defer the cleaning a few days as it tried to reach an agreement with protesters that would keep the area safe, clean and available to the public.
After the announcement, boisterous cheers floated up from the crowds and hundreds of protesters began marching, chanting, "The people will never be defeated" and waving their brooms in the air.
By 8 a.m., some reached Wall Street and began gathering at the Stock Exchange. Heavy clashing began between police and protesters on the corner of William and Wall streets as police on horseback tried to prevent about 500 people from marching on Wall Street.
Police used scooters to force protesters out of the street at several locations along Wall Street and Broadway. In some cases, they headed directly toward the protesters who stopped traffic and refused to move out of the street.
Along the march, some of the protesters threw bottles at cops and one threw a garbage can.
Fourteen protesters were arrested in the fracas, mostly in the vicinity of Broadway and Exchange Place, according to NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.
One person who was arrested was injured and bleeding and was being treated at the 7th Precinct for his injuries. He apparently was accidentally hit by a police scooter and fell to the ground as he tried to free his foot. Browne said that individual ran off after he was handcuffed but was recaptured.
Charges are pending against the people arrested, Browne said.