There is a new group of people occupying Liberty Plaza Park. Clad in dark clothes with glowing yellow vests, a group of husky security guards, all of them white men, now patrol the park. Since Monday night's eviction of the occupation by New York's Police and Sanitation Departments, under the orders of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Liberty Plaza Park, whose specific commission is to provide access to the public 24 hours a day, has been surrounded by metal barricades, a handful of one-person-wide breaks providing the only entrances and exits.
The entrances/exits are all guarded by ten or more of the security guards, very few of whom were willing to provide any information when asked. Each man, for example, declined to identify himself by name when asked.
The men all admitted to being employed by Brookfield, the corporation that owns Liberty Plaza Park, though none would say whether the real estate corporation was his direct employer or whether this arrangement was bourn of Brookfield's contracting of a third-party private security firm. Nor would any of the men divulge what his job had been prior to being stationed in the park, whether he was in Brookfield's employ elsewhere and had merely been restationed or whether he was a recent hire.
Two men, stationed at the northeast corner of the park, described themselves as "facilitators," one saying, "We are here to help people see the sights and enjoy the park without too much difficulty," the barriers encircling the entirety of the park's perimeter notwithstanding. When asked what tactics they were to use in pursuit of their facilitation charge, the men declined to outline specific methods, indicating that the policemen stationed on the blocks outside would handle any conflicts in the plaza.
Roughly 50 guards were in the square, a number rivaling the protesters, who stood in the rain, holding a meeting to discuss proposals for the occupation's next steps and receiving instructions on retrieving their confiscated property. Many of the occupation's organizers, working groups and media producers have stationed themselves for the time being in the atrium at 60 Wall Street or at the offices of the United Federation of Teachers, a union sympathetic to the movement.
The security guards are the first representatives of Brookfield to visit the park in the occupation's two-month duration. Previously, all of the corporation's bidding had been handled by the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the mayor, though none of the officers stationed to supervise the occupation would volunteer an explanation for how the functions of state power came to act on the whim of a private corporation. The mayor's longtime, live-in girlfriend Diana Taylor, the former New York State superintendent of banks, sits on Brookfield's corporate board.
A New York State Supreme Court judge Tuesday upheld the supremacy of Brookfield's newly instated rules (no tents, no sleeping bags, no lying down), now posted on placards hanging from the barricades, reversing an injunction issued by another judge from the same court earlier that day, which prohibited the NYPD from seizing the park from protesters, an injunction the city ignored. Lawyers sympathetic to the occupation, however, insisted that Brookfield and Bloomberg were not within their rights to impose an ex post facto rule change on the operation of the park without the landlord having gone through the process of an application to the city agency designated with overseeing private park spaces.
The security guards dismissed all requests for further information, saying, "You have to ask Brookfield."
Brookfield did not return phone calls.