Last Thursday, Brookfield Properties, the owners of Zuccotti Park, distributed flyers saying that the park would be cleaned the next day. Mayor Bloomberg said that the protesters would have to leave temporarily in order to facilitate the cleaning.
Fearing this was a ploy for permanent eviction, protesters went into a cleaning frenzy, even going so far as to hire a private garbage truck to dispose of their waste, so that Brookfield Properties would allow them to stay.
"We told everyone about what could happen, that they could force us out," Thomas Roberts, 26, a member of the sanitation committee, said. "Anyone that had excessive trash was encouraged to pack it up."
Brookfield Properties allowed the protesters to remain in the park, thanks to the protesters' clean-up efforts and the supporters who started to stream into lower Manhattan early Friday morning to show solidarity with the protesters.
Even before Thursday's massive cleaning session, the park was relatively clean. Max Hodes, one of the sanitation committee members, who has been at Zuccotti Park since the protests began, ensured that garbage was quickly cleared from between the clusters of blue tarps, storage bins, and makeshift tents.
The sanitation committee has no set staff, and has an average of 15 members at any given time. There is no fixed cleaning schedule volunteers simply take the initiative and take care of whatever needs to be done—from sweeping between the makeshift tents, to picking up litter and placing bottles in the recycling bin.
The Occupy Wall Street's finance committee gives the sanitation committee $100 each day to buy supplies from a local hardware store. Last Week, Hodes and two other volunteers visited Dick's Cut Rate Hardware store on Gold Street and negotiated with the owner for a discount on six boxes of garbage bags.
They also bought hats, and debated afterward about what to paint on them to identify themselves as sanitation committee members.
"It doesn't help that we are labeled the ‘Communist Cleaning Crew.' We want to properly brand the hats for recruiting methods," Hodes said.
Another volunteer, Brendan Pinto, has been at the park for three days. Pinto said that at Zuccoti Park the social hierarchy is reversed compared to the rest of the world.
"In this microcosm, the people who do sanitation are held in the highest esteem. Here you have an equal society, so you realize what really matters," he said.
City Limits is grateful to the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism and Professor Lisa Armstrong, who oversaw this project.