On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio hedged on whether he was ready to dismantle the so-called occupation outside City Hall.
“It’s an American value to respect the right to protest," he said. "I’ve also said we don’t allow encampments around this city. We haven’t for years.”
On Wednesday, after a predawn police raid on what began one month ago, de Blasio said public safety concerns outweighed First Amendment ones.
“The gathering there got smaller and smaller, was less and less about protests. More and more, it became an area where homeless folks are gathering," the mayor said. "I said repeatedly we do always respect the right to protest, but we have to think about health and safety first, and the health and safety issues were growing. So it was time to take action.”
But that timing was scrutinized.
De Blasio rejected the notion that he faced pressure to deliver "equal justice" over the anti-police graffiti in the area.
He also said he didn’t act out of concern that President Donald Trump would send federal officers to break up the occupation before he could.
“No, this was something that’s been discussed over several weeks," he said.
Occupy City Hall campers were ousted overnight with minutes’ notice, many of their belongings discarded.
The approach — including the heavy police and sanitation presence — was reminiscent of Mayor Bloomberg’s dismantling of Occupy Wall Street nine years ago.
“At 1 o’clock this morning, the New York City police department and the owners of Zuccotti Park notified protesters in the park that they had to immediately remove tents, sleeping bags and other belongings and must follow the park rules if they wish to continue using it to protest," Bloomberg said at a 2011 news conference.
Bloomberg waited two months before raiding Occupy Wall Street — twice as long as de Blasio allowed Occupy City Hall to last.
De Blasio, who was public advocate at the time, had been supportive of Occupy Wall Street and its mission to combat income inequality. He vocally condemned Bloomberg’s handling of the movement.
De Blasio also dismissed any parallels with the City Hall protest that focused on defunding the police.
“I remember vividly Occupy Wall Street," he said. "That consistently was a political situation and a protest situation. It was not this at all. So, I just think they’re apples and oranges.”