I don’t think he has many options here, but the sudden change of tone is … curious.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Monday that he’ll allow the Wall Street protesters to stay indefinitely, provided they abide by the law, marking his strongest statement to date on the city’s willingness to let demonstrators occupy a park in Lower Manhattan.

“The bottom line is – people want to express themselves. And as long as they obey the laws, we’ll allow them to,” said Bloomberg as he prepared to march in the Columbus Day Parade on Fifth Avenue. “If they break the laws, then, we’re going to do what we’re supposed to do: enforce the laws.”

Bloomberg said he has “no idea” how much longer the Wall Street demonstration will last. “I think part of it has probably to do with the weather,” he said.

Up til now, the mayor has been cagey when asked how long he’ll allow the protesters to stay, replying: “We’ll see.”

On Friday he accused them of trying to destroy jobs in New York, now this. Two possibilities. One: He finally figured out that he doesn’t have much legal recourse to removing them, especially since Zuccotti Park is privately owned. As long as the landlord is willing to let them stay and sell drugs, crap on cop cars, practice their jazz hands, etc, I’m not sure why the city would have the power to eject them en masse instead of targeting individual lawbreakers among them. (That equation might change if sanitation in the park deteriorates to the point of threatening public health.) As for why the landlord’s willing to let them stay, I … just don’t know. JWF discovered that a subsidiary of Brookfield, which owns Zuccotti Park via a different subsidiary, coincidentally received $135 million in tax subsidies from the Obama administration for a wind farm. That’s interesting, but if the suggestion here is that the White House somehow coordinated with Brookfield to astroturf the protests from the beginning, I don’t buy it. There may very well be some ‘turfing going on — in fact, there’s almost no doubt about it — but if Democrats were trying to cook up protests to push The One’s redistributionist agenda, the cast of characters would have looked very different. To see what I mean, read Matt Labash’s vivid account of what he saw at the freak show downtown. The Democrats don’t want OWS to look like what it looks like. Irony of ironies, in order to appeal to middle-American voters, they want it to look a lot more like … a tea-party rally.

The second possibility is that, now that Democrats have seen how far the media is willing to go into the tank to portray OWS as some sort of cri de coeur of the dispossessed proletariat instead of the quasi-political mini-Woodstock that it’s become, they want to keep it going in hopes of mainstreaming it and coopting it. (In fact, they’re already fundraising off of it.) Bloomberg, who’s sufficiently palsy with The One to have been occasionally rumored as a replacement for Geithner, might now be playing along to that end — although even there, I don’t quite buy that he’d betray his Wall Street clique so quickly. The likeliest explanation here is that he realizes he has few options to oust the protesters and likely also realizes that heavy-handed police action will only bring heat on him and increase sympathy for them (especially with media hacks siding with them at every turn), which may draw even more hippies downtown in solidarity. Better to leave them be and let the public grow increasingly disgusted with goings-on in the park — which is already happening among New Yorkers who live in the area, notwithstanding their liberal sympathies. Or am I missing something?

Update: If you’re a fan of Occupy Wall Street — but only if you’re a fan — the New York Times wants to hear from you!

The Times is pairing with the Public Insight Network from American Public Media to gather stories from those of you who identify with or support the Occupy Together movement.

Are you part of the 99 percent? Tell us your story.

Do you identify with the movement? We would like to hear from you.

Via Rebelpundit, a scene from Occupy Chicago to help put things in perspective.