Occupy Wall Street 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK - A judge upheld New York City's right to evict Occupy Wall Street protesters from a park on Tuesday after baton-wielding police in riot gear broke up a two-month-old demonstration against economic inequality.
Protesters who had been kicked out in a surprise predawn raid were allowed back 16 hours later but were banned from bringing the tents and sleeping bags that had turned a square-block park near Wall Street into an urban campground the past two months.
New York Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman found the city was
justified in enforcing a ban on sleeping in Zuccotti Park, saying the
new rules still protected protesters' free-speech rights under the First
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The judge ruled merely that the case lacked the urgency to approve or
strike down the new park rules immediately. The underlying case will be
heard at a later date.
After the judge's ruling, police lifted barricades at two points,
letting people back in one by one. Several hundred protesters were in
the park under a light drizzle, and the crowd thinned as the night wore
on. The mood was largely free of tension.
Demonstrators have occupied the park since Sept. 17 to protest what they
see as an unjust economic system that favors the wealthiest 1 percent
at a time of persistently high unemployment. They also decry a political
system that bailed out banks after reckless lending sparked the
Mayor Michel Bloomberg ordered the eviction, saying the square-block
Zuccotti Park had become a sanitation hazard and a fire trap.
The decision angered members of a movement that has spread throughout
the United States and the world, and it came two days before
demonstrators planned to shut down Wall Street outside the New York
"He's a billionaire and he's defending his class. He is the 1 percent,"
said Naomi Brussel, 69, retired social worker from Brooklyn.
Hundreds of police stormed the camp around 1 a.m. (0600 GMT) and
dismantled tents, tarpaulins, outdoor furniture, mattresses and signs,
arresting 147 people, including about a dozen who had chained themselves
to each other and to trees.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said it was "deeply concerned" about
the police department's "heavy-handed tactics" and said seven
journalists covering the events were arrested.
While the park was cleared of protesters, sanitation workers blasted the
square with water cannons, erasing odors of urine and human waste.
"His (Bloomberg's) response makes him seem completely out of touch to me
and he comes off as a benevolent dictator," said protester Douglas
Paulson, 31, an artist from the New York City borough of Queens.
The eviction followed similar actions in Atlanta, Portland and Salt Lake
City. Unlike in Oakland, California, where police used tear gas and
stun grenades, New York police said most protesters left peacefully.
In London, authorities said they were resuming legal action to try to
shift anti-capitalism protesters who have set up camp at St Paul's
Toronto officials also told protesters to break camp and leave on
Tuesday. In Los Angeles, city officials have opened talks with some
members of the Occupy L.A. group to work out a timeline for moving their
encampment from the lawn surrounding City Hall, where about 500 tents