Court Allows 'Occupy Wall Street' Protesters to Return to Park, but Without Their Tents
NEW YORK – Wall Street is occupied no more.
A New York City judge has upheld City Hall's decision to evict the protest encampment at Zuccotti Park -- the site where the Occupy Wall Street movement began two months ago -- and denied a request made by attorneys on the protesters' behalf to allow tents and sleeping bags back in the park.
The ruling effectively paved the way for the protests to return to the plaza, as long as they follow the ground rules and don't live there.
The eviction of the Occupy encampment began early Tuesday morning, when hundreds of police officers in riot gear moved in, arresting dozens of protesters.
At a morning news conference, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the evacuation was conducted in the middle of the night "to reduce the risk of confrontation in the park, and to minimize disruption to the surrounding neighborhood."
“In the future, protesters and the general public will be welcome there to exercise their First Amendment rights and otherwise enjoy the park but will not be allowed to use tents, sleeping bags, or tarps, and going forward must follow all park rules," he also said.
Hundreds of police officers surrounded the park overnight in riot gear, holding plastic shields and batons that were used in some cases on protesters. Police flooded the park with klieg lights and used bull horns to announce that everyone had to leave.
But the National Lawyers Guild obtained a court order seeking to allow the protesters to return with their tents to the park, arguing the protesters are looking for squatters rights and the city should be barred from enforcing park rules banning camping overnight.
The emergency appeal failed Tuesday evening when State Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman upheld the city's eviction of the protesters.
About 70 people were arrested overnight, including some who chained themselves together. Others chanted or shouted angrily at police and vowed to march in protest.
Police "had their pepper spray out and were ready to use it," said protester Jake Rozak.
By 9 a.m., the park was power-washed clean by sanitation workers. Police in riot gear ringed the public space, waiting for orders to reopen it.
Hundreds of protesters spent the morning marching outside a barricaded Zuccotti Park carrying copies of the court order while chanting "Whose park? Our park."
The city told protesters they could come back after the cleaning, but under new tougher rules, including no tents, sleeping bags or tarps, which would effectively put an end to the encampment if enforced.
"The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day," Bloomberg said. "Ever since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with, as the park has been taken over by protesters, making it unavailable to anyone else."
Concerns about health and safety issues at Occupy Wall Street camps around the U.S. have intensified, and protesters have been ordered to take down their shelters, adhere to curfews and relocate so that parks can be cleaned.
In Dallas, a judge denied a motion from lawyers representing local protesters for a temporary restraining order to prevent cops from clearing out the campsite in front of City Hall, according to MyFoxDFW.com
City officials originally allowed the protesters to stay on city property through December, so long as they followed certain rules, but they violated them by using City Hall bathrooms and leaving protest signs, along with other transgressions, according to the news site.
The current agreement between the city and occupiers ended at 5 p.m. local time Tuesday, and a federal judge refused to grand an order sought by Occupy Dallas to prevent closure of the campsite. City leaders said no action would be taken Tuesday, as leaders official discuss their next steps, the Associated Press reported.
In London, where nearly 200 tents have been pitched in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral for a month, authorities said they were pursuing legal action to evict the occupiers after talks had stalled.
Police cleared the tent city in front of Oakland City Hall in California before dawn Monday and arrested more than 50 people amid complaints about safety, sanitation and drug use.
And protestors in Portland, Oregon, who were evicted from Chapman and Lownsdale Square parks this past weekend, have vowed to setup a new encampment elsewhere in the city, according to Fox Affiliate KPTV.
Back in New York, hundreds of former Zuccotti Park residents and their supporters marched along Lower Manhattan before dawn Tuesday.
Some paused and locked arms outside the gates of City Hall but left peacefully when police in riot gear appeared. About 300 to 400 kept moving along the sidewalks.
Some were chanting, "This is what democracy looks like."
Others chanted: "Hey, hey, ho, ho, our billionaire mayor has got to go."
Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York Police Department, said the park had been cleared by 4:30 a.m. and that about 70 people who'd been inside had been arrested, including a group who chained themselves together. One person was taken to a hospital for evaluation because of breathing problems.
Police in riot gear filled the streets, car lights flashing and sirens blaring. Protesters, some of whom shouted angrily at police, began marching to two locations in Lower Manhattan where they planned to hold rallies.
Notices given to the protesters said the park "poses an increasing health and fire safety hazard to those camped in the park, the city's first responders and the surrounding community."
It said that tents, sleeping bags and other items had to be removed because "the storage of these materials at this location is not allowed." Anything left behind would be taken away, the notices said, giving an address at a sanitation department building where items could be picked up.