Occupy Wall Street cleared from Zuccotti Park
(AP, ABC7) - Occupy protesters in D.C. marched to the White House Tuesday with their message of economic inequality and to show solidarity for the movement in New York City.
Hundreds of police officers in riot gear raided the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York City in the pre-dawn darkness Tuesday, evicted hundreds of protesters and then demolished the tent city, leaving the future of the demonstration in limbo.
The removal of protesters in New York enraged those in the District, but protesters said they believe it's only fanning the flame.
“Every time something like this happens, it only makes this movement grow come back bigger better and stronger, and we're only in our infancy,” one said.
“I heard what happened in New York today and I'm furious and I had to join in the movement when I saw it on the street,” another protester said.
“I'm saddened that our country has gotten to the point where people are attacking these young people just for expressing themselves,” said another.
The protesters said some 200 people are planning to move their occupation from New York to D.C. following the eviction and they plan to be here by Thanksgiving.
A New York judge upheld the city's crackdown Tuesday. Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman said in his ruling that the protesters "have not demonstrated that they have a First Amendment right to remain in Zuccotti Park, along with their tents, structures, generators and other installations to the exclusion of the owner's reasonable rights ... or to the rights to public access of others who might wish to use the space safely."
The plaza, near the financial district ground zero, is open to the public, but is privately owned.
Lawyers representing the protesters had sought an order that would let them resume camping in the park. They said after the decision that they hadn't decided whether to appeal.
The police action began around 1 a.m. and lasted several hours as officers with batons and plastic shields pushed the protesters from their base at Zuccotti Park, arresting hundreds who resisted or didn't leave the area.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the goal was to rid the plaza of tents, tables, and other vestiges of a semi-permanent campsite, saying it had become unsanitary and unsafe.
The police action began around 1 a.m. and lasted several hours as officers with plastic shields and batons pushed the protesters from their base at Zuccotti Park. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said around 200 people were arrested, including dozens who tried to resist the eviction by linking arms in a tight circle at the center of the park. A member of the City Council was among those arrested during the sweep.
Tents, sleeping bags and equipment were carted away, and by 4:30 a.m., the park was empty. It wasn't clear what would happen next to the demonstration, though the new enforcement of rules banning tents, sleeping bags or tarps would effectively end an encampment that started in mid-September.
"At the end of the day, if this movement is only tied to Liberty Plaza, we are going to lose. We're going to lose," said Sandra Nurse, one of the organizers, referring to the park by the nickname the demonstrators have given it. "Right now the most important thing is coming together as a body and just reaffirm why we're here in the first place."
Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan as the workday began, chanting and looking for a new space to gather. A state court judge called an 11:30 a.m. hearing on the legality of the eviction, following an emergency appeal by the National Lawyers Guild, and issued a temporary restraining order barring the city from preventing protesters from re-entering the park.
As of midmorning, though, the park remained surrounded by police barricades and officers keeping everyone out. A few dozen demonstrators sat on the sidewalk just outside the police line, waiting. In the meantime, workers used power washers to blast the plaza clean.
The surprise action came two days short of the two-month anniversary of the encampment. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he ordered the sweep because health and safety conditions and become "intolerable" in the crowded plaza.
"From the beginning, I have said that the city has two principal goals: guaranteeing public health and safety, and guaranteeing the protesters' First Amendment rights," he said. "But when those two goals clash, the health and safety of the public and our first responders must be the priority."
He said that people would be allowed to return as soon as this morning, but that the city would begin enforcing the rules set up by the park's private owners banning camping equipment.
That left demonstrators wondering what to do next. There was talk among some Tuesday of trying to occupy another park or plaza, but there are no immediate plans to do so, Nurse said.
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