Police clear Occupy Wall Street protesters
Updated: 2011-11-16 10:15
As early as 1 am Tuesday morning, New York City police descended on Zuccotti Park to clear tents and inhabitants there, followed by sanitation workers to clean the debris of the park.
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that about 200 protesters were arrested - 142 in the park, and 50 to 60 in surrounding areas. Most were held on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
"I have become increasingly concerned - as had the park's owner, Brookfield Properties - that the occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protesters and to the surrounding community. We have been in constant contact with Brookfield and yesterday they requested that the city assist it in enforcing the no sleeping and camping rules in the park," said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a news conference.
He said that the park was becoming "a place where people came not to protest, but rather to break laws, and in some cases, to harm others", adding that "protesters have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags. Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments".
Bloomberg also noted that protesters and the general public are welcome back to the park to exercise their First Amendment rights once the park cleaning is done, but will not be allowed to use tents, sleeping bags, or tarps and must follow all park rules.
Meanwhile, a New York judge issued a temporary restraining order on Tuesday morning preventing the owners of Zuccotti Park from enforcing rules about occupying its public space, or from preventing protesters from re-entering the park with tents. The city authorities have not responded to it yet.
As police closed the park, Occupy Wall Street protesters, flanked by lines of police who kept them on the sidewalk, continued to march south of the city, singing "We Shall Overcome".
A protester who only gave his name as Matthew told Xinhua that they will hold meetings in the afternoon to plot the next move. "This will not stop us. It is not an end, but a new beginning," he said.
Since Sept 17, protesters had been camping out in Zuccotti Park, located in the city's financial district, to rally against economic inequality. Local residents and small business owners had expressed repeated concerns that the encampment was interfering with businesses in the area, and that conditions in the park were becoming increasingly unsanitary.